Joseph Cohen

Joseph Cohen 1867 - 1945

Husband of Margaret Currie (Archibald's daughter)

 Joseph Cohen immigrated to Australia from Poland.  He listed his mothers name as 'Annie' on his marriage certificate but left his fathers name blank.  On his naturalisation certificate it claims he arrived in NSW on a ship named the 'John Hilder' in 1887.     

There is a record of a Joseph Cohen, aged 22, arriving in Victoria on 22nd November 1884 aboard the 'John Elder' which came from a Liverpool, England and I think this is him.  He had 15 years to forget the exact year and 'John Elder' sounds very close to 'John Hilder', there is no other ship anywhere near as similar in name.  The John Elder carried on to Sydney, arriving on 5th December 1884.  Here is a link to the record with "Cohen, Jos" recorded as a steerage passenger:

Joseph's sister Rose Rosengarten: how I found out about her

My mother remembers Joseph had family in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney who were quite well off but as distances were more difficult to travel then, Joseph's family didn't see them often.  Peter Riddell was able to expand on this: Joseph had a sister.  He didn't know her name but he remembered his mother Kitty pointing out her house to him on New South Head Rd, Vaucluse years ago.  She was married to a pharmacist he recalled.  Joe Hayden remembered an "Aunty Rose".  I asked Peter Riddell to let me know the number of the house the next time he went past and from this chased up Waverley council to see who was paying the rates when it was built.  The house has had four owners over the years, and the second owner, Myer Mark Luber was married to Josephs sisters daughter.  The house was built in 1928 and was part of some kind of estate; various adjoing blocks have been since sold off.  The house apparently had a ballroom which supports the family memory of wealth - this would certainly have been a luxury at the time.  The house has had the same owner since the 1960's and this person coincidentally went to North Sydney Boys High with my father - small world.  

It wasn't until I approached the Australian Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) that I was able to locate records regarding Josephs sister - the reason it was so difficult was that she married and had her children in Adelaide and the South Australian BDM's are not available online.  I had no way of knowing that South Australia was where I should be looking.  Finding Josephs sister involved emailing people from the Luber family that I didn't know and asking questions on what was really a hunch - I had no proof that we were related until the AJHS came through and even now I am trying to find more evidence of the link.  Rose's marriage record to Solomon Rosengarten confirms her maiden name of Cohen.  It was very rewarding to find out about Rose Rosengarten as from her marriage and death records I now know the names of Josephs parents (Eliezer and Gertrude) and have a greater chance of being able to track them back to Poland.  Even more interesting to me is the fact that no one under the age of 70 knew about Josephs sister so there is an entire branch of his family that are still living that we would never have known existed and this information would have been lost forever eventually.  I have now contacted the only two living descendants of Rose and Solomon Rosengarten (that I know of anyway) who might know anything and neither of them remember Joseph at all.  One interesting story to help confirm the link came from Joe Hayden, who remembers Eva Rosengarten getting into trouble on a cruise ship for smuggling diamonds for her then boyfriend who was a jeweller in the 1950's.  He remembered both the name of the ship and the boyfriend.  Rose's descendant Janice also remembers the jeweller boyfriend by name so there must be some link for a descendant of Joseph and a descendant of Rose to have such a specific common memory.  I've gathered so much evidence on Rose now I've had to create a page just for her.    

There is still so much more to know.  Why did Joseph go to Lismore?  And of course the big question - WHERE in Poland did Rose and Joseph come from?  Did they have any other siblings?  Did Rose and Joseph's parents migrate to England?  Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here is what I know of this family tree so far:

Here is a link to a timeline of South Australian history:

Polish origins - why did Joseph and Rose leave Poland?

Family have said that Joseph came from 'near the Russian border'.  This was probably the area known as the 'pale of settlement'.  A look at the history of this area at the time Joseph left paints a very clear picture of why he - and two million other Jews - decided to quit Poland from 1881 - 1920's.

Pale of Settlement

The pale of settlement was created by Catherine the great of Russia in 1791 as an area in which Jews could live permanently.  At its peak the Pale had 5 million Jews living in it, which was the largest concentration of the worlds Jewry (40%) at that time.  

Life in the Pale of settlement was fraught with difficulties and poverty due to discriminatory laws.  Jews were forbidden from living in agricultural communities and moved to small towns, or 'shtetls' (little villages).  Forced conscription into the Czars army and pogroms were common.  A strict quota system on education was enforced (5% students allowed inside the Pale after 1886).  Jews were banned from certain professions such as law and selling alcohol.

Following the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, 'temporary' laws known as the May laws were introduced on 15th May 1882.  These laws limited Jewish residence to the Pale of Settlement, expelled Jews from cities such as Kiev, Moscow and St Petersberg and permitted all villages to expel theirs.  It further limited the number of Jews in secondary schools and prohibited Jews from voting or participating in local government.  These laws remained in place until 1917 and unleashed a fresh wave of violence against the Jews.  Two million Jews left the Pale of Settlement during this time, mostly for America and Argentina.  These were the lucky ones.  Due to a high birth rate, the population of the Pale remained around 5 million despite the mass migration. 

Josephs life in Australia

Joseph arrived in NSW around 1887 and took out a hawker's licence.  Hawkers licences were usually obtained from either police stations or courts of petty sessions and the records were not kept.  He then went to Lismore.  Why Joseph chose to go to Lismore, which would have been pretty much the end of the Earth back then, I don't know.  He worked in Lismore for F Wicks and Co, jewellers, and was something of a travelling salesman visiting outlying farms in the area with presumably a horse and cart.  He married Margaret Currie in 1896 (giving his age as 29) in Lismore and was naturalised in 1898 (giving his age as 33).  Joseph and Margaret went on to have seven children, four of whom survived infancy (see Margaret Cohen nee Currie).  

In 1914 Joseph opened his own jewellery store, "J Cohen and son" in Woodlark Street, Lismore.  The store relocated to Molesworth Street in 1939.  He handed the store down to his son Harry when he retired to Mosman NSW in the 1920's.  By the 1960's the store was called simply "The Jewel Centre" and was eventually sold by Harry's son Joe.    

 Joseph is remembered for referring to his wife as 'Mudder'.  Margaret Parker (nee Caird) his grandaughter, remembers sitting on his knee as a toddler and playing with his moustache.  She says the family were reasonably well off and dinner table talk often revolved around investments and shares.  Their lifestyle was unaffected by the great depression of the 1930's and they entertained often at home with singalongs around the piano when one of the guests obliged by playing.  They could afford luxuries such as travel even at the height of the depression.  Margaret can't remember the family being particularly religious or political.   

Joseph was cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium in March 1945.

couresty Richmond River Historical Society

Joseph Cohen with Peter Riddell (at 16 months)

Joseph Cohen, Margaret Caird (baby), Miriam Cohen - taken 1938.

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