People and Places gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census People and Places

The Refugee

The Refugee
Shimen-Leib Freiman was born at Kovno in Lithuania, then part of the Russian empire, in 1862. Like many other young Jewish men of his generation, he received his call-up papers for compulsory military service with the Russian army in 1879, but Freiman appears to have chosen to flee to England instead.

Follow this link to immigration.

After arriving in England, he anglicised his name to Symon Freeman, married a woman from his native area in 1888 and worked as a picture frame-maker, eventually settling at 108 Union Road, Rotherhithe, south-east London. The 1901 Census shows him living at this address with his wife, four daughters and two sons, and sufficiently prosperous to have a servant.
Symon Freeman  -  link to an enlarged version



1901 Census entry for Symon Freeman and family  -  link to an enlarged version

Certificate of naturalisation  -  link to an enlarged version
  It was not until 1915 that Freeman applied to become a naturalised British citizen. The sinking of the Lusitania in that year led to attacks on shops owned by those with German-sounding names, including those of some Jews. In addition, 'alien' immigrants (i.e. those from countries outside the British empire) were not liable to conscription, introduced in 1916, and in some areas, this generated resentment against young Jewish men who did not seem to be 'doing their bit'. Against this background, Freeman would have had good reason to demonstrate his loyalty: the Home Office file on his application for naturalisation, which is held at The National Archives (reference HO 144/1353/261046), states that Freeman wanted to become a naturalised citizen because of his loyalty to the British empire and to gain the right to vote. According to the police report, 'he speaks, reads and writes the English language fairly well' and his sureties 'speak of [him] as a respectable man and vouch for his loyalty to the British Empire'.

If Freeman and his family provide an example of a success story, many other newcomers failed to prosper. Metropolitan Police records of 1901 reveal the case of the Levy family, living in a single room in Bethnal Green, east London. The family consisted of Solomon Levy, a boot machiner, his wife Freda, two daughters (Flora aged 12 and Rosa aged 2) and a 4 year old son. They had emigrated from Russia at the turn of the century. His wife was said to be a prostitute, 'bringing strange men home, also other girls of bad character…all this takes place in one room which is poor and filthy dirty'. The police response was to arrest the older daughter and have her committed to an Industrial School (a young offenders' institution) until she was 16 - thereby, it was hoped, keeping her away from the influence of her mother.

Another very sad case, reported in The Times of 28 December 1901, concerns Esther and Marion Lalavensky, both aged six, who were charged (together with their mother who had sent them out) with begging in the streets of London. They were handed over to the Jewish Board of Guardians who agreed to send all three back to Russia.

Follow this link for more on tracing immigrants.

Follow this link for more on tracing naturalisation records.

Follow this link for more on tracing sources on Anglo-Jewish history.

Follow this link for more on tracing emigrants.

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