53 descendants of two families who moved from a shtetl to South Wales reunite on Zoom

Family members from five siblings born in the 1800s called in from America's West Coast to Perth, Australia


A Bushey-based dentist and genealogy enthusiast has brought together 53 descendants of two families who moved from a Polish shtetl to South Wales in the 1820s.

The Zoom gathering instigated by Joel Levy united members of the families of his great-great-great-great-grandparents’ five children for the first time, with participants from as far afield as America’s West Coast and Perth, Australia. The oldest attendee was 94.

“It was actually quite amazing because it was the first time that all of us have seen one another,” he told the JC. “There were South Africans who didn’t know they had South African family. There were people in America who said: ‘Oh my God, we live down the road from one another’.”

Solomon Bloom and his family moved to Merthyr Tydfil contemporaneously to Moses King and his family, setting up home in Bristol. Dr Levy, 56, does not know why the two Lublin families chose those areas — which did not have many Jewish immigrants at the time. Miriam King married Abraham Bloom, Solomon’s son, in 1850 and had five children.

David Wolf King, Moses’ eldest son, moved to St Louis. His son, Moses, was a Harvard graduate and a well-known publisher of pocket guidebooks.

The two youngest boys emigrated to Galveston, Texas, becoming the largest provider of art supplies in the area.

The elder Moses, a silversmith by trade, was arrested in 1837 for possessing stolen goods and put on a prison transport to Tasmania. When he was released almost three decades later, he returned to the UK before travelling to Galveston to be with his sons. Dr Levy believed he had only engaged in illegal activity to put food on the table.

Among those enjoying the Zoom session was Patti Montefusco from New Jersey who said afterwards she had “learned so much about a heritage I never knew I was part of.” Dr Levy had warned “of some pretty awful stuff we might hear. It wasn’t too bad. At least there were no murderers in the family!”

South African Libby Dreyer said she and husband Gareth have “a keen interest in social history. We were surprised by the number of South Africans on the call. Gareth had no idea he had extended family connections in South Africa.”

Dr Levy’s own background is South African, although he later lived in Israel before moving to London. Growing up in Johannesburg, his passion for genealogy was sparked by a school project researching his family tree. Although most of his mother’s family were murdered in the Holocaust, his father’s side were largely untouched by the Shoah, helping him to uncover tangible links to the past, such as the Newport Jewish cemetery, which he described as the “family plot” given how many relatives were buried there.

The idea for a reunion came about after he discovered another branch of the family who had also ended up in South Africa, as well as branches in England who had never met.

“We lived close to each other [yet] we never knew each other.”

Dr Levy has also uncovered a celebrity link, albeit distant. “On my mother’s side, I am a third cousin of the singer, Drake.”

Following the online gathering, there are plans to set up a family Facebook group to share stories.

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