a small town in Southern Lithuania
Where the Jewish Community is no more
My great grandfather Shmul lived c1854-1922. He was the son of David HaCohen, a bricklayer, and one of four brothers. All four brothers came to London around 1880 and the other three continued on to the US, losing touch with Shmul who remained in London as a tailoring machinist. Their family name was Lapidus but unable to spell this for the immigration authority, he accepted registration as Shmul (later Anglicized to Samuel) Cohen.
Shmul sought a wife from his home country. He met Hannah Goldsmid, seven years his junior, through an agency linked to another that had arranged her immigration to London with her mother, Rebecca, and her younger sister Flora. They were the sole survivors from a large family in Lithuania wiped out by a cholera epidemic. Apshrutsky may have been Rebecca Goldsmith's maiden name before marrying Hannah's father, Shimon Goldsmid, a carpenter in Lithuania, thought to have been among the cholera victims. Rebecca (c1837-1904) lived as Shmul's mother-in-law for more than 20 years in London and died following a street accident in which she was hit by a brewer's dray.
Shmul and Hannah met for the first time on their wedding day c1881-2. They made a curious couple she a large woman, he small with an atrophied upper limb thought to have resulted from polio. Romance was not a priority, it seems, but they had two sons before he moved on to New York around 1886 to try his luck there as a machinist. He did not prosper, however, and returned to London for good around early 1889, fathering six more children including my grandfather, David Curwen (originally Cohen).
Although the name Lapidus was never used by the family in England, my grandfather was interested in his heritage and used it as a nom de plume when writing a book on his pet subject of alchemy. (This was published in English in 1976 and Spanish in 1980. The UK publisher was Neville Spearman and it was later produced in the US by Beekman. It has long been out of print.)
I was certainly interested in seeing the Lapidus or Lepidot links with Vilkaviskis (Lepidot possibly being just a variation of the same using modern Hebrew pronunciation). I always understood from my grandfather that Shmul was from a town of this name (or similar) but it could just as easily have been the Goldsmith or Apshrutsky links through Hannah and her family that provided the link. In that case, would there be any records of their names at Vilkaviskis or even a record of a cholera outbreak in the late 1870s to provide a clue?
Hannah Cohen, nee Goldsmid