An exciting day yesterday, checking out the National Archives online to see if there are any records of Samuel. The first document was easy to find with a simple online search, a record of his naturalisation as a British citizen ‘Certificate AZ4586 issued 1 August 1934’. So it seems that he held on to his Lithuanian citizenship long after marrying my grandmother in the mid-1920s.
Things then got even more interesting, thanks to the online Chat service at the National Archives – which to my surprise was up and running between Christmas and New Year. They helpfully pointed me in the direction of a second document. This is obviously related to the first: ‘Nationality and Naturalisation: Grasse, Samuel, from Lithuania. Resident in London. Certificate AZ4586 issued 1 August 1934.’ but for some reason it is ‘Closed for 100 years’. Continue reading
So this is Marijampole, which according to the Glasgow University archive, was Samuel’s home town. This is what Google Maps says in its summary about the town today:
Marijampolė is an industrial city and the capital of the Marijampolė County in the south of Lithuania, bordering Poland and Russian Kaliningrad oblast, and Lake Vištytis. The population of Marijampolė is 48,700.
My next aim is to find out about the Marijampole of the past.
Amazingly, simply typing ‘Samuel Grasse’ into Google has immediately led me to a short biography about my grandfather on the Glasgow University website. It seems astonishing that noone in the family knew about this source as it is full of new information.
According to this, the town he came from in Lithuania was Marijampole and his father was Abraham, a shopkeeper. I now know the year he arrived at Glasgow University, how long he studied for, what he studied and when he died. It turns out that Samuel was the first Lithuanian to study at Glasgow and the first president of the University’s Jewish Society. Discovering all this information at once opens up my investigation in all sorts of directions. What a gift! And it also confirms that he really did study all those different subjects, just as my grandmother always told me.
This is what the Glasgow website says in full: Continue reading
The one document I have always had in my possession is a carefully kept copy of the certificate of conversion to Judaism of my grandmother, Jane Muir, which my mother Ethel passed on to me. However, another version has just turned up in a recently discovered box that my grandmother had kept and I don’t understand why there would be two versions. Although one says that it is a copy, I don’t understand the Hebrew in either version. I am intrigued and would love to understand more about these certificates. I have found out that Rev E P Phillips, who has signed the certificates, was appointed minister to the Glasgow Hebrew Congregation in 1878 and held the post for fifty years.
Samuel Grasse holding academic certificate, signed as a gift to his wife
I grew up knowing very little about my grandfather, Samuel Grasse, because he died many years before I was born. I knew that he was a Lithuanian Jew who had somehow won a scholarship to study law at Glasgow University at the beginning of the 20th century. I heard that he continued to study for further degrees until he had an entire collection of graduate and post-graduate qualifications. I could never fathom why he had started out as a lawyer and somehow ended up as a London GP. I was told he had spent his final years tending the wounded in the underground bomb shelters during the blitz, until in 1943 he died, aged 55, from what I was told was a stroke. Continue reading