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05 April 2011

Be carefull about your "Slavinsky's"

So often as we begin to research our families we hit brick walls when our ancestors have a common name. It can be very frustrating to try and find your Abraham family in the census amongst the 500 or so other Abraham's. A little originality with names can be a beautiful thing. With that in mind, I was so happy to see the following headstone at the Willesden Cemetery.

Rev. Aaron Slavinsky

Reader of North London Synagogue for 35 years. Formerly Reader of the Plymouth

Congregation. Born Vilna - Died London aged 81

And his dearly beloved wife Rachel (nee Maccoby) aged 76

At first look, it would appear that finding Aaron Slavinsky in the records of the British Isles would be simple and documenting his family tree would be easy. How hard can it be to research Slavinsky? Well, looks can be deceiving.

In an attempt to find Aaron and Rachel, I checked the 1911 Census of England (, hoping they were living there. Sure enough living at 111 Commercial Road in Mile End Old Town was Aaron Slavinsky aged 32 and his wife Rachael who was aged 26 (see below).

That was easy enough, except for one problem. Aaron is listed as a Cap Maker, not a Synagogue Reader. Worried that it was not the right Aaron and Rachel, I checked the census to see if there were any other families that would fit with the information on the headstone,( Sure enough, living at 45 King Gardens in Plymouth, Devon, England was Aaron Slavinsky aged 32, and his wife Rachel aged 26 (see below). This Aaron is listed as a Jewish Minister.

As it turns out, these two families are the only Slavinsky families listed in the 1911 English Census. According to that source, both families have a Aaron as the head, aged 32 and born in Russia. The wives are both named Rachel, aged 26 and also born in Russia. One is living in Plymouth, the other in London. Both of these places correspond to the information provided on the tombstone. Now that we have a good idea of which one is the Aaron listed on the headstone in Willesden, I want to verify that Rachel his wife has the maiden surname Maccoby. A quick check of the website lists no marriage entries for an Aaron Slavinsky. Hoping that it may just be a misspelling I also check under the name of Rachel Maccoby. There in the June Quarter of 1904 is listed the marriage of Rachel Maccoby to Harris Slavinsky. The actual marriage certificate (shown below) verifies this to be our couple.

However the question of the marriage of the other Aaron Slavinsky remains to be answered. As there were no listings in the index for any Aaron Slavinsky, is our second man also listed under another name. We know from the 1911 census that they had been married for 6 years, which would be either 1904 or 1905. A search of the indexes for a Slavinsky to a Rachael yielded only one possibility. That entry showed Harry Slavinsky married to Rachael Cohen in the September Quarter of 1906. That certificate (see below) seems to verify the information that this Aaron was a cap maker living in London.

We now appear to have separated the two men named Aaron Slavinsky and identified their wives. However, in almost every aspect they could have been easily mistaken for one another. They even had their marriages recorded under different variations of the same name. How easily this search could have taken a wrong step.

This is why when researching any family, always remember to "be careful of your Slavinsky's'.


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  2. Believe it or not, I just read your article above, and my grandfather was Aaron Slavinsky, the capmaker who married Rachel Cohen in England in 1908!! They moved to Toronto, Canada in 1911 and changed their name to Slavens around 1929. Thank you so much for putting online the marriage and census documents. I had not seen them before.