The founder of family Veselý is generally considered to be Alexander, who is well known by his fifteen children. The stock is of course older, but family memory places it just with Alexander. The family doesn't remember any more his father or older members of the family who have to be found in the archives. Members of the family still keep in touch, however not so often do they do so to tell stories about siblings - Alexander's children.
The oldest identifiable Veselý, in that time written as Wessely, was Nephtali, the horse merchant from the small town of Habry, in the former county Kutná Hora, now county Havlíčkův Brod. There, in the registry, was found just his death notice in 1825 with noted age 81s, so he should have been born in 1744. It was possible to find further details about Nephtali in the census of Jews from 1793 and 1799. Nephtali got a wedding permission from the governor's office in 1775, but it is unknown under whose name the permission was issued. Jews didn't have a fixed family name before the 1787, and identified themselves by the name given by peritomy and by the name given by father. As noted, in 1787, Jews had to choose a permanent second (family) name by christian traditions. If the connection couldn't be found between names before 1787 and names after that date, we couldn't identify with certainty that we are talking about one and the same person, and searching is just impossible (there exists also censuses from the years 1783 and 1724).
Probably the origin of the name Veselý / Wessely will never be clear. One of the family myths says that ancestors weren't Jews originaly, but evangelicals belonging to the denomination Czech Brothers which, after issuing the emperor's edict Restitution of Land Order in 1627, refused to leave their fatherland and converted to catholicism, too, rather than accepting the Jewish faith. This legend has several weak places. Firstly - the creation of the Jew's parish book was initiated by the emperor's decree of 1788, and elderly books confirm this theory doesn't exist. Secondly - it is highly unlikely that a Czech evangelist, which was maybe more intolerant to Jews than catholics, had converted to Judaism. And thirdly - in that time (first half of 17th century) the changing of faith was extremely difficult to do. Christians were mostly dependents of an aristocrat, on whose domain they lived. Jews were mostly dependents directly under a king. It is very difficult to imagine, that dependents, which couldn't marry or move without approval his lord, decided freely and easily for a change of belief and unbind from the bondage of a property owner and became an dependent of king. In that time, whoever ruled determined the beliefs of those under him.
More likely, the origin of name occurs by place, where their carrier came from, which was often in creation of Jew's family names. In this context it is interesting, that circa 7 km Southeast from Habry is the tiny village Veselá.
Possible also is that Alexander's ancestor became acquainted somewhere in school or in a jeshiva with the works of Jewish poet and linguist Nephtali Wessely Hertz (1725 - 1805) and under the influence of his ideas choose his name for himself after 1787.
A fact remains indeed, that the name Veselý / Wessely existed in the oldest materials from the end of the 18th century. In records drawn up before 1787, names, which were widely used later, such Stránský, Fleischer, Poláček, Ullman, occur pretty often like fixed family names. We can only expect and hope that the name has an older history than "just" from 1787 and that sometime in the future we find it in older, marvellous fortunately found materials.
Nephtali is recorded in the Inventory of Jews from 1799, the facts are not different from 1793. Also in further Inventory of Jews from 1811, Nephtali is represented in the same house Number IV (roman numeral 4), his son Alexander is mentioned as an adult, which in that time meant about 21 or 23 in least.
The oldest record in parish books is in 1798, when Nephtali was Godfather in the birth of Simon Fleischman.
Nephtali died on the 6th of August, 1825, in the alleged age of 81; the year of his birth was 1744. In the same year the second war for Silesia was beginning, the Prussian King Friedrich II occupied Prague and Empress Maria Theresia expelled Jews from Bohemian lands (due to alleged collaboration with the Prussians, finally they were just expelled from Prague). For better orientation - in 1744, the future composer Joseph Haydn was 12 years old, ladyship de Pompadour 23, creator of the American Constitution Benjamin Franklin 38 and composers Bach and Händel 59.
It is remarkable that the book named Habry, issued on the 900th anniversary of the town Habry (Karel Růžička & Pavel Novák: Habry (History of town 1101-2001), issued by town Habry in 2001, ISBN 80-238-6602-8 ) notes a tombstone of Hirsch Wessely from 1825. Also, some materials from that era harbor the same name, and the name Nephtali is missing. Explaining this can be found in old habits of Jews and their life situation - Jews had used double names. For landlords they used German names by emperor's decree, but in home they used Jewish, in fact Hebrew names. In this particular case, the Torah is enlightening. Nephtali was one of the sons of Jacob, and Jacob blessed him so in his testament with words:" Nephtali, as the deer was released, talk wonderful words." (Gn49:21) Hirsch is deer in German language, Nephtali was therefore Hirsch for official places.
The tombstone was found in the Habry Jewish cemetery with the kind help of a specialist for old Jewish cemeteries, Mr. Jaroslav Achab Haidler, as well as the tombstone of Nephtali's wife Rivka / Rebeka, who died in 1856.
There are not any parish records on Nephtali’s son Alexander relating to his birth or death, nevertheless it is possible to find his name in parish records – a note from 3.7.1816 says that he was together with Salomon Spitz, Godfather of Mathias, son of Joachim Spitz and Katharina Philipi. The records from this period are very fragmental and generally chaotic. Even Alexander’s life dates had been discovered – he was born in 1779 and died in 1844. There are no records about Alexander’s life exept the one – in a list of Jewish children for school year 1842/43 in a column was several references to Alexander Wessely written Bettler, …… beggar (the document noted children Simon, Betty and Elka, and by date of birth concerning Simon, Barbara and Elisabeth).
It is possible to deduce from parish books of Habry that Alexander had wives and several children. Alexander is the oldest son of Nephtali, probably the only one, because the Inventory of Jews marked only Alexander, in 1793 explicitly states, that he is the first born. Alexander may be found in the Family Registry for Habry, where it is possible to review the complete parish book facts for further data – his family has the number 3461 (from a total of 8600 Jewish families in the Bohemian kingdom) and in 1725, his family was seventieth in the Habry shire. There noted is his family, too, Nephtali and Rebeka Wessely (name of mother is not the same as Nephtali’s wife in the Inventory of Jews of 1793) as well as his wife, her name here is Rosalia Kisch. Truly noteworthy is information that he got a wedding permission (number 11950) dated 28 May 1807, though his oldest child was already born according to parish books in the Fall of 1806, then about a half a year earlier (!). Sons Nathan, Joachym and Joseph are marked (daughters were not noted in family registry books).
Alexander, with his first wife Ludmilla Kisch, from Polná (1782 – 14.12.1817) the daughter of Jakob Kisch, had daughters Ludmilla (10.10.1806), Marie (29.7.1812) and sons Nathan (14.11.1813), probably named by the co-owner of the house, and Joachim (5.7.1815). There are notes of the name Nathan with his date of death 6.1.1822, but this note isn’t authoritative, as it is written two sections below.
With his second partner and later wife, Anna Geiger from Zbudovice (born 1792), daughter of Simon Geiger, Alexander had son Joseph (20.7.1820 and by note in the parish book for birth was an illigitimate child), Katharina (1.7.1822), Rosalia (27.9.1826 – 27.8.1862) and Simon (1.12.1836), named probably by the second father-in-law, a musician.
Records in the book of documents of the synagogue of Habry (by chairs) for 1801 – 1874 marked on page 167 that seat Number 82 in the men's part of the synagogue belonged to Alexander Wessely and seat Number 15 in the women's section was reserved for „three children of Alexander (till) Elisabeth Wessely“ (page 265). More accurate dating is unfortunately not possible.
An inventory of inhabitants of Habry for 1844-1846 is noted that Alexander Wessely (~1779) with children Nathan (1813) and his wife Theresia (1820) and further sons and daugthers Maria (1811), Joachim (1815), Katharina (1822), Francizka (1826), Hermann (1829), Rosalia (1829), Elisabeth (1833), Barbara (1835) and Simon (1836) lived in house Number IV. Alexander died in 1844, because in the following year, Nathan is presented as head of family (a cross is sign by name of Alexander). In house Number 18 is then noted Rebeka Wessely (1777) together with family of Israel Stansky.
This information is interesting for several reasons. They prove that Family Wessely really lived in house Number IV. They name the number of children, their dates of birth in accordance with other sources, confirm also obvious usual practices, that for negotiating with offices names were „christianized“. It is a mystery that even this source could not prove Leopold, however it is undeniable in later periods.
How much we can identify Leopold with Nathan remains a question, the fact is that birth years are very close. Rebeka from house Number 18 corresponds by age of the second wife of Nephtali, on the other side we could not find the date of death in other places with the reported age of Alexander, at least the date of birth.
By the way, inventory contains several names not mentioned in other places. Remarkable in this connection is, that an additional sheet from 1869 contains information, that in house Number V was owned by the brothers Samuel and Moses Spitz; widow Kateřina Vesely (born 1795), laborer, her son Herman (1825), daughters Františka (1826), both laborer, and Barbora (1835) servant maid also lived there. We have no idea what relation Kateřina and her children are to Alexander or Nephtali, because we have no information about siblings of Alexander. We can’t make any conclusions from just the list of inhabitants but it is very interesting that persons of the same name and dates of birth occur also in the above noted twenty years older inventory of inhabitants of the town Habry.
The question of identification of ancestors is rather difficult whether it is Alexander the older, Nathan or Leopold due incomplete parish books, vague names or notices in parish books. I have reconstructed the family lineage based on deduction. It is possible, some document will be found over time, which proves or corrects my deductions.
The birth record of Leopold for the time being wasn’t found, by computation of death parish book records he should have been born in 1811, he should be the oldest, but unknown son from the first marriage, if we do not accept the theory that Leopold is Nathan as fact. However, we have no straight proof for this theory, but there are several reasons for it. For instance, the absence of the name Leopold among sons in the family registry books, as well as in the inventory of inhabitants of Habry. Leopold exists, however he is not present in both documents.
Another source – an additional sheet of inhabitants from 1869, which was filled out by Leopold himself, has a birth year as 1829. In this case, it means that older brothers died at a young age and he „became“ the first born. In any case, if the theory about straight lineage is correct, Leopold Wessely was born in 1811, 1813 or 1829, and is the grandson of Nephtali. I lean towards this to theory because no records indicate another Jewish family named Wessely came to town Habry in this period and not to be related to Nephtali or Alexander and also because the Familiant Law regulating number of Jews at lands of Bohemian kingdom. Nevertheless, meanwhile nothing could exemplifies this theory.
Leopold died on 10. October 1882 in Habry, in house Number 116, district Havlíčkův Brod.
Also Rosalia, maiden name Smiedl (od Schmiedl or Schmied) has two dates for birth. She was born or in 1821, as says Habry death parish book, or in 1835, as says above mentioned adding sheet. She died 17. February 1883 in Habry. Leopold and Rosalia have their graves in Jewish cemetery in Habry.
Leopold and Rosi had probably four children (no more was discovered), sons Alexander, before mentioned Salomon (4.8.1856 – 25.3.1935), daughter Alžběta (Elisabeth, born 1857) and last son Joachym (born 1859). My reaserch was primarily focused of the family of Alexander. It is interesting but not unusual, that Leopold had cited the names of his sons in census differently from official documents. Alexander is cited as „Simon, recte Alexander“, or „Simon, correctly Alexander“, further cited is son Moses while name Salomon is crossed out on the sheet. Same with Joachym, crossed out is the name Josef. Authorities probably asked for an official standpoint, because added to census sheets there are two papers with the seal of Bezirks Matriken Führung Der ILST Habern about the birth of the first two sons – Alexander (23.3.1853) and Moses (4.8.1855).
Alexander’s first wife was Emílie Weinberger from Rašovice near Uhlířské Janovice (Raschowitz bei Kohljanowitz), born 3.1.1851, died 6.7.1892, daughter of glass master Joseph Weinberger, as it is written in the registry, and Josepha (Josephine) Pam. They had their wedding in a synagogue in Uhlířské Janovice and Alexander marry into the family and village. They had children Arnoštka or Ernestine (31.3.1880 – 2.6.1914), Marie (19.6.1881 – 6.6.1932), Josefina (21.11.1882 – 24.2.1883), Josef (31.3.1884 – 30.4.1967), Berta (26.6.1885 – 6.6.1942), Bedřiška or Friederike (16.1.1887 – 4.7.1943), Anna (21.11.1888 – 14.4.1952) and Irma (2.3.1890 – 5.9.1978).
Emílie died at the age of 41 due purple fever (childbed fever) and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Uhlířské Janovice. Basically the cemetery doesn’t exist today. It was erased in the second half of the eighties by the local authority in conjunction with the Jewish comunity (picture from the fourties and from the present). Just a piety park with only a gravestone remained at this place. The gravestone which vapidly announces: “To the memory of Jews who perished during WWII // Jewish settlement originally before 1686. The cemetery was founded in 1833. The Jewish community died out in 1940.“
The second wife named Emma or Emilie Pick (12.5.1871 – 20.5.1895), came from Frýdnava by Habry, she was the daughter of tradesman Ignatz Pick and Babbete Fried. Alexander had with Emma daughter Růžena or Rosa (13.2.1894 – 10.6.1942). He brought Emma to Rašovice. Emma died due kidney failure in Frýdnava 20.5.1895, probably during a visit of the parents.
The last wife was Cecílie Wohryzek (or Wohryzková in new Czech style transcription which became usual in last fifth of the 19th century) from Heřmanův Městec (22.8.1867 – 5.8.1929), daughter of Salomon Wohryzek and Marie Richter. At that time Alexander had been living in Tupadly near Čáslav. He had seven children with Cecílie – Emílie (23.5.1897 - 15.12.1943), Eliška or Elisabeth (13.9.1898 - 6.11.1944), Karel (20.4.1900 - 29.6.1942), Zdena (4.7.1901 - 17.5.1942), František (7.11.1903 - 12.5.1967), Bedřich (20.7.1906 - 25.3.1970) and the youngiest Vlasta (1.7.1908 - 22.9.1942).
Alexander survived a brain accident in 1920. He was treated at home with the help of a family doctor, who rehabilitated him in the following period. Afterwards, Alexander Veselý left Tupadly and moved to Mladá Boleslav (Jungbunzlau) around 1922.
Alexander, merchant, tenant of farm and owner of property died due to a brain stroke on Monday, 8. November 1926, at the age of 74 in Mladá Boleslav. The obituary, on the other hand, talked about akinesis of heart. He was put into the grave two days later in the Jewish cemetery in Mladá Boleslav.
Alexander’s third wife suffered from strong diabetes at that time, the marching in the funeral procession behind the hearse must have been very exhausting for her. Later amputation of her leg arise from complications of diabetes. She died almost 3 years after Alexander, on 5. August 1928, in Mladá Boleslav, two weeks before her 63rd birthday. She is buried in the same place with Alexander in the Jewish cemetery of Mladá Boleslav. Some of Alexander’s children or great grandchildren have their grave nearby.
Alexander Veselý had three wives and sixteen children (except Josefína, each reached full age, the oldest daughter Arnoštka died at age 34). He outlived two wives as well as the oldest daughter.
So here is the history of an ordinary kinsman living in Bohemia throughout the centuries. An epilouge?
At the begining of World War II, in 1939, lived 76 of Alexander's descendants, their husbands, wifes and their children. From this number, 8 children, 9 sons-in-law, 20 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren perished in Nazi gas chambers in concentration camps. All together 43 relatives, therefore more than half of family living at that time.
This is therefore a reason why I am interested in the details of this family.
Children of Alexander Veselý
Schematic diagrams of kinship
Descending diagram of family
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