Eighty Years Later, We Found Our Missing Family

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

I’m a Friedman

This true story is about the Friedmans, the Friers and my grandmother, Sophie. I hope you enjoy it.


I do know that when Sophie and Lena got to Ellis Island, the salami was spoiled. They had been afraid to eat it, as they didn’t know when they would need it .Their brother Sam met them at the port in New York and took them home to live with him. Sam got them jobs rolling cigarettes in their room. I’m sure they all lived in one room. I really don’t know how my grandmother (Sophie) met my grandfather, but they married and had eight children. Enter Hyman Friedman.

My grandfather was a brilliant man, everyone agrees. He was a tailor, but lost all he earned to gambling. He played cards and went to the race track. He was a heavy gambler.

Hyman would leave home and not return for weeks or even months at a time. When he left he did not leave any money or food for his family. He was a scoundrel and an evil man. Evil, yes. Leaving eight children without food or money is evil. Strangely enough, he came from a mean, evil family.

Time out. Let me explain the Friedman family. They were all “fabisene”, which translates to “bitter people” or “sourpuss”. The “queen of the fabisene” was Dora, better known as Duba. She was Hyman’s sister. Thankfully, this “fabisene” gene bypassed all of Hyman’s children. Some grandchildren got the gene, but that’s for another story.

Hyman, “the evil” had one brother and three sisters.. The brother(name unknown) left a wife and eight children in Europe, penniless and alone. The sisters never helped Hyman’s family. The phenomenon called “genetics” is very amazing to me. How can an entire family be “fabisene”…brothers, sisters, and parents. My Aunt Jean tells me that her fathers’ parents were very “fabisene”. They sat all day and read the bible. They didn’t make any conversation with the grandchildren.

My grandmother Sophie was a kind, gentle woman. She spoke Yiddish and broken english. She laughed a lot, even though she had a tough life. She got a job in their building washing floors. At the time, they lived on the lower east side of New York, on Cherry street. At 5:00am she would go down into the basement to start up the boiler. My Aunt Jean went with her. Later, she got a job cleaning a nearby office building. She was a marvelous cook. Her gefilte fish was the best. She would bring the live fish home and put it in the bathtub until she was ready to make it. Her kugel… amazing. She would make the best blueberry jam. She never yelled at my grandfather when he came home after being away for weeks or months. However, her sister, Lena, bumped into him one day. She started hitting him with her purse, shouting “you bum”! The local food stores allowed them to pay the food bill only when they were able to. They still didn’t have enough to eat.

As the children got older, they realized that they had to send the young ones to school. The children had no birth certificates, so the older siblings took the little ones to the board of health. The staff at the board of health realized that the family had no money for food. At the time, the state had food stamps, so things got easier for them. They were mailed food stamps every month. It was also at this time that the state put three of the younger children in a facility, assuming Sophie couldn’t handle eight children. This didn’t last long, as the children who had gone to the facility refused to eat and cried all the time.

The extended family

My grandmothers’ family was not much better. One sister, also married to a baker, brought the family spoiled cream pies. For a long time, my family believed that was how cream pies were supposed to taste.

After Sophie had her last child (my uncle Teddy)), around 1929, Hyman stopped coming home for good.

The older children got jobs, began to bring money into the house and things got better for all.

A knock on the door

That’s how we found out there was another family.

Now I enter the story. I am the oldest grandchild of Grandma Sophie. My cousin Thea (Irving’s first born)and I looked for this cousin who knocked on Duba’s door for many, many years. We never found him. We were searching for Friedmans and never thought the name was changed.

This is a sample of the ad I posted on a Jewish genealogy site. “Do you know a 50–60 year old man , last name Friedman, searching for his family on Long Island, New York, 50–60 years ago.” Of course, I never got a response.

The Friers

Ancestry wrote to Avi and Jenna. Ancestry found a family match. Jenna told her mother, Ilana, and Ilana contacted Avi. At this time, the Frier family knew nothing about their father and grandfathers’ family. The Friedmans only knew there was a family out there. Avi called Ilana and me, and we found out a lot about Hyman Friedman. Avi is the son of Ralph. Ralph was the man who had knocked on Aunt Duba’s door. Hyman’s younger son is Lenny. He has no memory of his father.

The rest of the story

Let me pause to explain Aunt Duba. Being Hyman’s sister, she was related to the Friedmans and the Friers. Both families knew Aunt Duba. Aunt Duba never told the Friedmans about the Friers.

Back to the story . After five years, the Friers moved to Cleveland, Ohio and the younger son, Lenny, was born. Lenny never knew his father because Hyman soon left this family and moved to New York and…guess what? He met another woman. Did he have children with her? Who knows? But we do know he stole $1500 from her. He also stole $5000 worth of jewelry from her. By the way, they were engaged to be married.

We heard that this woman was walking out of her temple one day and saw another woman sitting near her who was wearing her jewelry. She immediately called the police, and Hyman was arrested.

“Hyman the evil” goes to Sing Sing

So we always thought the second wife had him arrested for bigamy. That was not true. My grandfather, Hyman, was arrested for grand larceny.

In 2018, I spent one afternoon on the computer with my grandson Jacob . We researched Sing Sing and found that in 1935–1940 there were many inmates with the name Hyman Friedman. My new cousin, Avi, called Sing Sing in 2018. They confirmed that Hyman was convicted for grand larceny. Yes, “evil Hyman” went to prison for stealing money and jewelry from a woman he was going to marry.

When I was about four or five years old, about 1943, I met my grandfather, Hyman. My grandmother took him in when he was released from Sing Sing. He then went to live with one of his sisters.


Hyman didn’t die in the 40’s. He died in the 50’s. Some cousins called the Friedmans in the 50’s and told them that their father died that day. These were the same cousins who laughed and played with my family. They kept the secret their entire lives. At the reunion, we learned about these traitorous cousins.

The Baltimore cousins finally met the New York cousins. They had the same face, the same laugh ,the same mannerisms. My Uncle Irving Friedman had been going to the same temple as my new uncle Lenny Frier. They may have even sat next to each other. At the reunion, we took a picture of all the women with the same curly hair. We are now in touch. We meet, we Facebook , we call each other on the phone . My new Uncle Ralph (the son who knocked on “fabisene Duba’s” door so many years ago) calls me every Friday to wish me a good Shabbas. We are one family….and all the “evils” are gone. One last thought. Evil Hyman picked wonderful women to marry and have children with. His many grandchildren and great grandchildren are amazing, brilliant offspring of the Friedman/Frier family.




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