Friday, July 31, 2009

My Karasov Family from Poltava region, Ukraine (updated 11/28/2016)

Although Karasov is a common name in Russia and Ukraine (where the name is usually transliterated as "Karasev"), most Karasovs in the USA are descended from William and Beatrice Karasov, Russian Jews who immigrated from Kiev, Ukraine, to England, then to western Canada, and then to the United States.

The family story is that the Karasovs came from Kiev, but in his 1911 British Census entry and 1940s papers for U.S. citizenship, William Karasov said he was born in "Lochvich" [Lokhvitsa, Ukraine] and Beatrice was born in "Lubna" or "Luben" [Lubny, Ukraine]. Both towns are in the Poltava region of central Ukraine, south of Kiev. 

Karasov is a patronymic name derived from the Slavic word "karas," meaning carp. Maybe the first Karasov was a fisherman or a fishmonger? "Lokhvitsa" probably stems from the Slavic word for "salmon," so amusingly the "Son of a Carp" came from "Salmon-Town." 

Another vital clue in William's U.S. naturalization papers is that his alternative name is given as "Wolf Karasik." This may have been his birth name or an alias, but I've found no other document that mentions this. There were some Karasiks in the Poltava region, including a soldier who died in the Russo-Japanese War. Maybe this was the same family?

Jehosuah Karasov's grave, Rice Lane Cemetery, Liverpool, England. 

The oldest-known ancestor of this line is Yitzchak Chaim Karasov (d. c.1880) who probably lived and died in Russia. He had at least one son, Jehosuah.
Jehosuah Karasov (c.1848-1917) and his wife Betsy (c.1850-1924) immigrated to Liverpool, England at some point between 1901 and 1911 to join one of their sons. Jehosuah worked as a newsvendor, and they lived and died in the Jewish section of Liverpool and were buried in Rice Lane Cemetery. In the 1911 British census, Betsy claimed she birthed nine children but only four were still living.

According to Rose K. Lora, there were five brothers Karasov who were born in Russia, and only two immigrated: Isaac and William. Isaac Karasov (1880-1942), who was named "Yitzchak Chaim" for his paternal grandfather, was a carpenter. He stayed in Liverpool, England, and supposedly George Harrison of Beatles fame apprenticed with him (although technically George was born after Isaac died). Isaac married Fanny Hlushkin (1882-1934), and had four children: Tommy Kay (born Abram Karasov, 1905-1970), Ellis Kay (born Eli Karasov, 1912-1953), Sarah Karasov (1914-1971), and Rose Kay Lora (born Rosa Karasov, 1920-2001).

According to his naturalization papers, Tommy Kay (a.k.a. Abram Karasov or Arthur Thomas Kay) was born in Liverpool and was living in Canada by 1942, the year he entered the USA by train. By 1943 he had settled in Washington, D.C., where he was a cab driver. He was in New York when his sister Rose immigrated there in 1948. Within a few years, they resettled in Miami, where in 1958 Tommy married Kentucky-born Jetta Deatrick (1908-1993).

Rose K. Lora, although a distant relation, was always kind and loving, and my family called her "Aunt Rose." A beautician by trade, Rose straddled several worlds in her lifetime: she was raised in a Jewish household, spoke with a British accent, kept close to her American and Canadian cousins, and married a Dominican man named Raymond Lora (a maitre'd). Raymond and Rose hosted all-night merengue parties in their house in Miami, and my mom attended them and had really fun times. Rose left no immediate family, with the exception of Raymond's children from his first marriage.

Beatrice Karasov, the mother of the U.S. Karasovs, was born Besheva Tarnarutsky in 1869 in Lubny (Luben), Ukraine to Hyman Tarnarutsky (d. c.1902) and an unknown mother. Hyman may have been among the Jews of Luben who in 1880 elected 21-year-old Solomon Rabinovich to serve as the town's "crown rabbi," or registrar of vital records. Rabinovich later wrote under the pen name Sholem Aleichem and his "Tevye the Milkman" stories inspired the musical "Fiddler on the Roof." 

Beatrice also had a brother who immigrated to England: Morris Turner (c.1876-1947), who married Betty Segal (c.1882-1948) in Stoke-Upon-Trent, England in 1902 and settled in Sheffield, then Manchester. They had at least six children: Herman Turner (1903-1990), Burrell Turner (1904-1976), Isabel Shapiro (1908-1996), Eric Turner, Renee Klavir, Dorothy Laker, and possibly Amy Geey (1908?-2002).

William Karasov (Hebrew name: Zev), as said before, was born in 1867 in Lochvitsya. He married Beatrice Karasov on June 8, 1890 in Lubny and immigrated to Liverpool, England around 1891. They doubtlessly left behind siblings and cousins, who may have fallen victims to the Nazis. German soldiers massacred more than 1,800 Jews from Luben at one time in a field outside the town in October 1941, then shot almost 300 Jews in Lokhvitsa in May 1942. 

William and Beatrice's first son, Jack, was born on February 22, 1891, but records and family members are uncertain whether he was born in Russia or England. William Karasov was a "travelling draper" [tailor], and the family lived in Wrexham (Wales), West Derby, Hanley, Stoke-Upon-Trent, and finally Sheffield, where Beatrice also worked as a "picture framer."

As a family with British-born children, it made sense for the Karasov family to immigrate to Canada. William was the first to leave in June 1912, and then Jack, Peter, and Nat came later that year. Beatrice and the other three children followed in 1913. The Karasov family first lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, which was recovering from a major cyclone, but through the 1920s they moved from town to town in Alberta and Saskatchewan. William would open a small grocery store, but he allowed his customers to use credit. When William's distributors forced him to make his customers pay with cash instead, his business suffered. To earn extra money, Jack became a prizefighter and even became the featherweight boxing champion of Canada. Once the family earned enough money, they moved to the next town and opened another store.

Around 1923, William became a naturalized British subject. Eventually, he lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, where in 1927 he joined the pool of founders of the Achduth Association, the city's first Jewish loan society.  

My great-grandfather Nathaniel was the first Karasov to immigrate to the United States: he crossed the border at Sweetgrass, MT on January 2, 1917, and married the following year. Jack and Peter soon afterwards went to Minnesota. Rosa and Annie married and stayed in Canada, and Hymy stayed as well.

William and Beatrice left Vancouver for the United States and entered Blaine, WA aboard the Great Northern Railway on October 19, 1934. They settled in Los Angeles, where William became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1944. Beatrice died in Los Angeles on May 23, 1947. William Karasov was killed by a car while crossing a road during a family visit to Montreal on July 29, 1949. Both are buried in Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles.

William & Beatrice Karasov's headstone, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by my cousin David Roniss. 

The six children of William and Beatrice Karasov are:

1. Jack Karasov (b.1891 in Ukraine or England; d.1976 in Minnesota), a traveling salesman, married Fanny Gordon (c.1900-1951), and settled in St. Paul, MN and then Miami. They had two sons, Harry (1920-2002) and Elliott (1922-2014). After Fanny's death, Jack married Stefanie Rado (1906-1972) in 1953.

2. Peter Karasov (b.1893 in Wrexham, Wales; d.1979 in Los Angeles) came into the United States in 1917 and briefly served in the Army in 1918. He married Cecilia Labofsky (b.1901 in St. Paul, MN; d.1955 in Los Angeles; daughter of Jacob Labofsky and Sara Berger) and had two children, Harvey (1924-2011) and Rosalind. By the mid-1920s, he was working in Los Angeles as a grocer. 

3. Nathaniel Karasov (b.1895 in Wrexham, Wales; d.1977 in Miami, FL), a traveling salesman, married Bessie Lillian Davis (1900-1995) in 1918 in Coeur d'Alene, ID, then settled in Spokane, WA (with intermittent times spent in Canada, Los Angeles, and Portland, OR), and finally moved to Miami, FL by the early 1950s. They had one daughter, my grandmother Frances (1919-2014).

4. Rosa Mallin (b.1897 in West Derby, England; d.1946 in Montreal, Canada) married Ben Mallin (b.1891 in Kiev Province, Ukraine; d.1979 in Montreal Canada; son of Elia Malinsky) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1920. Read a newspaper article on their wedding. They later settled in Montreal and had two daughters, Marian Adelson and Pat Coorsh (1924-2002).

5. Ann Karasov Nemetz (b.1899 in Wrexham, Wales; d.1946 in Vancouver, Canada), a prominent "clubwoman," married Harry Nemetz (b.1898 in Svatatroiske, Ukraine; d.1991 in Vancouver, Canada; son of Abraham Nemetz and Toby Pollock) in Rosthern, Saskatchewan in 1920. Read a newspaper article on their wedding. Harry ran an electrical supplies business with his brothers in Vancouver that went under in the Great Depression. Harry then opened his own electric business in 1930 and regained his lost fortune by selling refrigerators and real estate. In the 1960s, Harry was one of 100 people who helped finance the founding of Kibbutz Eilot, Israel's southernmost settlement. Ann and Harry had three children: Phyliss Snider (1921-1999) who married the prominent dentist Dr. Irving Snider (1903-2002), Milton Nemetz (1924-1970), and Alvin Nemetz (1929-2001). 

6. Hyman Karasov (b.1901 in Stoke-Upon-Trent, England; d.1980 in Vancouver, Canada) never married, but lived with a girlfriend. He always wanted to be an artist, but instead worked for Harry Nemetz's refrigeration business. Hy also served in the Canadian army during World War II.

And finally, a family myth: 
My Grandma Frances told me that she heard that her great-uncle was the "right-hand man of the Pasha of Turkey," who fell out of favor "after the revolution." I believe the person she heard about was Emmanuel Carasso, aka Emanuel Karasu (1862-1934), who was not a Russian Jew and my grandma's relative but a Sephardic Jew born in Thessaloniki, Greece (Ottoman-controlled Salonika at the time). While Carasso sounds similar to "Karasov," this Sephardic last name comes from the Turkish word "kara," meaning "black."

Emmanuel Carasso was an attorney who joined the Young Turks reform movement, which led to a coup that deposed the corrupt sultan in 1908. Turkey was then ruled by the "Three Pashas," and during those years Turks committed the Armenian genocide and fought in World War I on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. After the founding of the Republic of Turkey, Carasso had a falling out with the dictatorial leader Ataturk and was forced to live out his days in Italy. 

Carasso's nephew Isaac fled to Barcelona where he founded a yogurt company, and Isaac's son, Daniel Carasso (1905-2009), brought the company to the United States and made it the world-famous Dannon brand.     

Questions? Comments? Please email me at ruedafingerhut [at]

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