Harry Abraham Ropinsky

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Harry Abraham Ropinsky

Also Known As: "Gerschon Rappa", "Harry Row", "Harry Ropinski"
Birthplace: Golovchansky, Mogilev, Belarus
Death: 1947 (69-70)
Miami, Dade County, Florida, United States
Place of Burial: Chicago, Cook County, IL, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Unknown Ropinsky
Husband of Annie Ropinsky
Father of Elsie Josephine Lemkow; Bertha Hillman; Evelyn Prosan and Cecile Wexler Schuman
Brother of Jacob Ropinsky; Herman Rappin and Unknown Seidman

Occupation: Tailor, furrier
Managed by: Marsha Gail Veazey
Last Updated:

About Harry Abraham Ropinsky

Harry legally changed his name to Harry A Row, which is the name that appears on his Certificate of Naturalization. He was listed this way on the Social Security Death Index.

"Harris Ropinsky" was listed on the January 13, 1906 passenger list of the Umbria on line 6 as going to 1125 Milwaukee Ave in Chicago. The name of the person seems to be a husband named Morris Gruber. The ship left from Liverpool. Here's where you can see it online: http://www.ellisisland.org/search/shipManifest.asp?MID=168987800401...

The ship departed from Liverpool. Here is info on the Umbria: http://www.ellisisland.org/search/shipImage.asp?MID=168987800401491...

Here's a picture of the record: http://www.ellisisland.org/search/passRecord.asp?MID=16898780040149...

1920 United States Federal Census

about Harry A Row

Name: Harry A Row

Home in 1920: Evanston Ward 3, Cook, Illinois (They lived at 916 Chicago Ave.

in Evanston, Ill)

Age: 41 years

Estimated Birth Year: abt 1879

Birthplace: Russia (Lithuania was not an independent country until the time

between WWI and WWII, so they were born in what was the Russian Empire and then

became Lithuania) (I can't make out where in Russia Harry or his parents were


Relation to Head of House: Head

Spouse's Name: Annie

Father's Birth Place: Russia

Mother's Birth Place: Russia

Marital Status: Married

Race: White

Sex: Male

Home owned: Rent

Year of Immigration: 1906 (they were naturalized in 1913)

Able to read: Yes

Able to Write: Yes

Occ:self employed tailor

Image: 47

Household Members: Name Age

Harry A Row 41

Annie Row 33 born in Kovna as were her parents. Kovna is the gubernia

(state) in which Vilkomir is located.

Elsie Row 11-all the children were born in Ill.

Bertha Row 8

Evelyn Row 3 5/12

Cecelia Row 1 10/12

World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

about Harry Abraham Row

Name: Harry Abraham Row

City: Not Stated (It's Evanston, at the same address on the census)

County: Cook

State: Illinois

Birth Date: 28 Nov 1877

Race: White

Roll: 1504102

DraftBoard: 2

He indicates on the draft card that he is naturalized

Both Harry and Annie were from an area known as the Pale of Russia (sometimes called the Pale of Settlement). A brief historical diversion. The Pale was first created by Catherine the Great in 1791 after several failed attempts by her predecessors, notably the Empress Elizabeth, to remove Jews from Russia unless they converted to Russian Orthodoxy. The reasons for its creation were primarily economic and nationalist. While Russian society had traditionally been divided mainly into nobles, serfs, and clergy, industrial progress led to the emergence of a middle class, which was rapidly being filled by Jews, who did not belong to any of the other sectors. By limiting their area of residence, the imperial powers attempted to ensure the growth of a non-Jewish middle class.

The institution of the Pale became especially important to the Russian authorities following the Second Partition of Poland in 1793. While Russia’s Jewish population had, until then, been rather limited, the annexation of the Polish-Lithuanian territory increased the Jewish population substantially. At its heyday, the Pale, which included the new Polish and Lithuanian territories, had a Jewish population of over 5 million, which represented the largest concentration (40 percent) of world Jewry at that time.


The Pale was surrounded on the eastern border by Russia and on the western border by Germany, Austria-Hungary and Rumania. It’s fair to say the areas surrounding the Pale were hostile to Jews.

In 1882 Jews living in rural areas of the Pale were forced to leave their homes and live in towns and townlets (Shtetls) in the Pale. In 1891 20,000 Jews were expelled from Moscow. The town of Brody was the principle town from which in 1880 began the exodus of over two million Jews from the Pale to the United States, England, Europe, South America and Palestine. Between 1880 and 1924 one-third of Eastern European Jewry left their homes, and more than 90% came to the United States. Of these, about 75% were from the Russian Pale, an area to which Jews were confined by law. Harry and Annie were part of wave of Jews who left Russia.

Life in Russia in the later half of the nineteenth century was very difficult for Jews. One historian divided the Jews in Russia into those who were poor and those who were hopelessly poor. Jews were prevented from state employment, education or commercial opportunities.

I don’t have any documents about either Harry’s or Annie’s birth. The only Russian document I have is a passport issued to Gerschon Rappa following the completion of his military service in the Russian Army. Gerschon became Harry Ropinsky.

According to Mark Conrad [markconrad@comcast.net], an expert in Russian military history, a passport was issued when the individual completed his military service. I am very indebted to Mark Conrad [markconrad@comcast.net], Elenora Goldenberg, Len Izraelev and Lara Kirilina for translating this document.

The passport provides the following information. The passport was given to an individual after he completed active military duty. The document was issued by the head of the Golovchinsky District. The town of Golovchin had a population of 600 individuals in 1847.

Here is a translation of the Passport Document

To always have if traveling

PSSPORT CERTIFICATE [Identity card] [Issued by]from Golovchinsky Head of district.

1. RELIGION: Jewish

2. BIRTHDATE OR AGE: 26 years



5. DEPENDENTS: blank indicating no children

6. STATUS OF SATISFYING MILITARY OBLIGATION: Lower reserve rank [i.e. not an officer]/ {rovate of the 163rd Lenkoran-Nasheburg Infantry Regiment. To be in the reserves until 1 January 1917. Ticket No. 20/34

[“Lenkoran” is a town in the Caucasus. “Nasheburg” is a name of an old 18rth. Century Russian regiment named after a place that had disappeared. The names had no bearing on where the regiment was located or recruited from. They were just names]

[From MGK: Interestingly enough, Lankoran, in Azerbyjian on the Caspian Sea, is in the Caucsasus. My father's DNA has genes like people in this area. Hmmmmm.]

7. SIGNATURE: Gerschen Rappa

[The name is difficult to read and an alternate reading of the name might be Gershoon Hirshev [Gersh] Rapka. His height was “medium.” Hair color is “dark blond.” He does not have any special marks. He is listed as N2 in the family. I don’t know what that designation means.]


HEIGHT: Medium

HAIR COLOR: Dark, light brown

SPECIAL MARKS: Doesn’t have




[These items all left blank]

THE BEARER townsman of Mogilev Gubernia [province, near Minsk in current Belarus] Golovchinkaya Jewish community

The document was given to a citizen of Golovchinsky County, Mogilev Village and Jewish Golovchansky Community.

Gershon Hirshev (Gersh) Rapka. Listed in family as N 2

He is released from military duty to be able to travel in different places of the Russian Empire. The date of this document is December 4, 1903. The individual concerning this document was able to leave to “different” cities or settlements. “This certificate is good for living in places assigned for Jewish people.” [This means, that Gerschen had to live within the Pale.] The document is signed by the head or possibly mayor of the Golovchinsky district on December 4, 1904.

[The dates on the passport indicate the future years in which he would progress from ready reserve to lesser status until final release from all military obligations in old age.

This document probably indicates that Harry lived in the Mogilev province of the Pale in the small town of Golovchansky. [Three years later he landed in the United States].

The name Rappa may be derived from the Surname Rubin of Ashkenazi origin from Opatow (Poland). We are familiar with Surnames derived from Rubin such as Rubinstein, Rubinoff, Rapa and Rubin

There are no Russian documents for Annie. However, in the Petition For Naturalization (August 25, 1913), when they both were to become United States citizens, Harry states that his wife was born in “Vilkomir, Russia.” Technically, she was living in what is present day Lithuania in the community of Ukmerge which was known to the Jewish population called by its Russian name of Vilkomir. By 1880 it had a population of 10,000.

Sometime around the turn of the Century, both Harry and Annie made the dangerous 1500 mile journey to London. They were in extreme danger from anti-Semites as well as some Jews and non-Jews who took the opportunity of fleecing gullible individuals who were making this long, expensive, dangerous and difficult trip.

Even with the paucity of documents, we have learned some things about Harry and Annie. Life in Russia and Lithuania must have been very difficult. Jews could not get an education, they could not own property, they had limitations in terms of what kind of work they could do. Of course, these limitations did not prevent the Empire from enrolling young men in the Army for several years and holding them in the reserves [with the possibility of being called up into active service] for a long time…often into old age.

The Jews were surrounded by hostility in the Pale of Russia. We would have to conclude that their lives were so difficult that they would leave family and friends and head west to a country where they did not speak or read the language. Annie frequently has a look on her face of scowling. Could this be a result of the difficulties of her life beginning at a young age?

We have to conclude that they were both strong and determined individuals who were willing to risk everything to make a better life for themselves. They were not going to let minor factors such as poverty, being Jewish in an anti-Semitic environment and travel into the unknown deter them. We have to admire their strength and courage. We will see how things work out for them as they head to England and the United States to face new and unknown travails.

From Robert Hillman

Buried: Westlawn cemetery in the city of Norridge. Petunia section-Lot 12. .6 or 8 lots. Look for a fake tree near the road and they are about 50 feet behind it. Reddish headstone with Ropinski and Wexler on it.

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Harry Abraham Ropinsky's Timeline

November 28, 1877
Golovchansky, Mogilev, Belarus
March 17, 1908
Chicago, Illinois, United States
August 10, 1911
Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States
August 12, 1916
Chicago, Illinois, United States
February 14, 1918
Age 69
Miami, Dade County, Florida, United States
Chicago, Il, United States
Westlawn Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, IL, United States