Select Abraham Miscellany


Here are some Abraham stories and accounts over the years:


The Biblical Abraham


According to Jewish tradition, Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in Babylonia around the year 1800 BC.  He was the son of Terach, an idol merchant.  But from his early childhood, he questioned the faith of his father and sought the truth.  He came to believe that the entire universe was the work of a single Creator and he began to teach this belief to others. Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship.  One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol.   When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said: “The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones.”  His father said: “Don’t be ridiculous.  These idols have no life or power. They can’t do anything.”Abram replied: “Then why do you worship them?”

Eventually the one true Creator that Abram had worshipped called to him, and made him an offer.  If Abram would leave his home and his family, then God would make him a great nation. Abram accepted this offer and the covenant between God and the Jewish people was established.

When Abram was 100 and his wife Sarai 90, God promised Abram a son by Sarai.  God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (father of many) and Sarai’s to Sarah (princess) and Sarah bore Abraham a son named Isaac who was the ancestor of the Jewish people


Abraham, Abrahams, Abram and Abrams

The following are the approximate numbers today.

in thousands Abraham Abrahams Abram Abrams Total
UK    6    4    2    1   13
America    7    1    1   10   19
Elsewhere*    7    2    2    3   14
Total   20    7    5   14   46

* In Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.



Abraham in America by Country of Origin

The table below shows the ship arrival numbers for Abraham and related names.


Abraham Abrahams Abram Abrams Total
England    278    197     54     53    582
Ireland     69     11     27    107
Germany    946     83     36     35   1,095
Russia     89     77     19     20    205
Elsewhere     10     12     22
Total   1,382    368    145    116   2,013

Abraham predominates among the arrivals.  But many of the earlier Abraham and Abrahams became Abrams later.


Thomas McWhinnie Abrahams

Thomas McWhinnie Abrahams, who was named after Lt. Colonel Thomas McWhinnie of the Jamaica Militia, was born in Spanish Town in 1842.  He died in New York City in 1925 at the age of 83 years.  His body was brought to Jamaica and interred in the family burial ground on his Tavanore property, with Jewish rites being performed by Kazan M. H. Solomon.

He had been a Senior Justice of the Peace for the parish, having been appointed as far back as 1874.  He had also discharged the duties of the office of Customs.

Esther Abrahams and George Johnston

Born in London in 1771, Esther Abrahams was Jewish and variously
described as a sex worker and a milliner. The latter was what went on her record when she was tried at the Old Bailey for stealing fifty shillings’ worth of lace.  There was only circumstantial evidence and, in spite of character witnesses and a petition for royal mercy, Esther received a sentence of seven years.  She was shipped off to Australia with the First Fleet along with Roseanna, the child she gave birth to while imprisoned in Newgate in 1787.

It was on board that Esther met George Johnston, a First Lieutenant of the Marines.  The couple was to have seven children together. They named their farm Annandale, now the Sydney suburb of the same name, for George’s birthplace in Scotland.  In 1808, George Johnston overthrew the Governor, William Bligh, in the Rum Rebellion.   He became for a time the Lieutenant-Governor
of NSW and Esther his de facto First Lady.

Esther administered the land, the cattle and so forth while George Johnston had to absent himself from New South Wales for a four year period following the Rum Rebellion.  Then George Johnston returned and they married at last in 1814, in an Anglican ceremony.  They only had a few more years together as George Johnston died in 1823.  Esther lived another twenty or so years and died in 1846.


Peter Abrahams, South African Writer

Peter Abrahams left South Africa in 1939 at the age of 20, settling
first in Britain and then in Jamaica. Nevertheless, most of his novels and short stories were based on his early life in South Africa.

Mine Boy, for example, told of a country youth thrown into the alien and oppressive culture of a large South African industrial city.  Abrahams’s semi-autobiographical Tell freedom, Memories of Africa, written in 1954, dealt with the related theme of his struggles as a youth in the slums of Johannesburg.


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