Debbie Hougie (née Pearlman)

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‘I grew up in Leeds and moved to Hertfordshire in 1996, where I lecture in Geography at the University of Hertfordshire. It is hard to imagine what courage it must have taken for my great-grandfather to leave his family home in Lithuania to set up life in the North East of England.’

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‘This photo is of my great-grandfather Joseph Pearlman, his wife Rosa and their family, taken around 1898 in South Shields, where Joe was a coal merchant. The family left Kretinga in Lithuania in 1874 and settled in South Shields. There was a huge trading arm between that part of Lithuania and the Newcastle area with logs imported and coal exported.’

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'This is my great-grandfather Joseph’s prayer book.

The story goes that when he arrived in South Shields from Lithuania in the early 1870s the customs officer said, “So, pet, what’s your name?” My great-grandfather said, “My name is Yosef Tibianski.” The customs officer replied, “I’m sorry, pet, I canna spell that. The man in front was called Pearlman so that’s your name now.” That is how we became the Pearlmans.’

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