Frances Fruean discovers her Jewish Lineage by chance as she discovers hidden archival documents in her mother's otherwise "forbidden" Glory Box. Over the past 30 years Frances has devoted her life to recounting her Fruean family history and putting back the pieces, that included publishing a book on the Fruean family that goes back nine Fruean family generations.
Herr Charles Fruean Zimmermann (1810-1895), son of a German-Jew and US National of Boston, Massachusetts, USA set sail from South America with his two brothers. After a long and arduous journey through the great Pacific Ocean, they landed around 1840 at Avalua, Faleula Point, west of Apia in the Samoa Islands. According to family folklore, handed down by word of mouth, the Fruean-Zimmermann brothers were professional shipwrights and whalers. It is unknown why or how they came to this part of the South Pacific and Samoa in particular, but one has to assume like many European sailors those days that they were in lured to the South Pacific by stories of adventure and fortune or a more plausible explanation is that the brothers where part of a whale expedition fishing in the freezing water of the Antarctic Ocean when a hurricane blew them way off course and towards the Pacific.
Once the hurricane had subsided and with dire need for water and provisions they set sail for the nearest island that happened to be Samoa. There are no facts to substantiate either theory and as such both theories must be treated as folklore, suffice to say the brothers some how found there way to the Samoan islands.
It is understood that while in Samoa, Charles fell in love with the island and decided to make Samoa his home while the other two brothers returned to sea to seek their fortunes elsewhere. After departing Samoa, the whereabouts of these two brothers are unknown. However, there are unsubstantiated reports that families with the same surname (spelling) exist in South Africa and Boston, Massachusetts, USA respectively. Investigations are underway to ascertain these reports. Charles made friends with the chiefs of Faleula and Malie. These chiefs sold him various parcels of land namely Avalua, Maota, Le Mati'eti'e, Vaiaupa, Toganiu'uumi, and Tagiamanu. Charles also bought two pieces of property in Apia - one at Savalalo (now occupied by ASCO Motors and Morris Hedstrom (Samoa) Limited and the second piece at Matautu waterfront (from Vaisigano 3-corner to the boundary with Mrs Tina McCrory - Margaritas Night Club).
Charles built his first home on Avalua, a beach property where their ship landed. Charles met and married Meleane Pouoomasi'u Lealiitasi (1815-1881), the daughter of Su'a from the family of Su'afaiga Tolumaanave of Vaiana, Lefaga.. They married in 1841 and this union bore 7 children Henry Snr, Charles, Martha, Mary, Alfred, James and Eliza.
The Avalua property is used as the burial ground for the Fruean family and Charles, Meleane and most of their children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren are buried there. The heirs of William Matelepiu Fruean presently reside on this property as caretakers. In earlier times, the heirs used to gather at Avalua once a year to clean and weed the graves followed by family feasting and games.
While in Samoa Charles continued his trade as a shipwright and ran a boat repair business and also undertook work as a carpenter. After accumulating considerable wealth from his businesses Charles bought some prime real estate in the town area and became a landlord. We understand that he collected substantial rent from his real-estate properties and that he became quite wealthy.
The Fruean part of the surname Fruean Zimmerman comes originally from Anglo Saxon Britain. The root for my surname (Frewin), and that of Frewen, Fruen, Fruin, Frain and several others is Anglo Saxon. The first mention of the name comes in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles. It is spelt "Freawine", and is the name of one of the ancestors of Germanic Anglo Saxons that invaded Britain in 552 AD.
Frances Isabella Moore (nee Fruean-Philipp)
Frances Isabella Moore nee Fruean-Philipp, was born on 16 November at Motootua, Apia, Western Samoa. She attended St Mary’s School, Savalalo from 1946 and graduated Dux Medalist in 1955. She graduated as Apia Scholar in 1957. Frances worked for many years at the Secretariat Central Office, working under the New Zealand High Commissioner, Sir Guy Powles. She was also very involved in community based activities. Franes worked for the Government of Western Samoa in 1962 to 1978, and in 1979 Frances registered as a candidate for one of the Individual Voters parliamentary seats. Her entrepeneural spirit lead to a Bee Keeping project (SABCO) which flourished and exported a total of 25 tons of raw Samoan honey to Holland and Amsterdam between 1980 and 1984.
Frances recalls a childhood that felt different from many of her peers, a sense that her family and its history held stories that would not or could not be told. Her traditional Samoan way of life meant that Frances could not question or challenge her past, and her mother’s intent silence on such matters made her all the more curious.
Frances spotted her mother's Glory Box as a young child and was itching to know the contents inside. Her mother was adamant that Frances was to get nowhere near it. When Frances’s Mother became unwell, Frances was able to ask her mother about the glory box, and her mother finally relented and allowed Frances to access the box. Frances recalls disappointment at first glance at a bunch of old looking documents bound in lace and cotton and plenty of dust mites. She recalls thinking the glory box was bound to have held precious jewels.
Curiosity again got the better of Frances, and over a short period of time Frances saw the documents were in German and began what was a 30 year discovery about her past, and in time the memories of ‘difference’ and the unspoken histories came to life. Her remarkable achievements in interviewing her ailing mother and retrieving family history through oral history, allowed Frances the opportunity to faithfully document the Fruean family story. Her 700 page Fruean Genealogy Book, "Herr Charles Fruean and Descendants" was completed in 2001 and launched at the first ever Fruean Family reunion on June 5, 2002 at Tofamamo, Leauva’a. The book covered nine generations of heirs born from the marriage of Charles Fruean-Zimmerman of Boston, Massachusettes, USA, to Ali’itasi-i-viana Meleane Pouo’omasi’u daughter of Su’afaiga Toulman’anave of Vaina, Gagaifolevao. Meleane died in 1881at the age of 66 years.
Image header (above) : Frances Fruean at home in Auckland, New Zealand. Frances, sharing documents from her mother's glory box, about the Fruean family history and origins. Photography by Stephen Robinson © JoM