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Genealogy and Jewish history

Anthony Joseph

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Genealogy and Jewish history1 ANTHONY JOSEPH Genealogical studies have been pursued for centuries, but it is only in the past forty or fifty years that they have fired the enthusiasm of a substantial number of people, leading to its having become one of the nation's major leisure activities. There is a minor irony in the fact that the modern Jewish interest in the pastime has developed even more recently than in the wider society; for 'in Jewish tradi? tion, genealogy is rooted in the very origins of the people itself. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, much commentary is devoted to the lineage of the Patri? archs. The very definition of who is a Jew, while not capable of being reduced down to a single concept, in the case of those born into the faith requires matrilin eal proof of identity. A wise insistence on acknowledgement of the mother for basic Judaic inheritance dates from the earliest times, and this was skilfully blended with paternal transmission in such matters as the handing on of land and the priesthood. Early Jewish thinking demonstrates the lucid grasp of the nature of some genetic disorders: for example, the laws pertaining to ritual circumcision were modified in cases of haemorrhagic illnesses in such a way that all potentially affected males of that family would be spared exposure to risk of bleeding.'1 It was only in 1992 that the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain was founded, although a call for such a society had been made by Bertram Benas of Liverpool in 1937.2 This can now take its rightful place as pre-eminent in promot? ing the study of Anglo-Jewish genealogy. There is a considerable overlap of membership between both societies, as is likely to remain the case for the foresee? able future. That both societies produce regular publications is also very useful. Probably the pioneer work as far as Anglo-Jewry is concerned is that of Pro? fessor Bill Williams, whose influence provided the main thrust for historians to re-examine their attitude towards genealogy. Williams' concept was simple but challenging. His appreciation of the minority experience derived initially from his Catholic upbringing in Wales; and arriving in Manchester in 1966 and having been trained as an historian he applied himself to researching the history of the local Jewish community. His work, The Making of Manchester Jewry, ij40-187^ was published in 1976, and while more has no doubt been discovered, the book is still the definitive account of the Manchester Jewish community. It is also the first major historical work for which a thorough sifting of the natiional decennial * This paper is based on material from Presidential Addresses presented to the Society on 13 October 1094 and 19 October 1995. III</page><page sequence="2">Anthony Joseph census formed one of the basic research tools in its compilation. Williams attracted a team of researchers who examined in meticulous detail numerous secular decen? nial censuses for Manchester and abstracted the details of its Jewish population. The methodology can be criticized for its flaws and inaccuracies, since nobody was asked for census purposes either for their religion or ethnicity and this has therefore to be inferred from their names, occupations and possibly places of birth. In many cases there is no doubt of the Jewish identity, but in others there are grey areas requiring confirmation from other sources. As a result, mistakes may result in identifying Gentile families as Jewish, or omitting families that were members of the Jewish community. Nevertheless, Williams and his team were confident that their researches had identified at least 95 per cent of Jews living in Manchester. The statistics of immigration, redistribution around the city and the construction of synagogues offered plentiful material for demographic and historical research. Moreover, the amassing of the details concerning so many Jewish families-many of whom could be linked with present-day members of the Manchester Jewish community-provided excellent opportunities for studying the evolving organic history of Manchester Jewry. A familiar criticism of Anglo-Jewish genealogy is that it is more concerned with the specifically British sources than with the Jewish component. It is, of course, true that investigating the pedigree of families resident in the British Isles relies heavily on the national and municipal sources common to all British citizens, such as the primary records of births, marriages and deaths; the Probate Office; and the decennial census information. Outside the national records, the Jewish equivalent sources to such things as the parish registers may be very few and far between. However, there are some synagogue-based records such as details of land holding, early cemeteries, minute books and occasional circumcision registers which do have distinctive Jewish links. In some cases, notably in those of long established early Sephardi and Ashkenazi London synagogues, the material is both extensive and very revealing, much of it now in the public domain thanks to the publications of this Society, such as the Miscellanies, with its membership lists of the Great Synagogue, abstracts from the Gentleman Js Magazine and other list? ings. The Society has also issued in separate occasional publications, matters of considerable genealogical value such as the Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-judaica series, and Arthur Arnold's Anglo-Jewish Wills (Probates). The Spanish and Portuguese Congregation has for many years pursued a policy of publishing its primary records, and five volumes are so far available of births, marriages and deaths. Some other London congregational and provincial histories have appeared, such as the History of the Sunderland Community by Arnold Levy. Sam Bendahan has collected and catalogued the circumcision records of several of his ancestors, which form a magnificent collection of male-birth details for a whole tranche of North African families. Sources always worth exploring are newspaper publications, and not only the Jewish press such as the Jewish Chronicle. My attention was recently drawn to the 112</page><page sequence="3">Genealogy and Jewish History Lincolnshire, Stamford and Rutland Mercury, a local paper which frequently carried births, marriages and deaths announcements, sometimes with most interesting comments. Of particular relevance to me was a death announcement in the issue of 13 April 1832: 'On Sunday night, under circumstances of great worldly depres? sion, Mrs Lazarus, wife of Jonas Lazarus, of this City. It is earnestly hoped that the distressed and destitute condition of this numerous Jewish family, and espe? cially the helpless infants who are so early deprived of a mother's care, will engage the sympathy of the benevolent ladies and gentlemen of the Town and neighbourhood.' This Mrs Lazarus, my great-great-great-grandmother, was Ros ceia, the beautiful and talented daughter of Moses I. Nathan, whose 'society' marriage on 5 August 1810 had been described in the Gentleman's Magazine. It is unclear whether 'great worldly depression' refers to economic misfortune (Jonas Lazarus had been bankrupt several times in the 1820s), or to a more personal psychological problem. By 1832 Jonas and Rosceia had no fewer than seven children, apart from others who may not have survived into adult life although they were part of the family at that time. The youngest known son was born only in 1830 (he died in Amherst, Victoria, Australia, in 1871), but the oldest daughter was twenty at the time of her mother's death, so might have been able to help support the 'helpless infants' who had been deprived of their mother's care by her early death. My own suspicion, is that she had taken her own life for whatever reason, and it may be relevant that one of her daughters died in a mental institu? tion in Stafford in 1870 of'acute melancholia'. She too left a large tribe-at least eight children who lived to adult life-and other descendants of the family have displayed what today might be called depressive psychoses. Another collateral relative of Rosceia (Nathan) Lazarus is Michael Joseph of Bedford, whose part in the challenge to the trustees of the Bedford Trust was described in a lecture to this Society by Norman Bentwich in 1947.4 The distingu? ished descent from Michael Joseph, including the Herbert and Leveaux tribes and a connection with Lemon Hart, the 8th-century rum merchant, has only recently been explored with the help of the now retired county archivist for Bedford, Patricia Bell. Miss Bell's account of the Bedford Jewish community deserves a wider circulation among our present community,5 since it exemplifies the intermeshing of Jewish and non-Jewish genealogy. It is essential to acknowledge the purely personal factor in motivating genealo? gical research and in making exploration possible. As I describe above, genealogy is a branch of self-discovery, at least in my case. My interest in family roots was aroused before I reached my teens. I discovered only after my father's death (he had been a distinguished actuary) his correspondence in 1955 with Sir William Elderton, Vice-President of the Society of Genealogists, asking him to sponsor my application for membership. My father gave 'a father's biased opinion that, apart from this odd kink about genealogy, he is quite normal', and Sir William offered a warm welcome and 'one bit of good advice. If he minds what he finds he had better not look.' The recommendation to remain objective and dispassionate is 113</page><page sequence="4">Anthony Joseph the soundest he could have given. Although my father never shared my enthusiasm for the subject, my late first wife (who was also a fourth cousin) exercised tolerance over many years, supporting my interest by entertaining distant relatives and strug? gling with record offices. More recently my daughter, as part of her degree course in education, chose for her dissertation topic the integration of Jews in Britain and decided to use her own family as an example. This shows how environment can influence one's inclinations and how genealogists can be made as well as born. She has consulted, among other sources, books written by her great? grandfather, the Revd Dr Abraham Cohen, for many years the Chief Minister of Singer's Hill Synagogue, Birmingham, and later President of the Board of Dep? uties, whose family researches remain valid. My present wife is an enthusiast in her own right, contributing not only to my work, but initiating projects herself. She needs no praise from me; and these personal remarks are designed in any case to reflect the role of individual choice, taste and influence in the making of genealogists and the uncovering of material. Most of our current community's forebears reached British shores after 1880. In order to research the background of these later arrivals in more detail it is usually necessary to consult sources outside Britain, which are beyond the scope of this study. However, one need only read publications such as Avotaynu, the Proceedings of the four international Jewish genealogical seminars that have taken place since 1984, or almost any one of the various genealogically inspired journals in the English-speaking world, such as the British Shemot, the Canadian Shem Tov, the American review Avotaynu or the Australian The Kosher Koala to see how historical craftsmanship goes hand-in-hand with explaining a pedigree and illuminating the vicissitudes of a family story perhaps over many generations. Examples are an article by Murray Freedman of Leeds on Solomon Sulzer (the 19th-century hazan and musicologist) and Hermione Gingold his granddaughter;6 Sally Solomon's article on Portuguese Jewish life recreated in Madras,7 and the work of the Canadian Jewish researcher, Laurence Tapper, on archival services generally.8 There is also the increasing quantity of data now being released from Eastern Europe, which offers considerable potential for Jewish genealogical research. One of the more important records that should be consulted in England is the Naturalization Calendars since, provided an immigrant became naturalized, the information he or she had to supply in acquiring British citizenship is a useful source concerning their immediate origins. In many cases a privacy closure rule applies to this recent information, as for the 100-year rule for the census returns, but the Calendars of Naturalizees can be inspected up to more modern times. Although only a minority of immigrants naturalized as Britons, the Calendars of such applications are complete. This is not always the case with the primary registration of births and, to a lesser extent, deaths. The secular system in England and Wales commenced on 1 July 1837, and has been compulsory since that date. But penalties for failure 114</page><page sequence="5">Genealogy and Jewish History to comply were not applied until 1874, and many cases escaped the registration procedure, especially among recent Jewish immigrants who were either unfamiliar with the system (and the English language in which it operated), or were fearful of using it lest it gave the authorities the sort of hold over them from which they had suffered in their countries of origin. The lack of a birth certificate did not usually cause too much inconvenience, but my great-uncle, Goodman Aaronson, experienced difficulties at the start of the First World War when he could not prove that he had been born in Wolverhampton, for his parents had failed to register his birth. In 1914 he was threatened with deportation to a Russia he had never seen in his life; but in the end the problem was resolved by the Home Secretary accepting affidavits that he had indeed been born in Wolverhampton. These include a colourful description of the circumstances surrounding his cir? cumcision: and full details of the 'Abrahamic Rite' were given for the benefit of the Home Secretary to read.9 The vexed question of Stille Chuppe (i.e. clandestine marriage, valid in Jewish law) is of particular relevance in Jewish genealogical and historical pursuits, since the absence of a secular registered marriage may represent a considerable stum? bling block in recovering a pedigree. The topic has been considered notably in a powerful analysis of Jewish marriage and divorce by Charles Tucker, published in two parts in the Genealogists' Magazine of September and December 1992.10 By the very fact of its having no civilly registrable counterpart to the religious marriage ceremony, it is impossible to know the exact prevalence of this custom. Certainly it was illegal under English law, and it was officially disapproved of by the Jewish religious authorities. Nevertheless, it reduced expense, satisfied the religious conscience of those who practised it and was by no means merely a passing fad introduced by Eastern European immigrants who may have allowed themselves to think that their English domicile did not necessarily subject them to the laws of England. The evidence provided by the probate system is of particular importance. I have mentioned already Arthur Arnold's list of Anglo-Jewish probates, published by the Jewish Historical Society of England and which was a commendable attempt at identifying all estates that had been administered under the jurisdiction of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. However, numerous cases also exist of grants of administration of the estates of deceased Jews either through the Prerog? ative Court of York, or in the many Diocesan Consistory Courts empowered to handle such matters. I have been fortunate in finding testamentary dispositions of several of my ancestors that were granted in one or other of these Courts which, like all such material, may be of great value to the genealogist. One in particular that interested me was that of my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Barnet Levy, who died in Falmouth in 1791. He was a member of a Cornish Jewish clan whose story was told to this Society in 1949.11 One amusing story worth repeating concerns his religious devotion but unwillingness to lose business 115</page><page sequence="6">Anthony Joseph time. He therefore used to say his prayers on horseback on his peddling rounds, and trained his horse to take the requisite three steps backwards after xhtAmidah. On one occasion the animal stumbled and threw him into a ditch! In this case the original document can never now be consulted since it was among the casualties of the bombing damage that befell Exeter in 1941, but, luckily a transcript survives. In the Consistory Court of Exeter the administration of the estate of Barnet Levy, late of Falmouth, was granted on 24 June 1791 to Levy Levy, the son and one of the next-of-kin of the said deceased. Levy Levy with his brother-in-law, a watchmaker called Philip Moses, and an unrelated person, George Walters, were admitted administrators on condition that the said Levy Levy should make an inventory of the estate of his late father. In the affidavit Levy Levy stated that he was a son and one of the next-of-kin of the said Barnet Levy. Unfortunately, Levy Levy himself did not live long enough to complete this task, and on 14 August 1792 we find the Consistory Court of Exeter granting a further administra? tion of the estate of Barnet Levy of Falmouth to his three (at that time) spinster daughters, Betsy, Hannah and Judith. The grant reads: 'Whereas Barnet Levy late of Falmouth County of Cornwall, shopkeeper deceased, died intestate and administration of his goods was committed to Levy Levy his son and whereas the said Levy Levy did for some time intermeddle in the effects of his father but is since dead and so intestate, leaving some parts thereof unadministered. Therefore the Vicar General empowers certain clerks to take the oaths of the three daughters who were duly sworn with Samuel Russell, a tailor, and Francis Symons, a mercer.'12 This example illustrates the value of the probate system in identifying various family members, and shows the degree of integration within British society already enjoyed by very ordinary Jews, who involved themselves with existing national systems to the same degree that they maintained their separate cultural and religious identity. George Rigal has drawn attention to a similar phenomenon in the numbers of Jews who held insurance policies. Some of the major collections of Anglo-Jewish Pedigrees, such as the Hyamson or Colyer-Fergusson or D'Arcy Hart or Mordy Papers, are well referenced as to their sources, which include items such as wills, newspaper references and other secular material, as least as frequently as matter derived from the registers of various synagogues or Jewish cemeteries. It is important, as Sir William Elderton urged my father to tell me, for those engaged in researching their pedigree not to mind what is found. In tracing Anglo-Jewish genealogies the predominant issue of 'minding what is found' con? cerns that of the mixed marriage-Jew with Gentile. To the religious purist even recording such unions is often equated with condoning them, and is thereby regarded as improper. Perhaps as a grudging concession the tracing out of the descendants of those mixed marriages in which the female partner was Jewish may be permitted, but certainly not where it is the male partner who has taken a 116</page><page sequence="7">Genealogy and Jewish History non-Jewish spouse. In my view, genealogy is essentially a precise and secular study, and must record family relationships as they are discovered, irrespective of ethnic or other background. The process of discovering a pedigree may be fraught enough as it is, since it may rely on recorded information which may be known to be false, or at least to be under grave suspicion of being so. A classic example concerns the Caernarvon family, with its particularly famous involvement in the excavation of the Tomb of Tutankhamen. The official documentation records the Caernarvon family tree as might be expected, but it ignores the true parentage of that particular Lord Caernarvon's wife, from an illicit Rothschild union. The problems surrounding intermarriage will disappear only if they are ignored. Furthermore, it is common for people to claim a connection with individuals who are either sufficiently famous or have adequate charisma to be considered 'interesting', while wishing to repudiate other links if they do not fulfill required criteria. I plead guilty to having dropped the Duchess of Windsor's name into my genealogical accounts, because her previous husband, prior to the Duke of Windsor, was Ernest Simpson (born Solomon), a distant kinsman of mine. I am also aware of my own mixed ancestry: my maternal grandmother's mother was a Worcestershire farmer's daughter who underwent Orthodox conversion to Juda? ism after living as a servant girl in an immigrant Jewish household in Birmingham, and married the son of the house. The story of my investigation of her family was published in the Midland Ancestor in June 1981 under the title of 'The Not so bad Penny after all'.13. A further royal link is provided by Commander Timothy Lawrence, husband of the Princess Royal, who is related to the Montefiore family through the Levys. Although intermarriage is seen by the religiously Orthodox as a divisive force, damaging to the continuity of Judaism and Jewishness, the influence of such events on both English history generally and on Anglo-Jewish history in particular should not be ignored. The influence of the Anglo-Jewish community on the course of English history over the past three-and-a-half centuries, and of the development of English institutions and social models on the evolution of Anglo Jewry, is an intertwined and interactive process. Professor David S. Katz has encapsulated the idea aptly.14 In the preface to his recent book, The Jews and the History of England, he states that the disabilities suffered by Jews in England were almost always the result of their having fallen foul of limitations designed to exclude Roman Catholics and Nonconformists, and to ensure the Anglican character of civil and social life. Almost by definition, then, the history of the Jews in England needs to be seen through the prism of events in this country unconnected with Jews themselves. This approach has largely been lacking. Historians of the Jews in early-modern England have mostly written from the perspective of a judaized version of 'Whig History', that is, the writing of ends-orientated history, so that emphasis is placed on 'precursors' and 'pioneers' who have, in some way, 'contributed' to a final 117</page><page sequence="8">Anthony Joseph event or institution .... History took on an evolutionary character which developed . . . into the most advanced and perfected final product. Even that most English of primary recording systems, the parish registers (instituted in the time of Henry VIII, when the Church of England broke away from Rome), exhibits examples of Jewish involvement. Edgar Samuel has mentioned in the National Index of Parish Registers that 'English Jews in the 17th and 18th centuries suffered considerable inconvenience from the want of births registers. On occasion it was necessary for heirs to property to prove their legitimate descent by producing notarially attested depositions from the midwives who had attended their mother's confinement, or from other mem? bers of the family and from neighbours. It was quite usual for Jews to pay the local clergy for the entry of their births and marriages in the registers of the local parish church. For example, the baptismal register of St Helens, Bishopsgate, includes the following entry: "At ye special desire of Mr Moses Nunez and Walcombe Nunez his wife both Jews I thought it meet to register ye time of their children's births as follows-David born July 15th 1681, Rachael born ist August 1683, Aaron born 5th April 1685".'15 Sara Mason of Lancaster has drawn my attention to a chronology that appears in the Tunstall parish registers listing the important national events alongside baptisms and other matters that the registers were supposed to record. Apparently, under occurrences in 1753 we read 'this year the Jew Act was repealed to the great satisfaction of every sincere Christian subject in His Majesty's Dominions. In many places the news was followed with bonfires, ringing of bells and other demonstrations of joy suitable to that occa? sion.'16 One doubts, whether any of the inhabitants of Tunstall had had any contact with any Jews whatsoever, so the 'Jew Act' was another example of the interactive process of English and Anglo-Jewish histories. Genealogists are used to meeting people who are convinced that their ancestors must be Jewish. The details of the enquirer's background are usually obscure but perhaps an Old Testament-style name appears occasionally in the pedigree. A garbled rumour was told to a grandparent's distant cousin that there may have been a Jewish forebear somewhere, but evidence is usually totally lacking. Never? theless, the enquirer's conviction that this must be the case is frequently very powerful. No matter how many generations of staunch Anglicans on all sides are consistently discovered, the deeply cherished belief will not be dispelled! On occasions one is even vilified for attempting to point out that the purported ances? try cannot be proved, and is asked 'Why are you trying to hide from us the truth of our background?' In some cases the reasons to have it otherwise are clear: if they ask us to look only through maternal ancestry lines it suggests that a present day marriage is being contemplated and it is hoped that evidence can be found to make it 'acceptable'. Far from all Gentile enquirers, however, are ill-informed or plainly obtuse. One astute seeker of Jewish genealogy with whom we have dealt covered the Cohen Azevedo background of a now Gentile family. Margaret O'Shea of 118</page><page sequence="9">Genealogy and Jewish History Abergavenny's17 researches into the local Anglo-Welsh Jewish community have been handled with a great sensitivity for Jewish feeling and an appreciation of the Jewish contribution to local life. Her scholarship concerning the De Pinna background has usefully complemented Edgar Samuel's researches into that not? arial family.18 Wendy Bellany (like Sara Mason, of Lancaster), has abstracted Jewish families from the various Welsh towns' decennial censuses, while the Scottish Jewish archives run mostly by Dr Kenneth Collins and Harvey Kaplan (both of Glasgow) have greatly enhanced Scottish Jewish genealogical research. Census data analysis has received much treatment since Bill Williams pioneered the technique in the early 1970s in Manchester. The Birmingham Jewish Research Group has attempted to identify all the Jewish families and boarders in the Birmingham area in the 1851, 1871 and 1881 censuses. Much more recently, Diana Rau and her team have indexed the Jewish households in Spitalfields in the 1891 census, and Murray Freedman has similarly tackled the census for Leeds. These projects have helped enormously to expand the information avail? able to researchers. Other major indexers have helped the genealogical cause: Henry Roche for Portsmouth, Jacqueline Gill and David Spector for Brighton, Bernard S?sser and the late Alex Jacob for Plymouth (and westwards), Teddy Isaacs for Sheffield, Joe Wolfman for Liverpool, Tony Reese and Judith Samuel for Bristol, and Ian Melville's Index of Naturalizees, taken from the Jewish Chron? icle's lists. These are only a few of the many who could and should be mentioned. Families known to have lived in one part of the country for a long period of time tend still to be discovered there, and it is to be expected that they will have contributed to the growth and development of their local communities. However, on occasion the unusual may be revealed. A missing branch of my Wolver hampton-based Jewish family of the 1850S-1870S was discovered quite recently when details of the people concerned were found to have migrated to New Zea? land. This came to light through the painstaking and meticulous researches of Dr Stephen Levine of Wellington. The original Wolverhampton records of this family gave no indication that members had migrated but the New Zealand-based records which revealed the names and places of birth of their newer community members provided the answers.19 In Australia and New Zealand, the Jewish com? munities extend back to the origins of their countries but only in tiny numbers. The histories of their Jewish communities and of the Jewish contribution to national life cover, for the most part, the same period as the recent Anglo-Jewish community. In the case of the United States of America some more notable similarities between early Jewish settlement (such as in Georgia) and the 17th and 18th century Anglo-Jewish (predominantly Sephardi) life. The development of enthusi? astic Jewish genealogical awareness in the USA has outstripped that of anywhere else in the English-speaking world. North America has seen regular annual Jewish Genealogical Conferences for the past sixteen years, continually growing in size 119</page><page sequence="10">Anthony Joseph and importance, and interspersed from time to time with international gatherings that have temporarily eclipsed the North American pre-eminence. Apart from the American Jewish Historical Society, smaller State-based or even town-based Jewish Historical and Genealogical Societies are scattered across North America, actively pursuing research into the growth, backgrounds and development of their own local communities. Perhaps more than anywhere else the Americans have embarked on a vast programme of recording and preserving tombstones and graveyards. This is also happening in Australia, where Beverley Davis of Melbourne has been coordinating a far-reaching project for the preservation of necrological arch? ive material. She and another Australo-Jewish communal historian, Morris Forbes of Sydney, have recently been awarded the Order of Australian Merit for their services to the handling of Australo-Jewish historiography. They join Morris Ochert of Brisbane, who has also worked at recording and preserving the records of that small sub-tropical Jewish community. On the western side of Australia, in Perth, a separate individual Australian Jewish Historical Society, albeit with close links to the older-established Australian Jewish Historical Society, has recently been formed specifically to the history of the Jews in Western Australia. David Mossenson has published a comprehensive account of the Perth Jewish commun? ity which has included studies of several long-established families in Perth who have been the backbone of the community. In Adelaide the South Australian genealogists have recorded the details from the Jewish cemetery in the West Terrace; and in Sydney a massive index has been compiled of all the interments in the Jewish section of the Rookwood Cemetery. Some historians may be seen distorting the truth for their own reasons. A distant kinsman of mine, now deeply religious, who has made a study of the life of Lord George Gordon,20 has suggested that Gordon benefited from conversa? tions with one of our 18th-century forbears in London, and that these had a bearing on Gordon's desire to become a Jew. Such a legend has emotional appeal for my kinsman, but there is no evidence that our ancestor owned a country house near London or that he met, let alone entertained, Gordon. Apart from those records that belong to society as a whole, family Bibles, diaries, correspondence and similar personal memorabilia can contribute signi? ficantly to historical research. They often provide a treasure trove of source mat? erial clarifying family relationships, explaining how migrations may have been determined and so on. In my own family the existence of a lengthy personal reminiscence from my great-great-grandfather Barnet Lyon Joseph (1801-80), for his eldest son Lionel Barnet Joseph (1826-1905), provided the basis of Major William Schonfield's paper to this Society in 1938 entitled 'The Josephs of Cornwall'.21 This was supplemented by 'Records of My Family',22 a lengthy pri? vately printed account by Israel Solomon (1803-92), a first cousin of Barnet Lyon Joseph. Both these works were used by Alex Jacob in preparing his overview of 120</page><page sequence="11">Genealogy and Jewish History Jewish life in Falmouth mentioned above. More recently the diaries of Selim Solomon (1849-1915), who lived in India from 1862 to 1875, have come to light and are being transcribed by his descendant, Martin Lee, providing fascinating glimpses into the social and Jewish life of the time in India, the Jewish dimension in Selim's life, and international commerce between India, the Far East and Europe.23 No doubt many more privately held family papers await perusal and appraisal, besides the well publicized family archives such as those of the Rothsch? ild Collection. Many less-well-known Jewish families have contributed to this rich source, and there has been an upsurge in privately published family histories, sometimes intended only for the family, but achieving a wider circulation. Just two recent examples are: Sarah Orkin's Roots and Recollections^ which has dis? closed hitherto unsuspected links between family members from the UK, Canada and Australia, and David Poolman's The Poolmans of London in the igth and 20th Centuries. This latter set out to investigate the Jewish origins of the Poolman family only to discover that they were fully English and that a Lazarus interlink provided a Jewish dimension.25 Solid historical detail may also be recovered by researchers in collections of family papers that seem otherwise unpromising. One such discovery was a letter written by S. M. Cohen to his granddaughter, Sarah Van Noorden, which turned up in the hands of Sarah's own grandson, the late Eric Van Noorden. The letter was dated Birmingham, 26 September 1856, and concerned the opening of the Singer's Hill Synagogue: My darling Sally, according to my promise I will endeavour to scrawl a few lines although I have nothing more to add than you are already acquainted with. How I would you had been here on Wednesday last at the consecration of our new magnificent Shool. When I first entered it I could not but express my astonishment. The building is so far beyond my expectation. No Shool in London can be put in comparison with it. Its splendid stained glass windows, its beautiful pulpit reaching from the basement to the height of the ladies' gallery, designed for the lecturer, the gas fittings are so superb, the reading desk and every other part of the interior fittings I found so much beyond my expectation that I was struck with its grandeur and all around me. I was the first person that was admitted within its wall on the day of the consecration. For some cause I can't tell how or why I made the acquaintance of Mr Jacob Phillips, Warden of the Synagogue. He called on me last Shabbes and told me he wished me to see the building a day or two before the consecration and we appointed Monday. He was to take me round in his carriage but unfortunately it poured with rain Monday. The next Wednesday, the day of the consecration, was a heavenly day. The doors were to be opened at noon but our dear John wished me to be there before the time. The street was crowded and Mr Levitus Rabbinovitch and a policeman cleared the people away from the door and Mr Jacob Phillips took me in the interior. Not a soul else was in the building. I took dear John's seat near the top when the doors were opened. The place filled quickly but orderly. No bustle. Every lady and gentleman knew their seats. I should judge there were about one thousand five hundred people in the building, a little after one o'clock a beautiful canopy and four supporting gentlemen were at the entrance of the Shool door when the Chief Rabbi said 'Open unto me the gates of righteousness I will go 121</page><page sequence="12">Anthony Joseph unto them and I will praise the Lord'. Then the Wardens and gentlemen made a procession seven times round the Altar each bearing a Scroll of the Law; the organ playing most solemnly and the choristers singing. Heavenly, not a whisper was heard, then Doctor Adler from the pulpit gave a beautiful lecture. His text was from the Psalms, 'I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever'. After the lecture donations were announced, large sums of money were offered, the ladies' gallery was crowded. All the daughters of Israel's youth and beauty combined were there. Would I could have seen you also, my dear Sarah, to have added lustre to the scene. I was introduced by Mr Alfred Phillips to Mr Adler who shook me by the hand and told me he has my very small writing and he was glad to see me. I wished it had fallen to more able hands than mine to give you the poor description I have attempted here. I leave to others to describe the banquet and ball. I have enclosed a small piece of my writing for a bookmarker, the last line of which Doctor Adler took his text from. It is one of my worst performances, having no good paper, bad pen and wretched ink, so you will excuse it. I have enclosed for dear George three or four cards of address if he can make use of them. My best love to Eliza and my dear great-grandson, Gerald, and I hope he is quite well. God bless you, my dear Sarah, and be assured of the love and best wishes of your affectionate grandpapa, S. M. Cohen. I am now tired of writing and I have not written so much at one time for a long time past.26 The stories concerning the lives of my own kith and kin are in some way typical of the fabric of the Anglo-Jewish community, although they are a little unusual in that I belong to that small section of Ashkenazi Anglo-Jewry whose Jewish ancestry can be traced back, along several lines, well into the 18th century and, on one line, even into the 17th. However, in another way my story is akin to that of many other members of this Society and of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, for few of us descend from the important early lay or religious leaders of the community; although the descendants of, say, Mayer Amschel Rothschild would now include a vast spectrum of both Jews and non-Jews. How? ever, most of us descend from the Jewish people who formed the backbone of the Anglo-Jewish community of previous generations, and our story, like theirs, is also part of the general history of Anglo-Jewry. Important events, especially those associated with leading personalities, may be easier to discover, but it cannot be claimed that these are the only matters of importance in Anglo-Jewish history. Perhaps this account should close by considering the words of Rabbi Tarphon in the Ethics of the Fathers, used as part of the burial service: 'It is not your job to finish the task but neither may you desist from it.' All genealogists feel this way about their art. NOTES 1 A. P. Joseph, art. in Glenda Abramson (ed.) The Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture (Oxford 1989) 260-1. 2 B. Benas, A Plea for a Genealogical and Historiographical Section of the Jewish Historical Society of England' Trans JHSE XIV (1940) 81-9. 3 Bill Williams, The Making of Manchester Jewry, 1740-1875 (Manchester 1976). 4 Norman Bentwich, 'More Anglo-Jewish 122</page><page sequence="13">Genealogy and Jewish History leading cases' Trans JHSE XVI (1952) 152-3. 5 Patricia Bell, Bedford's Second Jewish Community 1787-1883 (Bedford 1994). 6 Murray Freedman in Shemot III: 1 (February 1995) 23-4. 7 Sally Solomon in Shemot III:2 (June 1995) i3 8 Lawrence Tapper in Avotaynu XI: 1 (1995) 3-6 9 Papers concerning Goodman Aaronson (1858-1929), in the writer's possession. 10 Charles Tucker, Genealogists Magazine 24:3-4. (Sept.-Dec. 1992) 87-93, i39"4o 11 Alex Jacob, 'The Jews of Falmouth-i 740 1860' Trans JHSE XVII (1953) 65. 12 Private Papers concerning Barnet Levy (1731-91), previously in the possession of Alex Jacob. 13 Midland Ancestor 6:1 (June 1981) 8-13. 14 David S. Katz, The Jews in the History of England, 1485-1850 (Oxford 1994) VII-VIII. 15 Edgar Samuel in D. J. Steel (ed.) National Index of Parish Registers III (1974) 969. 16 Personal correspondence with Sara Mason. 17 Personal correspondence with Margaret O'Shea. 18 Edgar Samuel, 'Anglo-Jewish Notaries and Scriveners' Trans JHSE XVII (1953) 151-2. 19 Stephen Levine, A Standard for the People (Wellington, New Zealand 1994). 20 Y. Bindman, Lord George Gordon (London 1992). 21 William Schonfield, The Josephs of Cornwall (Privately published 1953). It was originally presented as a paper to the Society on 20 December 1938. 22 Israel Solomon, Records of My Family (New York 1887). 23 Personal communications from Martin Lee. 24 Sarah Orkin, Roots and Recollections (London 1995). 25 David Poolman, The Poolmans of London in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Privately published 1995)5 personal communication. 26 Birmingham Jewish Recorder, November 1956, p. 22. 123</page></plain_text>

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