Serendipity in family history research
byon 27-06-2010 at 1:34 PM (7381 Views)
One of the things I think has been the greatest help to my research has been membership of family history societies, mailing lists and this forum.
After I received the information about John and Sarah Nathan living on London Road Southwark - remember that the 1881 census was the only one transcribed at this time and there was very little on this here intarwebby thing - I went to London with a coach trip organised by the local FH Society. The BMD indexes were held in St Catherine's House (that's why they are sometimes referred to as the St Catherine's Indexes) so I went there first and found my great grandmother's birth and ordered the certificate. I then walked around the corner to the PRO (Public Record Office) in Chancery Lane and was initiated into the rituals of research there. I searched the Microfilm of the 1851 census and found John and Sarah at 24 London Road. One of the people from our coach told me that I should look at the properties to either side of my ancestor, just in case they are living close to family. I found a Hannah NATHAN a widow living with her five children and a servant at 20 London Road. I didn't know if they were "mine" but I purchased a printed copy of the page just in case.
There was a pretty long gap between that research and the next thing I did. We all know what happens when real life gets in the way of research. I was also researching my husband's family and his ancestors were more insistent for a while.
By the time I came back to my NATHAN family I had to read through all I had found and re-read the birth certificate of my great grandmother.
This told me that her father was John NATHAN, a furniture dealer of 24 London Road and her mother was Sarah, formerly GREEN. Now I could look for a marriage. From the ages of their children on the 1851 census I started my search (by this time our local library had the microfiche of the indexes) in 1844. The fiche for the NATHAN name was missing from every quarter up to 1850. I then decided to search for Sarah and that fiche was missing too! I reported it to the librarian who told me that there had been a spate of thefts of fiche but that they knew who it was and they had been banned from the library. I was stunned that someone could be so mean.
I came home and turned to a mailing list I belonged to - British-Jewry - I said I had tried to look at the BMD indexes but the fiche were missing and I wanted to find the marriage of John and Sarah. I put everything I knew about them into the message and sent it off. Within 20 minutes a lady in Canada sent a message telling me that they married in the great synagogue in London on 20th August 1845. I aksed how she knew this and she told me that the Great Synagogue Marriage registers had been transcribed and translated from Hebrew by a marvellous lady called Angela Shire and this had been published. She gave me details of how to get the book and I sent off a letter with a cheque to the address.
There was another message on the mailing list for me from a gentleman called Michael Sayers. He told me that Sarah Green was the granddaughter of Ephraim Levy GREEN who came to London around 1796 with his wife and two sons. Family story says they travelled on a herring boat. He continued by saying that he had "quite a lot of information about the Levy-Green's and would I like it. I thought about it (for a nansecond!) and said I would love to have any information he could give me. He sent me the file and I printed it off without looking at how big it was - 86 pages that's how big.
Two days later the book was in my hands! I looked for John and Sarah. Then I read the instructions and looked again. There they were JOhn son of Samuel Sarah daughter of Abraham. There was a note in the comments column that said "GSM 1808 possibly father" So I looked at that entry too. This told me that Samuel son of Nathan married Hannah daughter of David MENDES and under David's name was the word "Sephardi"
Now one of the family stories is that there is a Spanish Jewess in our ancestry. The Sephardic Jews come mainly from Spain and Portugal and North Africa. The Ashkenasi come from Eastern Europe and places beyond there. The word Sephardi meant that I had found our Spanish Jewess. I can't begin to tell you how excited I was. I wrote to the mailing list to thank everyone for their help I sent messages to Michael Sayers for the fantastic file on the Levy Green family and I spread the word amongst my cousins that our Spanish lady had been found.