I’ve always been grateful of a relatively uncommon surname. And while over the years I’ve had to endure a variety of misspellings including Saltzman, Saldsman, Sultman and even Saltram – the latter being an Australian variation which borrows from a winery of that name – I have never more so valued its uncommonness than when searching for ancestors.
I knew Harris’ age at and approximate date of death. Working backwards, this told me that he had been born in 1875 or 1876.
Back at Rumsey Hall, I browsed the St Catherine’s House Index for these two years, checking all four quarters for each. It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for: an entry for Harris Saltman between April and June 1876, the birth registered in the district of Sheffield in the county of Yorkshire West Riding.
There were no other entries by this name over this period. I’d hit pay dirt.
I now had a three month window for a birth date, for which I would need a copy of his birth certificate. And for the equivalent of five pound sterling, the Society could order one on my behalf.
It arrived three weeks later.
As well as a date, the certificate identifies a place of birth: 37 Shepherd Street, Sheffield. This address is also given for Harris’ parents, Israel Saltman and Sarah Saltman (formerly Marks). The certificate had yielded up my paternal great-grandparents.
Israel’s occupation is listed as “commercial traveller”, a travelling salesman in contemporary parlance. What goods did he deal in, I wondered? Did he have allocated territory? Did he spend long periods away from home like most travellers did then and can still do today? How would this lifestyle have sat with a young wife and new baby?
Israel’s and Sarah’s son was born on 22nd April 1876. For ballet buffs, this is also the day on which Tchaikovsky completed Swan Lake.
Encouraged by my find, I decided to look for registration of Israel’s and Sarah’s marriage. I browsed the indexes at Rumsey Hall and found an entry in the third quarter of 1875. I pondered whether theirs had been a shotgun wedding? Had Mr Marks had to put the hard word on Israel? Only the certificate could tell me so I handed over another five quid to the Society and waited the obligatory three weeks.
The marriage certificate shows that Israel and Sarah were living in Sheffield at the time they married, less than a quarter of a mile apart and in the same general area as Shepherd Street. Their respective fathers are identified on the certificate: Marcus Marks, Sarah’s father and a shopkeeper, and Zelic Saltman, traveller. I had inadvertently discovered two great great-grandparents.
Their date of marriage was 7th July 1875. Israel’s age is stated as 20 and Sarah’s as 21. And while it wouldn’t have mattered to me, I deduced that Harris had not been conceived out of wedlock.
But any satisfaction I may have derived from learning about this family unit was short-lived. Further review of the indexes revealed that Israel had died in the third quarter of 1876 in Liverpool (West Derby).
Israel left behind a wife who had barely emerged from her teens and a son who would never know his father.