What’s in a name?

I felt certain that I would find a record of Sarah Saltman’s marriage to Harris Edleman.  As a widow with a child, it seemed logical that Sarah would have come to her second marriage using the surname of her first husband.

Now that I knew her second husband’s name, it seemed that finding a record in either his or her name should have been an open and shut case.  The facts of their names were established.  All I had to do was put them into Find my Past and hit “search”.  Right?


Despite my confidence, there was no record of a marriage in England for persons bearing these names.

I tried variants on their surnames.  That didn’t work either.

All that I had left was to search on Sarah’s maiden name (Marks), illogical as this seemed.  If I was breaking any cardinal rules of genealogical research, I was also past caring.IMG_3047   As it turned out, I was right on the money.

I was left in no doubt that I’d found my targets.  The marriage had taken place within the preferred window of 1876-1880 and in Liverpool.   A copy of their marriage certificate would tell me much more.

IMG_4828This showed that Sarah and Harris had married at the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, also known as the Princes Road Synagogue – Liverpool’s oldest.  They had chosen to get married on Christmas Day, 1878, coincidentally the day on which Louis Joseph Chevrolet – founder of the Chevrolet Motor Car Company – was born.

Both parties, including Sarah’s father, gave Liverpool addresses.  Marks senior was now calling himself by his Hebrew name, Mordecai.  According to Harvey Kaplan, the practice of using other names in England – he had variously used the first names Marcus and Samuel – was not uncommon. 

The marriage was solemnised “…according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the German and Polish Jews”.

The German background would most likely have belonged to the groom and while it is possible that the Marks family had originated in Poland, they may also have come from Russia – cited as the country of their birth at the 1881 Census – or Lithuania, which bordered Poland.

The affixing of marks instead of signatures on the marriage certificate does not automatically infer that the newlyweds were illiterate.   Sarah and Harris Edellman would have been fluent in Yiddish and may also have known Russian, Polish, Hebrew and German.  But they would not yet have become proficient in written English.

Sarah’s age is given as 25.  This is quite possible seeing as her age at the time of her first marriage in July 1875 was stated as 21.  Her second husband was – like her first – a hawker.

The residential addresses of the parties at their marriage were about a mile apart, although Blandford Street – Sarah’s and her father’s address at the time of the marriage – appears to have ceased to exist quite some time ago if this is anything to go by.  Needless to say, the housing they would have once occupied has also long since disappeared.

So what’s in a name?

Something…..or nothing.  Or perhaps whatever you need to make of it in order to find what you’re looking for.

I could now date my grandfather’s existence in Liverpool back to at least the end of 1878.

Using future events to inform the past

After Israel’s death, my only way of tracking Harris’ movements through childhood, adolescence and into early adulthood would be through his association with the Edleman family.

The 1881 English Census had listed Harris, together with his mother (Sarah), her father, a newly acquired half-brother (Joseph), and a host of relatives and boarders, as living in Liverpool.  Sarah’s second husband and Harris’ stepfather, Mr Edleman, was not present at that time.

The Census took place in April 1881.  It also told me that Joseph was one year old and had been born in Liverpool.  From that, it appeared that the family had been living in Liverpool at least since early 1880.

But a comment my father had made to Avrom continued to distract me.  This was that “(after her first husband’s death)….Sarah later married a man called Edelman (sic).  They went to Edinburgh and had at least four sons.”

The sequence of events implied by the second sentence seemed incontrovertible.  They went to Edinburgh and had at least four sons.  In that order.  But when?

I set about scouring Scotland’s People for evidence of the Edleman family after 1881.  I had discounted the possibility of their having moved to Edinburgh before then with no basis for doing so other than a hunch.  I was breaking a cardinal rule of genealogical research.

I found no evidence of the Edelmans in the 1891 Scottish Census nor in a random trawl of other databases on Scotland’s People.  My patience with the Edelmans’ Scottish phase – if it indeed had existed – ran out as my credits expired.  I abandoned the search.

From Scotland’s People, I had drifted to the Edinburgh City Archives in search of further clues – they had none – and this in turn led me to the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre and its principal researcher, Harvey Kaplan.

My luck had turned.  Harvey had information from my great grandmother’s death certificate which helped tie up a few loose ends.

Sarah had died at the age of 67 in 1924.  Her husband was Harris Edelman, retired feather dealer.  Her usual place of residence was 22 Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh.

So my father had been correct: the Edelman family had indeed moved to Edinburgh at some point.  On rereading that second sentence (“…they went to Edinburgh and had at least four sons”), I realised that the addition of four more sons had not necessarily occurred after the family’s move to Edinburgh.

With hindsight, that my father had not mentioned Liverpool in recollections of his father’s early life should have sounded a warning bell to me when I embarked on my “Scottish campaign”.  He must not have known about the Liverpool years.  If I’d appreciated this earlier, my research could have taken a completely different turn.  But then I would not have found Harvey Kaplan.  Chasing Scottish leads had thus not been in vain.

Harvey advised me to check for a birth certificate for Joseph Edelman or his brothers, which would lead me to details of when and where his mother may have married Harris Edelman.  Unfortunately, I had no names for other children, so that particular investigation would have to keep for the time being.

But I could confirm birth details for Joseph and marriage details for his parents.  In respect of the latter, all I had to do was put “Sarah Saltman” and “Joseph Edelman” (or Edleman) into Find My Past and a transcript of their marriage record would pop up.  This would list the year and quarter of registration, volume and page number; enough information for me to order a copy of their marriage certificate which would show details of where they had married and were living at the time.

It would be as easy as that.

Or so I thought.