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.


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