Like many Jewish families, my ancestors were great mythologisers. They polished and shined our family story until it gleamed, leaving no trace of past crimes and misdemeanours. Thus, one of my great uncles could write, in all sincerity, a couple of years before he died aged 102:
“King Charles banished all Jews when he came to the throne. Father’s family went to Holland and Mother’s family became Quakers in Norwich. When Ol. Crom took over we were one of two families first back in England. All this is in the old family Bible which my brother Joe had……”
Oh dear! For starters, the wicked king was Edward I but, given the author’s great age, I think he can be forgiven the error. Then there’s the bit about being the second family allowed in by Cromwell! Sorry Uncle, it didn’t work like that.
There were no uniformed Immigration Officers waiting at the ports to count them in, and the inconvenient truth is that we probably didn’t arrive in the UK for another 130 years And that family bible? Inscribed with our glorious past? Turned out to be an ancient and very tattered Haggadah with nothing more than a handful of early 19th century birth dates.
In the event, the Norfolk connection was easy to establish: in two successive census returns, Sarah, wife of Lyon Samson, gives her place of birth as Norwich Norfolk. [1851:87 Leman Street, Whitechapel HO 107/1546 folio 154R page 44 & 1861:33, Albert Street, Mile End New Town, RG 09/268 F 208 P21] But, without a marriage record and no clue as to Sarah’s maiden name, the story stopped there. Until, with amazing synchronicity, a week after the dedication of Lyon’s stone in Liverpool’s Deane Road Cemetery (1) when a clue to Sarah’s identity appeared unexpectedly.
In a Will dated 1837(2), Samuel Sampson, gentleman of Bury Street and Goulston Square leaves bequests to
Moses Alexander, Quill Merchant of Bury Street; Elizabeth Solomon, Spinster of Stoney Lane, Gravel Lane; Jacob Goldsmith, Gentleman of Bury Street. Sarah Samson the wife of Lyon Samson of Liverpool. Esther Alexander (wife of Moses Alexander)
In spite of the benefactor’s name, we do not believe the connection to Sarah was via the SAMSONS but, more probably, through Samuel Sampson’s wife, Rosetta Goldsmith (Goldsmid) http://synagoguescribes.com/blog/person-details/?value=2557
At least two of the other legatees have Norwich connections: in the 1851 and 1861 censuses. Both Esther, wife of Moses Alexander, and her brother Jacob Goldsmid, state they were born in Norwich. Unfortunately, we cannot be certain of their relationship to Rosetta Sampson (nee Goldsmid). From the Hebrew only marriage record for Moses Alexander and Esther Goldsmid and, the Hebrew portion of the Jewish burial record (3) for her brother, Jacob,, we know their father was Samuel, whereas Rosetta was a daughter of Joseph (both families from the tribe of Levi). We have no marriage record for Lyon and Sarah, her burial record gives her simply as “Sarah widow of Yehuda b. Samson”, and and no tombstone has yet been discovered. Without the vital Hebrew patronymic, we cannot tell how, if at all, she fits into this family.
So apologies to Great Uncle, he got at least one thing right: there was a Norwich connection. But where the Quakers come in is still anyone’s guess. Maybe some of those scattered descendants who attended the stone setting for Lyon Samson in November 2011 will solve the mystery.
(2) Will abstract on Synagogue Scribes database see here
(3) Jewish Burial and other Synagogue registers, normally available on microfilm at the Family History Centre Exhibition Road London SW7 are currently available for viewing at the National Archives at Kew http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/