What are the chances of two sisters – Abigail and Sarah – both marrying someone with the same, very distinctive name, within one year of each other? Pretty slim, you would think. I certainly doubted it, although both marriages appeared on the Synagogue Scribes database, albeit the grooms’ Hebrew patronymics were different. My immediate assumption was that the bride in the earlier marriage had died and the groom, as was very common at the time, had remarried her younger sister. And ,when I only found one couple in subsequent censuses, I was pretty confident I was right. I began to waver slightly when I failed to find a death record in the required timeframe for Abigail, and wavered some more when the 1851 Census clearly showed two young men called Angel Aarons. living with different people at different address and whose ages differed by a factor of four years.
A Google search produced a multitude of theories , at least one of which conflated the sisters’ names into one person called Abigail Sarah, and there was talk of a marriage between Abigail and a Mr Smith. Few of these theories were backed by solidly sourced evidence, and most that I read, failed to pick up the groom’s differing patronymics in the marriage records. There were a couple of honourable exceptions : a woman living in Israel, and Dr Phillip Kirby, whose many. carefully researched postings are a beacon of excellence in a murky world of assumption, supposition and hearsay. So far, it would seem, the full story of the two Angels had yet to be told – or at least published.
At this stage, I gave up. I have no personal interest in these people; the research was not required for immediate SynagogueScribes or CemeteryScribes projects, where we currently have a stack of data to process, and I wasn’t prepared to spend the time, or dispense the cash to penetrate the mystery. And, if I were to complete the task to my own satisfaction, both time and cash would be required.
My shopping list would include the civil certificates for the two Aaron/Mendoza marriages; the death certificates of the Angel Aarons who died 1863 [Mar qtr Uxbridge 3a 21] and the Angelo Aarons who died 1893 aged 73 [Mar qtr Whitechapel 1c 208]
I would trek out to Kew, currently hosting the Mormon LDS Family History Centre whilst they refurbish their centre in Exhibition Road, and spend a day scrolling through the microfilms of 19th Century London Synagogue Registers, starting with the burial registers , where I would hope to find a record for an Angel Aarons said to have died in Hanwell Asylum in 1862 (probably equating to the 1863 Uxbridge listing the GRO indexes?) The Hanwell Asylum death was discussed several years ago on the B-J message board and would appear to equate to the Angel Aarons (Asher Anshel b. Aharon) who married Abigail Mendoza. And, whilst I was scrolling through the microfilms, I’d get copies of the Mendoza/Aaron marriages listings, recorded by Shire and Lewin, to make sure they’d got it right. I’d bet money they both have, but then I’m kind of biased! Elsewhere, time might usefully be spent investigating the Patient Records for the Hanwell Asylum .
I would, of course, have already checked the relevant censuses, GRO Indexes, Wills and Probate records. newspaper reports, etc. etc. In other words, if I wanted to prepare a family history involving either one of these two seemingly indistinguishable individuals, be it for my on personal use or to share with others, or write an article on “The Strange Case of the Two Angels”, I would not be happy until I’d checked all relevant Primary sources and, where this was not possible, the best available, and most reliable secondary sources: sources I could trust to have been properly researched, carefully copied, and thoughtfully interpreted.
This all goes to show the need to properly source information and the lengths one needs to go to for truly accurate information. Family trees and genealogy databases compilers have to be so careful that the data they provide is correct to the best of their knowledge. Finding information on the web may initially be exciting, but you need to ensure it’s accurate. Not least because of the advent of such websites that actively promote ‘Fake Genealogies’ and bogus lineages. Genuine sites should consider joining the Genealogy Quality Code so that visitors can tell if what they are seeing is Fact or fiction.
Cemeteryscribes is a subscriber to the Genealogy Quality Code.
Lewin, Harold & Miriam. Marriage Records of the Great Synagogue- London 1791-1885. Jerusalem, 2004.
Shire, Angela. Great Synagogue Marriage Registers 1791-1850.