Monday, 15 November 2010

My wife's family

My wife Diane’s family were Ashkenazi Jews and her mother was born Leah (Lily) Hart. We were both surprised when we found out that Diane’s grandmother Dinah Bittan, was from a Sephardi family. Our 3 sons now want to know if they can have rice at Pesach. The Hart side I have traced back to Diane’s 3 x great grandfather Meir Hart born about 1770.

The Bittan side linked with the Nunes Martinez family in 1834 and with the Mendoza family in 1764 when Abigail Mendoza born in London in 1744 married Isaac Nunes Martines born in London in 1745.

Abigail Mendoza’s father Aaron was born in Amsterdam in 1709 and probably came to England about 1730. Aaron’s father Daniel Mendoza was born in Seville in Spain in 1685. Daniel’s father David was also born in Seville in Spain in 1650. In 1685 he married Abigail Castro de la Penta in Holland. Abigail was born in Seville in Spain in 1665.

David Mendoza’s father the Patriarch de Mendoza was born in Seville in Spain in 1624 and the trail ends there for the time being. Abigail’s family can be traced back to her great grandparents Franciscus Fernandes de la Penta born 1550 in Spain and Bianca Fernandes born 1558 in Spain who married in 1579.

The search continues.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

What's in a name

My father Simon Belson was born in 1912, I had his birth certificate and my parents wedding certificate as well as the marriage authorisation from the Chief Rabbi’s Office in London. From these I knew that my father’s parents were Harry Belson and Dora Godelsky.

Try as I could, I was unable to find my paternal grandfather Harry’s birth certificate or his marriage certificate. I knew that his father’s name was Joseph but could not trace a Belson family in any UK census with a Joseph and a Harry. Eventually I found the family in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses as Balsom. I still couldn’t find the birth or wedding certificates for Harry who is shown as 1 year old in the1891 census.

I then tried Free BMD looking for a female Godelsky, using Soundex, getting married between 1910 and 1912. From this I found a Dorothy Gudelsky married a Henry Belsom in early 1912. I now have the certificate and they are definitely my grandparents Harry and Dora.

Again I tried Free BMD looking for a male Balsom, using Soundex, born 1890/1891. The only one was a Harry Balzum born in 1890. I have just received the certificate and it shows Harry, born 23rd May 1890 to Joseph and Leah Balzum.

Checking on the births of Harry’s 8 brothers and sisters, I have found births registered as Belson, Bulsom, Balsom, Bolsam and Bellson.

So, what is my family name. Balsom, Balzum, Belsom, Bolsam or Bellson. Or does it matter. I can only presume that when the births were registered, the registrar wrote down what she/he thought the name sounded like when spoken by someone who only knew Russian or Yiddish and couldn’t read or write in English.

Friday, 5 November 2010

In the beginning

When I first started out on, to quote Tony Blair, “A Journey”, it was in the days of the Commodore 64 and continuous printing paper with green lines.

Over the years I have started and “rested” rather than “stopped” my research numerous times, but I always come back to it. Researching family history has a fascination, which never seem to leave you once you are hooked.

My biggest regrets are not questioning my parents and my in-laws enough before they passed on. I lost the opportunity to find out more about the past. Their lives, where they lived, where they went to school and what they knew of their parents lives. Much of this information is probably lost forever. My research has helped to fill in some of the gaps but not all.

When I started out I knew that my mother’s parents were born and married in Russia (now Poland) and came to England about 1905 with 2 children. My mother was born in London. My father’s parents had the same background although they were both born and married here. Their parents came here around 1880.

My wife parents were both born in England. Her father’s parents came to this country from Russia as an engaged couple with his grandparents. On her mother’s side my wife was brought up believing that her family had been in England for over 200 years. It was therefore this part of our family that I have spent the most time researching and have now been able to trace it back to the 1550’s in Spain. Her ancestors seem to have arrived in England in the early 1700’s.