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Isaac or Levi or Lewis or Percy Levi Solomon of Oxford
by Harold Pollins
Originally published in Oxford Menorah issue no. 168, Summer 2003
One of the pitfalls in doing research is the variation in the records of the names of individuals. This is one example of a member of a well-known 19th-century Oxford Jewish family.
On the first page of Doreen Berger's, The Jewish Victorian, there is a note of the marriage on 25 April 1876, at the Synagogue, Singer's Hill, Birmingham, of Fannie Aaron, the eldest daughter of the late P. Aaron and Mrs J. Jonas of 1 Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston, to Percy Levi Solomons, eldest son of Mr L. Solomons of Oxford. On a subsequent page, under the bridegroom's name, there is a further reference to the birth of a son on 13 December 1879 at an address in West Bromwich.
The name of the groom's father was familiar from the history of the Jews of Oxford in the 19th century although the surname was normally without the final 's'. Lewis Solomon makes a number of appearances in David Lewis's history of the community, The Jews of Oxford, including his having been president of the congregation from 1881-1993 towards the end of his long residence in the city. He had arrived after the 1841 Census and was married, under the auspices of the Cheltenham Synagogue, in Oxford on 10 November 1847 to Matilda Levi the daughter of Harris Levi. The Levi family had been present in Oxford at the 1841 Census, in which the daughter is called Malca. As Matilda she died on 11 May 1851 giving birth to a daughter who was named Matilda after her. The widower, Lewis Solomon, remarried a few months later, his bride being Dinah Kauffman. Their first-born child, a boy, was born in August 1852..
This child is the subject of this note. First a small point about his date of birth. In his book David Lewis said it was 14 August and that his forename was Levi. On his birth certificate his date of birth is 15 August and his name is given as Isaac Solomon Solomon. The duplication of his surname was probably a mistake, doubtless arising from the registrar mishearing the father, who reported the birth, the father not being fluent in English - he made his mark rather than a signature on the certificate. I suppose that David Lewis got the name of the son as Levi from the 1861 Census where he is so described. For some reason in the 1871 Census he became Lewis. A further complication arises from the fact that despite his name in the Jewish Chronicle being Percy Levi in the notice of his marriage, his wedding certificate gives it as Isaac, the second time it is used in the records. The marriage certificate certainly refers to the right person. The bride was Fanny Aaron the daughter of Phineas Aaron deceased, her address being 1 Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston.. The groom was aged 23, living in Cornmarket Street, Oxford, and his father was Lewis Solomon. At the 1871 Census the father's residence was 29 Cornmarket Street, and the son's was at number 39 in the same street where he was head of the household, the other occupant, the assistant in the shop, being his brother Joseph aged 15. It looks as though he adopted the names Percy Levi some time between the 1871 Census and his marriage in 1876. By the time of the 1881 Census, when he and his family were living in West Bromwich, he was officially recorded as Percy L. Solomon. That remained his name from then on.
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