JEWISH SURNAMES IN LONDON-REGISTERED INSURANCE POLICIES
The dataset presented here represents the fruit of many years of scrupulous research by the late George Rigal, who died in 2012. When he compiled his dataset, George was using insurance records held by the Guildhall Library in London. All of these have since been transferred to the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). Any researcher wishing to look at the primary sources should contact the LMA with relevant details as set out in George’s own introductory note.
George wanted to make his research widely available, but the formats he used were not easy to work with for purposes of publication. We have sought to reproduce as exactly as possible his original material, using as the starting point a high-quality – but never infallible – OCR program. We have proof-checked extensively to minimise transcription errors, but a few remaining errors are probably unavoidable: researchers are urged to check against the insurance documents themselves wherever practicable. We have abstained from second-guessing in the rare cases where George’s material was unclear, preserving it just as he left it. (An additional column for Editor’s Notes has been used sparingly to clarify issues that arise in converting it to a searchable online database.) A small handful of cross-references have proved hard to match, but we have left them as found: they may serve as a clue, however imperfect, for the diligent researcher.
Characteristic of George’s thoroughness was the attention he paid to grouping together insurance policies that had been taken out by a single person. This is far from straightforward. Many Jews in Britain at the time (early-18th through to mid-19th centuries) shared the same names and occupations. In this collection alone there are, for example, nine different men called Isaac Isaacs involved in the rag trade; and seven called Moses Levy who were watchmakers and/or jewellers. Moreover, quite often we find the same person’s name spelt in different ways over time, if not being changed altogether.
To get round these difficulties, George used evidence from the policies themselves and other sources to present together all the policies that can be confidently ascribed to a given individual. His groupings are reflected in this database by the use of common ID prefixes (in the format X1_1, X1_2, X1_3) for any individual holding several policies. Where two people with the same name and other similar data are not presented in this way as a single individual, it does not mean necessarily that they were different people, only that George himself had not found definitive evidence linking them.
George chose carefully the words ‘Jewish surnames’ in the title of his work. There is no guarantee that all the people listed were Jewish, on any definition. In some cases, either the presence of a ‘Jews Clause’ on the insurance policy (see introduction) or wider knowledge about the person will have confirmed their Jewish status. In most cases, though, all George was able to do was apply an educated guess. But his guesses were very educated, and it can be assumed that the very great majority of individuals listed were indeed Jewish.
Additional material is available in the several appendices on policies relating to synagogues, communal organisations and cemeteries; on London Assurance marine policies; on wills and letters of Administration in the Sun Insurance records; and on maritime policies specifying the cargo afloat. The material here is not always linked to the main database, so it is worth examining the appendices separately by following the links above. They can be browsed in their entirety.
George would have wished to thank most warmly the staff of the Guildhall Library for all their help over the years he was doing his research. We too must thank them, along with the staff of the LMA and the successors (Aviva, AXA, London Life Association and RSA) to the companies whose policy records, deposited with the LMA, have been drawn upon in this compilation, and who retain the copyright in that material.
George’s full dataset (without the additional editorial input in this online version) can be bought in a two-volume printed edition, with a choice between softback and hardback options. They cover over 26,000 insurance-policies taken out between about the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries by people whose surnames suggest they were Jewish. The entries list not just the policy numbers (important for deeper research) but, wherever noted on the policy, the policy-holder’s address and occupation along with names of family members, trading partners and suchlike. Click here for details. At the request of the trustees of the estate of the late George Rigal all profits from the sale of this book will go to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.
→ Introduction by George Rigal
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