Kaufmann Joseph – Turtles All The Way Down

I had started to investigate Captain Ezra Manning, a First World War officer and cousin of my great-great grandmother, starting with some notes from his relative that included the suspicion that Ezra’s marriage was not approved of in the family and that his wife might have been American. So when I reached 1913 and Ezra’s marriage to the widowed Edith Roya (four years older than him), I just had to check to see if she really were American and if there was any reason for disapproval. Well, Edith’s story isn’t finished yet – so far it involves changing names (apparently),  America (certainly), Calcutta (definitely), Malta (well, perhaps) and the Grand Duchy of Finland (though that was her Indian, ahem, partner). And palmistry.

Tracing someone who changes her name is tricky but given the details of her children, and the assistance of members of the WhoDoYouThinkYouAre? Forum, I had pretty much convinced myself that Edith was in Birmingham for the 1901 census. She was going under the name Ida Joseph and she and her “husband”, a 39 year old jeweller and commercial traveller, seem to have been running a boarding house at 74 Bath Row – their boarders included acrobats and Music Hall artistes. Her German born “husband” was named Kempton Joseph – well, yes, perhaps.

From 1901 Birmingham, I decided that I had two things to do. Firstly trace Kempton Joseph to see if his life before or after offered any clues to Edith / Ida. And secondly, make sure that 1901 Ida didn’t appear in the UK’s 1911 census, as if she did, then she couldn’t have been Edith who was in the USA in 1911. Tackling Kempton Joseph first, I was immediately able to show that he wasn’t just a figment of Ida’s imagination when the census form came round – the 1901 Poor Rate Assessment for St. Thomas’ Ward, Birmingham, showed Kempton Joseph to be the occupant of 74 Bath Row. He was probably not there long – the entry was originally written as Joseph Kempton, which sounds like an error that you make at the start, while he never paid the £2 14s 10d that he was supposed to – the entry is marked “Gone away”.

It’s clear that “Kempton” is, at best, an Anglicisation, so I then searched English censuses for German subjects of the right age with the family name of Joseph and a given name beginning with “C” or “K”. One good candidate was Kaufmann Joseph, who appears in the 1891 as a picture framer, living with his brother, Jacob Joseph, in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne. He also appears in the 1911 census as Kaufmann Joseph, living in Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Manchester, with his wife, Lydia Ada, and daughter Kathleen. While there are similarities between 1901 Kempton and 1911 Kaufmann (both are commercial travellers in jewellery, both had wives who ran boarding houses), there were also some worries. According to the 1911 census, Kaufmann and Lydia Ada had been married for twelve years, which doesn’t sit well with him being with Ida in 1901. In fact the marriage indexes show that Kaufmann Joseph married Lydia Ada Mitchell in 1902 – he may have been protecting his daughter Kathleen, who’s only ten at the time of the 1911 census. Incidentally, one of the sadder things is that I really can’t work out who Kathleen’s birth parents are – she just appears in 1911 from nowhere. Given the resemblances and that Kaufmann is in the 1891 and 1911 censuses, but not the 1901, and that Kempton is in the 1901 but not the 1891 or 1911, I think I’m on safe ground in assuming that Kempton and Kaufmann Joseph really are the same person. I did get worried that 1911 Lydia Ada might also be 1901 Ida (as I said, this would mean 1901 Ida couldn’t be Edith), but fortunately, I managed to trace Lydia Ada in the 1901, still in Manchester, so she couldn’t be Ida in Birmingham on the same census day.

Quite when Kaufmann and Lydia Ada got together, I have no idea, but I do wonder if Kaufmann Joseph ever said goodbye to Lydia, took his samples and his overnight bag onto the train at Manchester London Road and travelled to Birmingham New Street, before Kempton Joseph got out and walked up Bath Row into the loving arms of Ida.

The First World War broke out in 1914 and there were soon outbreaks of anti-German feelings, often directed at individuals with Germanic sounding names who had lived in the UK for years. Whether Kaufmann and Lydia Ada Joseph were ever targeted I have no idea, but Kaufmann’s Jewish roots would have been no protection – I remember being surprised by a photograph of a group of patriotic officers in the German Army proudly displaying images of the Kaiser – and a Star of David. In fact, Kaufmann Joseph died on 6 June 1915, and was buried in the Blackley Jewish Cemetery on the outskirts of Manchester. A few months later, Lydia Ada, who had automatically acquired German citizenship on her marriage to Kaufmann, sensibly re-applied for the British citizenship that she had been born with, regaining it in February 1916.

Going backwards in Lydia Ada’s story, I mentioned previously that I had found her in the 1901 census in Manchester – and this is where it gets complicated. Lydia Ada Mitchell had married Kaufmann Joseph in 1902, but she had been married before, to a George Henry Godber in 1894. Two oddities soon became apparent – firstly, she used her maiden name of Mitchell for both marriages, which is unusual. But more importantly, George Henry Godber sounded familiar – and I soon realised that this was because he was a boarder with Kaufmann and Lydia Ada Joseph in the 1911 census. So, assuming (reasonably) that there was no divorce, not merely was Lydia Ada committing bigamy when she married Kaufmann, but her first husband was living with them in 1911, presumably benignly smiling on the household! Except, actually, that wasn’t quite true. In a further layer of complication, George Godber had himself been married before – in 1891 to an Edith Maude Mitchell in Liverpool, who tragically died the following year. You may not be surprised to learn that Edith Maude and Lydia Ada were sisters.  Some genealogists may now be muttering: “Deceased wife’s sister…” – for the rest of us, I should explain that remark. For many centuries, the Church has had a list of people who are forbidden to marry. Most are obviously intended to prevent incest: “A Man may not marry his sister” or “A Woman may not marry her brother’s son”. However, included in the list are: “A Man may not marry his deceased wife’s sister” and “A Woman may not marry her deceased husband’s brother”. Now those two prohibitions[1] make no sense biologically and they are even suspect biblically. Probably as a result, as many of us know, such marriages happened. The couple went somewhere they weren’t known, got married, returned home and friends and family just kept quiet.

But what happened if someone found out? The exact status of such a “marriage” varied over the years but from 1835 to 1907, any marriage to a deceased wife’s sister was automatically void – that is, it was to be regarded as if it had never taken place and any children were illegitimate. This, therefore, was the case with George and Lydia Ada’s 1894 “marriage”. Perhaps by moving from Liverpool to Manchester, they seem to have got away with it until at least the 1901 census, when they were still describing themselves as man-and-wife, though it appears that something happened shortly after to split the couple up. So when Lydia Ada married Kaufmann Joseph in 1902, it wasn’t bigamy after all, because she had never been married in the first place. This also accounts for why she used her maiden name in 1902 – she was still unmarried. Nor was she the only person to take advantage of the non-marriage, for her former partner, George Godber, married a Lizzie Purdon in 1903. Lizzie died in September 1903 and was buried in Manchester’s Southern Cemetery. The next occupant of that grave was Lydia Ada Joseph, who died in February 1919, followed in March 1923 by George Godber, who thus rests with two of his three wives. Although there is also a 1905 marriage in Chorlton-upon-Medlock of a George H Godber to an Eleanor Hargreaves… Coincidence? Possibly – she is not in George’s household in the 1911 census, but that was already a ménage à trois between George, Lydia Ada and Kaufmann.

A Note on Sources

Most of the data is in Ancestry or FindMyPast. The 1901 Census for “Kempton” & Ida Joseph is not legible on Ancestry due to an ink blot – the FMP version has more grey scale in the image so remains legible – see RG 13/2833 folio 80, page 27, schedule 140.

Kaufman’s burial is recorded in the Burial Records database, Manchester & District Council of Synagogues web-site, URL: http://www.mdcs.org.uk/searchburials.aspx though the free-access data is thin.

The George Godber grave, including Lizzie Godber and Lydia Ada Joseph, is in “Burial Records Search” database, Manchester City Council web-site URL: https://www.burialrecords.manchester.gov.uk/GenSearch.aspx – if using free-access, each burial needs to be separately searched for.

Also, huge thanks to members of the WhoDoYouThinkYouAre? online forum for spotting various things.

[1] Removed in 1907 and 1921 respectively.

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About brucefuimus

Retired IT professional; family historian and mathematician by training.
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