Laura Mayer

My mother has always believed that her father came from a Jewish family.  Mum is now 85 and the last remaining sibling is 90.  Mum remembers being taken as a child to her 'grandmother' in Bow, East London - Katie 'Bernstein'.  She also knows her dad had two sisters Miriam and Annie both seamstresses like Katie and believed there was a brother 'Jack' a barber in Golders Green.  She also knew that - in her words - dad had fallen out with his mother other a stepfather and ran away and tried to join the British Navy during WW1, refused due to age (born 1900) and so hopped ship to the states and rode the trains a little before joining the US Navy.  He was also apparently naturalised American and celebrated by having a large tattoo across his back of the American Eagle.  Nanny had a photo of him in his navy uniform circa 1920.  He then returned home to marry nanny -a christian which enraged Katie even more - but here's the kicker....his marriage certificate is in the name of George Edward Jackson and he was known as Ted.  Mum never realised anything until his funeral in 1954 when his sisters came and kept calling him Emanuel or Manny.

After some investigation we found that who we think was his biological father Marks Bernstein died in 1907 and on the census in 1901 there was a Bernstein family Marks, Katie, Emanuel, Aaron, Miriam and Annie as well as a Jacob Arkovitch or Orkovitch and his daughter Eve whom we believe may have been Katie's father and sister.  Jacob states he is Russian.  in about 1910 Emanuel and Aaron were placed in the Jewish school/orphanage in Knights Hill London but there are no records of them leaving.  So we are assuming where nanny says he ran away from home he actually meant 'the home'.  After than nothing.  A Jacob Arkovitch travelling with two children who states he is German leaves Tilbury (the nearest port to East London) to New York then nothing.  Jacob nor Eve show up on any census from then on assuming that was them?

We don't know when Grandad changed his name to George Edward Jackson, on the boat going to the states or when he landed or whether he called himself anything else because I cannot find anything either in the UK or the States.  The US Navy has no record of either name yet we had proof of him in a photo on ship !!  All we know is he married in 1922 at George Edward and was on the 1939 census as the same and died the same.  My aunt who has all the family records has no birth certificate for him and there is no record of a George Edward Jackson returning to the UK either!  So we know he changed identities so maybe Aaron did too and he was actually Jack the Barber ???  We think Miriam married but not so sure about Annie so there must be aunts, uncles, cousins out there who may have been told about their Uncles at some point?

Grandad became a merchant seaman when he returned to the UK and went all over the world then worked on the docks in East London eventually as a foreman when he congenital heart disease (maybe that's what killed his father so young?) became too much for labour work.

I cannot find any birth certificates for Marks or Kate or a mariage certificate so I am assuming they may well have been born outside the UK but that is a guess based on Jacob.  Eve (by Jacob) however is enrolled in a London school in the 1870s.

I do not live in the UK but France now so do not have the ability to delve into paper records.  So reaching out for help!  I think their synagogue was on the Commercial Road East London but again I cannot go there to delve through the records.  

Can anyone shed any light or hope that we may find the truth ?  Grandad is the one behind the life belt.  Kind regards.

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