Hi there, I have just learned that my paternal grandfather was in fact
Jewish and he changed his name and identity for some reason. My
mother had an inkling but nothing was said and it became a huge secret
which has only come to light now I am researching my family tree.
This is what we now know for sure. He was born Emanuel Bernstein in
c1902. His mother was Kate (maiden name Orkovitch or Arkovitch) and
his father Marks Bernstein. Kate's father was Jacob and she had a
younger sister Eve. We believe Jacob was Polish. We also believe
that Marks' heritage was Russian.
'Manny', as my mother heard him called at his funeral, had two
sisters, Miriam and Annie and a brother Aaron. However, my Nan told
my mother that he had a brother called Jack who was a barber in
Golders Green. It is entirely possible that Aaron also changed his
name, as both he and my grandfather were put in the Jewish Home for
Orphans in Norwood, London in 1911 some time after their father died
in 1906. Nanny said that my grandfather 'ran away >from home' but we
think she meant 'the' home so it is possible Aaron did the same.
We know 'Manny' ran away to sea during WW1 but was sent back by the
British Navy because he was too young. He then disappears until 1922
when he resurfaces as George Edward Jackson when he married my Nan,
and states his father as Michael Jackson. All I can find on Marks
Bernstein is someone with parents going by the name of Jackson from
the Netherlands so far. Maybe this is where the name Jackson came
from? We do not know if he changed his name before he left, on the
boat going over or on re-entry to the UK.
My nan says that Ted as he then became known, went to America before
they married, enlisted in the US Navy and became naturalised before
returning home. He was also a merchant seaman going all over the
world, and then latterly a docker in the East End of London. He then
crops up again in the mini census before WW2 in 1939 as George
Jackson, living in Stratford at an address we know well.
Grandad died in 1954 of a congenital heart condition. He is said to
have hated his mother and the idea of stepfathers. With hindsight we
believe this was because the boys were put in the home, presumably
after Kate remarried, but this is speculation based on tidbits from
Nanny. Nanny always said Kate was horrified Ted married a non Jew.
Mum remembers his sisters (and possibly Kate) barely, after being
taken to see them at about 5 or 6 years old when they were living in
Bow, East London and at Grandad's funeral. The whole female side of
the family were seamstresses/machinists.
My Nan gave me a beautiful Star of David when I was young. At the
time I didn't think anything of it but later I was bemused as to why a
baptised (non practising) christian of Irish heritage would do such a
thing! Was it a family piece handed down perhaps, but then why me?!
I can understand why he might change his name given the issues for
Jews in the East End at that time but I would love to get to the
bottom of this and maybe explore my heritage further.
If anyone has any ideas, tips or information I would be very grateful.
MODERATOR NOTE: Please send contact information privately.