Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Who was Isaac Frankenstein?

My Frankenstein family were originally from Gombin and Plock in Poland, and came to England during the mid-19th-to-early-20th Century. I have recently come across an Isaac Frankenstein, who was born around 1825 in Poland, and appears in the 1851 UK Census. I am attempting to see whether I can connect him to my own family. He emigrated to the USA in 1853, and I have traced him via New York and Alabama, to Savannah, Georgia.

Isaac Frankenstein m Kate Barnett, Brighton, 1853

In 1853 he had married Kate Barnett in Brighton, England, and shortly afterwards they sailed to New York, taking with them Kate’s sister Leah. In the 1851 UK Census, Isaac had been living in the household of Kitty Barnard, mother of the two girls, in Portsmouth. He may have gone there to be apprenticed as a jeweller to Kitty’s late husband Lyon Barnard, who had died in 1849.

Kate died a few months after reaching New York,in 1854. Within a few weeks of Kate's death, Isaac married Leah; like her sister, Leah used the name Barnett at her marriage, rather than Barnard, the name used in the Census. Isaac and Leah had one child in New York, then a second in Alabama, and then settled in Milledgeville, Georgia, at that time the State capital, where they had two more children. By 1861 they were in Savannah, 160 miles away. Isaac died there in September that year.

Who was Woolf Barnett?
The Barnards/Barnetts were also apparently from Poland. There is also a Woolf Barnett, who appears to be related, but does not appear in any UK records with them. He had arrived in Savannah a few years earlier, and married Selina Russell there in 1847. She died in 1850, and I lose track of Woolf for the next few years.

Then, in the 1860 US Census, taken on 18 June, Woolf Barnett, aged 35, was living in Milledgeville, with or next door to Isaac and his family - see below for details. Two months later, he returned to England and remarried. His new wife was Rachel Joel, from another jeweller family. They were married on 22 August, also in Brighton. On the marriage certificate, Rachel gives the same address - 89 St James Street - as Isaac Frankenstein and Kate Barnett had given 7 years earlier. It is the address of Rachel's father Jacob Joel, silversmith, and his family, throughout this period.

Woolf Barnett m Rachel Joel, Brighton 1860

Woolf and Rachel returned immediately to Savannah, where they had three children, then Rachel died in 1864.

In the 1870 US Census Leah Frankenstein and Woolf Barnett, both now widowed, are again living in the same house with their respective children. There is no indication of any relationship between them. In the 1880 Census they are again in the same household, but this time Leah is reported as Woolf’s sister. However, various UK and US records indicate that Leah’s father was Lyon Barnard, and Woolf’s was Elias Barnett. The only explanation I can think of is that they are really half-siblings, and that their mother was married twice, first to Elias, and then to Lyon.

Another thought that occurs is that although Lyon's family appears as Barnard in the 1841 UK Census, and in his own death record in 1849, they call themselves Barnett thereafter, from the 1851 Census onwards. Intriguingly there is one exception where Barnard is used - see below. Kate refers to her father as Lyon Barnett on her marriage certificate. The family seem to regard the names as equivalent. Might Elias Barnett and Lyon Barnard have been brothers, even?

Who was Elias Barnett?
At this point the story gets even more complicated, as there seem to be several Elias Barnetts in the Southern states at this period, as well as a few in the UK. Intriguingly there is an Elias Barnett buying and selling property in Alabama at around the same time as Isaac and Leah Frankenstein are there for the birth of their second child Harris in 1857. However, nowhere is it specified where in Alabama Harris was born, so I have not been able to link them together there with any certainty.

The families of Isaac Frankenstein and Elias Barnett in the 1860 US Census
(Isaac himself is entered at the bottom of the previous page)

In 1860, Elias Barnett (54) is living in Milledgeville with Woolf (35) and Benjamin (25), which sounds very much like a father and two sons, though this is not specified. They are the next household in the list to Isaac and Leah Frankenstein, and may well be living in the same house. Did Isaac and Leah go to Alabama specifically in order to join up with Elias, and then all move together to Milledgeville - always assuming that the Elias Barnett we found in Alabama is the same person?

Elias and Woolf are said to have been born in Poland, Benjamin in England, which suggests Elias may have emigrated from Poland to England at some point between 1825 and 1835.


An Elias Barnet in Liverpool in 1841, with sons Lyons and Berrant

One candidate in the UK could be an Elias Barnett living in Liverpool in the 1841 UK Census, with a wife Sarah and two young sons, Lyons aged 8, and Berrant (sic), 3. Elias is said to have been born in 'Foreign Parts', the others in Liverpool. This family does not seem to appear in later UK Censuses. To add to the intrigue, there is a Lyon Barnett who died in Savannah in 1867, who is said to have been born in 1834 in England, but does not seem to appear in any other records in either country. And could the 'Berrant' from Liverpool in 1841 be the same person as 'Benjamin' in Milledgeville in 1860?

To add to the mix, there is an Elias Barnett indicted of bigamy in Alabama in 1849, and one who played a significant role in the Civil War. I have no idea at the moment whether these are one, two or three different people. The bigamist married twice in the USA, so if he is indeed the same person as ‘our’ Elias, father of Woolf, he was probably married in England at around the same time, and so could quite possibly be a trigamist.

I cannot find birth or marriage records, nor any other census records prior to 1860, for anyone I can identify as ‘our' Elias Barnett. There also appear to be another couple of candidates in the UK, in addition to our Liverpool suspect, but I cannot say with any certainty whether any of them are this one. Although I do quite fancy the Liverpudlian.

One thing I have found is at least one Elias Barnett, and one Woolf Barnett, with criminal convictions in the UK in this period.

Who were Kate and Leah Barnard?
As for Kate and Leah Barnard/Barnett, I have not been able to find birth records for either of them in the UK. They would have been born before statutory records came into effect in 1837. Kate is said to be born in London, Leah in Portsmouth, both around 1830-34 - but who knows?

The most puzzling document was the Passenger Manifest for Isaac, Kate and Leah, when they sailed from London to New York in December 1853. Isaac and Kate are clear enough, but who is their travelling companion?

Isaac, Kate and Lebonard cross the Atlantic, Dec 1853

Lebonard Frankenstine? Lebonard? It was only when I tried saying the name out loud that the penny dropped: Leah Barnard! Note that both Kate (1853) and Leah (1854) married as Barnett.

Who was Harris Frankenstein?
On Isaac's marriage certificate in 1853, his father is said to be Harris Frankenstein, deceased. In accordance with Ashkenazi Jewish tradition, Isaac named his first (and only) son after him. However, I can find no other trace of Harris the father, either in Poland, the UK, or the USA. Both the names ‘Isaac’ and ‘Hersz’, which often transmutes into Harris in English-speaking countries, occur in my Frankenstein family around that period, so this Isaac and Harris could possibly be named after the same common ancestors. However these names were quite common across Poland, so for the moment that has to be classed as a nice idea but nowhere near proven.

So who was Isaac Frankenstein? Although I have managed to map out some of the key points in his life, I still don't have a clue as to where he was born - apart from 'Poland' - or whether he could have been a relative of my own Frankenstein ancestors.

I am hoping that somewhere, somehow, there will be records, that are maybe not yet available online, from Georgia and/or Alabama, that could help throw light on this family. Or from the UK. Or from Poland, even.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Any ideas at all would be most gratefully received!

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