There’s no other word for it. I was perplexed. No matter how much I stared at the image of the birth certificate, there was no illuminating flash of inspiration.
No matter how many times I read it, the words stayed exactly the same.
District of Sculcoates, Hull, Book 42 page 4, Births in the District of East Sculcoates, county of York
Born 24 September 1881 at 5 Regent Square, Sykes St
Name Hyman, boy
Father Jacob Miller, house painter; mother Rachel Miller, formerly Horwich
Informant Rachel Miller, identified by her mark [ie, she was not literate], at same address
Date registered 7 November 1881 by John Clapham, registrar
Copy certified on 16 January 1902 by James Dixon, Deputy Superintendent Registrar.
This was a certified copy of a birth certificate which had been issued on 16 January 1902, either in person or by post in answer to a request from persons unknown. I wanted to know to whom and why.
This is meant to be a true and full account, not just of the story of Henry Miller but of the research process. Therefore, I cannot pick and choose what bits I put in and what I leave out. I can’t just include the bits which show me in a good light. And so it is with a heavy heart and a dent in my pride that I report the next passage.
Within the genealogy / family history community there are wonderful people who, when appealed to, set out to help other people with their brick walls. As I was to find when researching my mother’s family, there are times when two heads are definitely better than one.
I had originally joined the Glamorgan Rootsweb list to see if anyone was interested in the four certificates which I’d ordered and which turned out to be for people who weren’t connected with our Henry.
Then I outlined the story and referred to the fact that, although Henry’s marriage record said that he’d been born in Glamorgan and the letters from his family said that he had been born in Lithuania (then under Russian rule) the birth certificate showed that Hyman was born in Hull in 1881. And I named the parents as Jacob and Rachel Miller.
I explained that this was also inconsistent with his brother having written that Hyman was between two and three when they arrived in Hull. If he had been ten at the time of the 1891 census, he would have arrived in 1883-1884.
A lovely Glamorgan Rootsweb list member named Ann Ward replied.
Initially she thought that the family may have been confused about the year they arrived in the UK and had found Jacob and Rachel on the 1881 census in Hull.
3 April 1881: 5 Regent Terrace, All Saints, Sculcoates, Kingston upon Thames, Yorkshire.
|Jacob Miller||head of family||aged 26||painter||born in Germany, B.S.|
|Rachel Miller||wife||aged 23||born Germany, B.S.|
|Dora Miller||daughter||aged 1||born Yorkshire, Hull|
|Israel Goldstein||brother in-law||aged 28 (?)||boot traveller||born Germany, B.S.|
|Annie Goldstein||sister in-law||aged 23 (?)||born Germany, B.S.|
|Tilly Goldstein||niece||aged 3 months||born Yorkshire, Hull|
|Samuel Goldstein||brother in-law||aged 34 (?)||plumber||born Germany, B.S.|
B.S. means British subject.
But then Ann found the same family in the 1891 census, having moved to Leeds, Yorkshire.
5 April 1891: 46 Concord Street, Leeds, Yorkshire
|Jacob Miller||head of family||aged 35||house painter||born Russia Poland|
|Rachel Miller||wife||aged 27||born Russia Poland|
|Dora Miller||daughter||aged 11||born Yorks, Hull|
|Hyman Miller||son||aged 10||born Yorks, Hull|
|Ellis Miller||son||aged 8||born Yorks, Hull|
|Isaac Miller||son||aged 6||born Yorks, Hull|
|Louis Miller||son||aged 3||born Yorks, Leeds|
|Emma Miller||daughter||aged 6 mths||born Yorks, Leeds|
|Betsy Goldstein||lodger||aged 23||machinist||born Poland|
So, on 5 April 1891, whilst ‘our’ Hyman Miller was aged 10, in Llanwonno, Porth, Glamorganshire, with his mother Rose and his siblings (Barnet, Jacob, Lewis, Hannah, Flora and Ada), there was another Hyman Miller, also aged 10, with his parents Jacob and Rachel Miller and his siblings in Leeds, Yorkshire.
Two Hymans aged 10, one birth certificate.
The family story, per the letters from Henry’s brother Lewis and sister Florrie in America, is that the family came from Russia to Hull and stayed there a few weeks with an uncle and his family.
Because of the birth certificate found in Henry’s papers after he died, it appeared that Henry’s birth was registered in Sculcoates, Hull in 1881, as Hyman Miller. This was even though the brother said in one of the letters that Hyman was about two years old when they came to England.
Henry/Hyman and his family moved to Wales where the father had arranged a home for them. And, as Henry’s New Zealand marriage certificate said that he was born in Glamorganshire I had not doubted that they had lived there, even though, initially, I could find no trace of the ‘supposed’ father named on the certificate. Or, indeed, a birth certificate for Henry.
By the time of the 1891 census, the father had died but the mother was there as a widow, with all the children (as named in the letters from America).
I had had no qualms that Rachel was now calling herself Rose. It agreed with the name which Henry had put down for his mother on his marriage certificate. And, after all, many people change their names.
[My husband was Jacob Haydn Morris but was known to everybody as Haydn. Perhaps that made me too ready to accept the name change.]
The age of Hyman on the 1891 census had agreed with a birth year of 1881. And with the age given on Henry’s marriage certificate.
By 1893, all the family except Hyman had moved to America. He was in school in London where he stayed to train as a teacher. When he qualified, he went to South Africa, in 1902. Whether, at that time, he planned to go on to Australia and New Zealand we don’t know.
At that time, British passports were not routinely issued or needed for travel but since 1858 they had only been available to UK nationals. Henry was born in Russia and was not a British Subject. What was he to do?
Let us suppose that Lewis was correct when he said that Hyman was aged two or two and a half, when the family came to England.
Let us also suppose that the uncle with whom they stayed in Hull for a few weeks was Jacob Miller, brother of Hyman’s father, Abraham. Jacob and his family were by then British subjects.
We know that Jacob and Rachel had, as per the birth certificate, a son also named Hyman, whose birth was registered in Hull in 1881, just a few weeks before our Hyman was born in Lithuania.
Twenty years later, when our Hyman was preparing to go to South Africa, he needed a birth certificate, perhaps as protection, to prove that he was a British subject or for a passport application.
And he thought of his cousin.
The certified copy of Hyman’s birth certificate is dated January 1902.
According to the records on Find My Past, there were several applications for passports in the name of Miller between January and June 1902, though it seems impossible to identify them individually.
In June 1902, Hyman sailed for South Africa. By the time he arrived there, he had become Henry. And by the time he arrived in New Zealand, he was known as Harry.
Henry became a fine upstanding, highly regarded school teacher and member of the community, including master of the local Freemason’s Lodge.
I think that changing his name from Hyman to Henry was a means of avoiding anti-semitism, which was rife at the time.
Evidently, he did not need to produce his birth certificate in order to get married and so he was able to both anglicise and fictionalise the name of his father, from Abraham to Arthur Phillip and his mother’s maiden name from Mierson to Martin.
And he changed his father’s occupation from glazier to colliery engineer. Having lived several years in Porth, Glamorgan, as a child, he would have been familiar with the collieries. Perhaps the father of one of his friends had been a colliery engineer. Henry was intelligent and as a boy he would have soaked up the knowledge that he gained and would have been able to talk about it later.
Perhaps this was a persona he had carefully crafted for himself over the years or perhaps Henry elevated his father’s status as a means of social climbing as he was marrying into the highly respected Udy family in New Zealand, one of the original settler families from Cornwall.
Although Henry communicated with his brother and sister in America, using the school where he taught as a postal address, he never told them about his wife and son. Nor did he tell his wife and son about his family.
Unfortunately, we will never know that answer as to why he kept both sides in the dark about the other but perhaps he wanted his son to know his true heritage and so he deliberately left the letters from his brother and sister amongst his papers so that they would be found and passed to his widow, for her to investigate and the truth to come to light. As it did.
And now his grandson knows his true heritage as well.
The only slight hiccup is that we know from the letters that Henry/Hyman and his family came from Lithuania, then under Russian rule.
The census for 1881 says that Jacob and Rachel came from Germany and for 1891, that they came from Russia / Poland.
The place in Lithuania, named by Hyman’s brother Lewis, is just 30 miles or so from the current border with Poland, and it is possible that the borders have shifted over the years.
Just as I was beginning to sit back and relax, deciding that we had solved the mystery of how Henry had in his possession the birth certificate of Hyman Miller from Hull, the story moved on.
Not content with finding Jacob and Rachel on the 1881 and 1891 censuses, Ann of the Glamorgan Rootsweb list was still intrigued by the saga of Hyman Miller and investigated further.
She found a member’s tree on Ancestry.com which showed that six of the children of Jacob and Rachel Miller had emigrated to the US. It looks as if Dora went first, via South Africa. She was in South Africa in 1904, then went to the US in 1906.
So, now, rather than thinking that our Hyman borrowed his cousin’s birth certificate, I’m wondering if Dora knew he was claiming it as his own, even if the rest of her family didn’t. But may be they did and gave him their blessing to obtain an official copy of it.
Henry must at least have told his wife that he had gone to South Africa with a cousin because, in one of his letters fom America, Henry’s brother evidently answered a question from Henry’s widow. “As for your husband going to South Africa with a cousin, I couldn’t say”.
I had looked on the June 1902 shipping list to see if there seemed a likely name for a cousin of Henry travelling at the same time but nobody seemed to fit. And I’m afraid I’d rather assumed that it was a man. But, not only did they not have to go there at the same time, the cousin could have been a woman.
And Henry was definitely in South Africa in 1904, when Dora was there. She went to America in 1906. Henry went to Australia in 1906.
I find the re-use of names within the family in this saga interesting.
Rose and Abraham (as I had discovered Henry’s father to be named) named one of their sons Jacob.
And Jacob and Rachel had a son called Abraham.
Both families had sons called Hyman and Lewis.
To say that I was grateful for the time that Ann had taken to find Jacob and Rachel on the two censuses and then the existence of the cousin Dora who had travelled to South Africa, is a considerable understatement. But that is what we in the family history community do, we help each other break down our brick walls.
To say that I am annoyed with myself for not having thought to do the same thing is also an understatement!
Next: The Cousins