Jesse or Isaac? A transcription puzzle solved?


I recently hit a bit of a brick wall in some research I’ve been doing for a client with Lithuanian Jewish ancestry.  In order to establish the name of his grandfather I’d ordered two marriage certificates for the marriages of his uncle and one of his aunts. His own father’s marriage certificate had a blank for his father’s name but I hoped that these other two certificates would provide a name.  Naturalisation papers of the uncle and the marriage certificate of another aunt had given conflicting names – one stated Isaac and the other Joseph. The two marriage certificates arrived and they were both consistent but threw a third name into the ring – Jesse.  This certainly wasn’t what I was expecting or hoped for.

However in furthering my research into the families I came across another person with the name Jesse – or so I initially thought but on closer inspection I realised I had made a transcription error and that it was actually Isaac. And then it dawned on me how similar the letter shapes are in these two names.

This is the image of the one I had mistranscribed and although when it is blown up it seems fairly obvious it is Isaac I think it’s apparent why I might have initially thought it was Jesse (especially without my best reading glasses!)

The two marriage certs that I’d received had been typed transcripts so after some pondering I wrote to the Register Office and asked if they would re-examine them for me or better still send me a scan of the names.  The results of this are in the image at the top of this post.  It was easy to see why they had been transcribed as “Jesse” and on first inspection I thought my theory had been shown to be wrong. I showed the images to an archivist colleague of mine and her first impression was also that they both said “Jesse” but then she looked a bit closer and looked at the consistency of the “e” letter shape in “General Dealer” and “General Merchant” and the discrepancy between this and what should have been “e”s if it said Jesse. And like me, she too, came to the conclusion that the name is more probably Isaac.  So now with three pieces of evidence for Isaac and only one for Joseph I’m proposing that as the most likely name for my client’s grandfather.  But whether I will eventually be able to uncover any records relating to his life in Lithuania remains to be seen.

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