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Focus On... Isaac Rosenberg
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Isaac Rosenberg was born in 1890 into a working class Jewish family in Bristol. His parents Barnett and Anna had immigrated to England from Lithuania in 1887. At that time Lithuania was a part of Imperial Russia, and Barnett fled to England to avoid conscription into the Czar's army.


You can find out more about the mass immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe to Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in The National Archives Pathways to the Past '1901: Living at the time of the Census' exhibition. Or, from the same exhibition, you can see a case study telling the story of another Russian Jewish man who moved his family to England. There is also information on tracing immigrant ancestors in our guide Looking for records of an immigrant.


Isaac's birth certificate (see detail below) records his birth at 5 Adelaide Place in Bristol, on 25 November 1890. His father Barnett's profession is entered as 'Licensed Hawker' - this means a peddler, which was a common occupation of Jewish immigrants in the 19th century. For information on how to obtain a birth certificate, see our Births, Marriages and Deaths research guides.

Detail of Isaac Rosenberg's birth certificate, The General Register Office

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The National Census first began in 1801 and was repeated once a decade thereafter. From 1841, personal information on individuals was recorded. In the 1891 census below we can see that the Rosenberg family are still living at 5 Adelaide Place in Bristol. It lists all the family members, including his parents Barnett and Anna, Isaac's older sister Minnie, and the four month old Isaac.


The census record lists Barnett Rosenberg’s place of birth as Russia. We can also see that his name is written as 'Barned', whereas on the birth certificate it was written as 'Barnard'. It is likely that Barnett spoke his name, and the spelling was left up to the registrar or enumerator. When carrying out your own family history research, remember that spellings were far more flexible in past times.

Detail of the 1891 Census. The National Archives Ref: RG12/1957/50/27

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By the time of the 1901 census, ten years later, the Rosenberg family had moved to East London so that Isaac could attend a Jewish school. We can see from the 1901 census that the family were living at 58 Jubilee Street; it is known that they also lived at 47 Cable Street and in Dempsey Street in Stepney. The 1901 census is available online.


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Opens in a new window. Detail of the 1901 Census. The National Archives Ref: RG13/327/112/18