Levi family

Levi Bensheton and Levi

The family’s original name Levi Bensheton was used interchangeably with Levi in English and Welsh birth, death and marriage entries and census records, and was eventually dropped. Some documents use the alternative spelling Levy.

Samuel Levi Bensheton

Samuel Levi Bensheton is the earliest known member of the Levi family. The United Kingdom GRO index shows that he died in the December quarter of 1858 in Merthyr Tydfil.

At present, there is no further information on Samuel and his family, apart from his son, Yomtob.

Yomtob/Yantub Levi Bensheton

Throughout his lifetime, there was no consistency in the spelling of his first name, which was undoubted exacerbated by the fact that he could not read and write. The main variants are as follows:

  • Yomtob – recorded in the Bevis Marks records for his marriage, and births of three of the children, and by his children on his wife’s grave.
  • Yantub – recorded on his marriage and death certificate. His daughter Lily named one of her sons David Yantub Boock.
  • Yentub – recorded on the majority of his children’s birth certificates, but these were written by the same Registrar.

It has been advised that Yomtob or Yantub may be variations of the Hebrew Yomtov, meaning good day or festival day. The personal surname Levi may be indicative of a Levite family, and it is possible that the Bensheton family were Levites. It seems that Yomtov appears in diverse forms in Levite families.

Yomtob was born about 1813 – 1814, and censuses show that his place of birth was in Morocco, Africa. Yomtob recorded his occupation as a clothier. The 1851 he was living at Cross Street, South Gebeland in Methyr Tydfil.

Yantub and Isabella marriage certificate

Marriage to Isabella Himes and Family

On 3 March 1852, Isabella married Yomtob Levi Bensheton, at 16 Bury Street, in St Mary Axe Parish, London, with the ceremony performed by David Pizar.

Their marriage was also recorded in the Bevis Marks Records.

No. 191 3 March 1852
Yomtob Levi Ben Sheton (Shiton) 38 B clothier Glebeland Merthyr Tydfil Samuel Levi Ben Sheton Deceased
Isabella Himes 25 S 6 Browns Bldgs, St. Mary Axe Issachar Himes Tailor
Place of Wedding: 16 Bury St., St. Mary Axe
Witnesses and Registrar: D.A. De Sola, S. Genese jun., S. Almosino (R)
50 pounds husbands addition
Witnesses on Ketubah: D.A. De Sola, David Piza
Bevis Marks Records, Part III – Abstracts of the Ketubot or Marriage Contracts and of Civil Marriage Registers of the Spanish and Portugese Jews Congregation for the Period 1837-1901.

They lived together in a number of locations in Merthyr Tydfil. At the time of the 1861 Census they lived at 49 Glebeland Street, and ten years later they lived at 21 Castle Street, (1871 Census).

Castle Street – picture taken at the end of the nineteenth century. Most of the street was demolished in the 1960’s and 1970’s. (Merthyr Tydfil Public Libraries; Valley Views – Book 1: Historic Street Scenes of the Merthyr Tydfil Valley p.15)

Yomtob and Isabella’s children were:

  • Emilie Sarah, 1852
  • Anna, 1854
  • Leah “Lily”, 1856
  • Samuel, 1858
  • John Hymes, 1860
  • Edward, c. 1862/3
  • Isaac, c. 1867

Bevis Marks Birth Records
The births of three of the children are recorded in the Bevis Marks Records:
Emilie – Ben Shiton Levy Gimol S Yomtob Bilha 7 Dec 1852 Sheet 106 26 Kislev 5613 Sarah (second name)
John Hymes – Ben Shiton Levy Jacob H Yomtob Bella 31 Jul 1860 Sheet 119 4 Nisan 5616 Haim (second name)
Leah – Ben Shiton Levy Leah Yomtob Bilha 9 Apr 1856 Sheet 111 12 Ab 5620
Bevis Marks Records, Part V – The Birth Register (1767-1881) of the Spanish and Portugese Jews Congregation, London. [John’s recorded middle name Haim could be an earlier form of the Himes surname]

It appears that Yomtob and Isabella went through difficult times raising their family. The following extract from “The Jews of South Wales”, which appears to relate to the family, illustrates this.

As early as 1864 the Jewish Chronicle published a report of the the plight of Youtaff Levi who a few years earlier had been a subscriber to the synagogue fund, but was now appealing for assistance to the Merthyr Community.
“Having four small children ill with fever for some time, and one buried only a few days since…
he has been reduced to the greatest distress, his wife expecting to be confined daily. He has been well known as a respectable tradesman for the last sixteen years. The undersigned believe that if sufficient funds could be raised to enable them to place a little way of business so as to enable him to earn a living for himself and family…”

The Merthyr and Cardiff congregations gave 5 pounds each and Swansea eight pounds 15 shillings”
(Ursula Henriques; The Jews of South Wales, University of Cardiff Press, The Valley Communities VII)

If this does refer to Yomtob, then Anna could be the child that died. The child on the way could have been Edward (as the dates are uncertain), or a later child that also died.

Yomtob Levi death cert

Deaths of Yomtob and Isabella

Yomtob died at the age of 65, on 30th January 1878 at Merthyr Tydfil. His death certificate shows that he died of double pneumonia at his son Edward’s house at 8 Victoria Street, Merthyr Tydfil. It is not clear where Yomtob is buried – his death pre-dates the present Jewish section of the Cefn Coed cemetery just outside Merthyr Tydfil, and he does not appear to be buried in the Old Swansea Jewish Cemetery.

Victoria Street – named after the Queen in whose reign the street was built. (Merthyr Tydfil Public Libraries; Valley Views – Book 1: Historic Street Scenes of the Merthyr Tydfil Valley p.17)
Isabella Levi grave

Isabella lived longer than Yomtob, but moved away from Merthyr Tydfil. Along with other family members, she is recorded as dwelling at 34 Murray Street, Llanelly, Carmathen (1881 Census), and then 22/24 Brecon Road, Cyfartha (1891 Census). Isabella died on the 3rd August 1905, aged 76, and was buried in the Old Swansea Jewish Cemetery. Her gravestone seems to be the only time her name is recorded as Isabelle – in all other instances, it is Isabella.

The text on her grave states:

She stretched out her hand to the poor. Yea, she put forth her hands to the needy. Deeply mourned by her many friends. May her dear soul rest in everlasting peace.

Emilie Sarah Levi

Emilie Levi birth cert
Emilie Levi grave

She was born on the 7th December 1852, at Glebeland, Merthyr Tydfil. Her birth certificate shows her name as Emilie Sarah Bensheton. The 1861 and 1871 censuses show her living with her family, but by 1881 she was the governess to Barnett family (Henry, Louisa and children) at 10 Heathfield Street.

Ten years later her position with the Barnett family, now living at 5 Heathfield Street, Castle, had changed to that of lady’s companion (1891 census). Emilie remained a spinster. She died on the 8th May 1940, aged 86, and was buried as Emilie Levi in the Old Swansea Jewish Cemetery.

Anna Levi birth cert

Anna Levi

Born on the 7th January 1854, in Glebeland, Merthyr Tydfil, and named on her birth certificate as Anna Levy Bensheton, she is recorded with her family in the 1861 Census, but nothing else is currently known.

She may have died as a child.

Photo of Lily, around 20 years old,
taken in the late 1870s in Tredegar, Wales
– Photographer: J.S Dennis

Leah “Lily” Levi

Leah “Lily” Levi birth cert

Lily, as she was known in later years, appears to have been born on the 9th April 1856, in Merthyr Tydfil. Her birth certificate records her name as Leah Levi Bensitton, which is a mispelling of Bensheton.

Curiously, neither the 1861 or 1871 census record her as living with her family in Merthyr Tydfil! However, it is clear that in 1879 she emigrated to Wellington, New Zealand aboard the Wairoa with Bloom family – Lily’s mother’s sister Leah, husband Jacob, and their daughter Laura.

Jacob and Leah Bloom, daughter Laura and niece Lily
Record from the NZ Shipping Company Passenger List

About a year after arriving she married Israel Boock, on the 23rd June 1880, in Wellington, New Zealand. She died on the 6th December 1925, and is buried Wellington, New Zealand.

Samuel Levi birth cert

Samuel Levi

Born on the 16th August 1858, Glebeland, Merthyr Tydfil, and named on his birth certificate Samuel Levy Benseton, which is another misspelling. He is recorded with his family in the 1861 Census, but nothing else is currently known.

He may have died as a child.

John Hymes Levy birth cert

John Hymes Levi

Born on the 31st July 1860, Glebeland Street, Merthyr Tydfil, and named as John Hymes Levy on the birth certificate (the Bensheton seems to have been dropped). He is recorded in the 1861, 1871, and 1881 Censuses, but does not appear in the 1891 Census. While he may have died in his late thirties or forties, it is also possible that he emigrated.

Edward Levi grave. The text indicates that he was the Commandant of the Swansea United Service Brigade. Also that he was deeply mourned by his sister and his many friends

Edward Levi

According to his age in various censuses, he was born around 1862/3, but an index reference to his birth certificate has not been able to be found. He is recorded as living with his family in 1871 Census. Ten years later, in the 1881 Census he is harder to locate, but is possibly Obidiah Levi at Private (Jewish) School, 13 Fitnalan Place, Cardiff St John. Edward remained a bachelor. He died on the 19th June 1936, in Swansea, and was buried in the Old Swansea Jewish Cemetery.

Isaac Levi grave
Isaac Levi death cert

Isaac Levi

According to his age in various censuses and his death certificate, he was born around 1867, but an index reference to his birth certificate has not been able to be found. He is recorded in various censuses as Isaac Robert Levi.

Isaac was a pawnbroker, who remained a bachelor. He died at the age of 68, on the 1st August 1934 at 10 Heathfield Street, Swansea. He is buried as Isaac Raphael Levi in the Old Swansea Jewish Cemetery.
The text on his grave states that he was:

Deeply mourned by his sister and brother and his many friends