Monday, 31 December 2012

The Much Married Mr Bennet

It is a truth universally acknowledged  that a man in possession of five wives must have been something unusual. So I begin this description of a Bennett quite unlike one to be found in Pride and Prejudice.

A traditional Jewish wedding. Did Louis really put his
family through this every time he married?
My sixth cousin thrice removed, Louis Bennet was born in New York City to Jewish parents, David and Augusta (née Weber) in 1863. The confusion over his surname is understandable- his father was Behrend when he married, in 1855; he was referred to both as Bennet and Bennett in numerous US censuses. His parents both   Eastern European born Jews, their life was common to many immigrants of a similar time. David was a shoemaker, and Augusta (or Gusta) raised their increasingly large family. Louis remained part of this until his marriage in 1883, to Barbara Rennert. Yet unlike his siblings, most of whom married, and some of whom also raised large broods of children, Louis neither had large numbers of children, nor was married to anyone woman, at least in New York, for long. In 1886 he remarried, this time to Rachel Stolz. She died in January 1888, and in July of the same year he married Carrie Ehrlich. She must have been more resilient than her predecessors, as she lasted the better part of six years, dying in January of 1894. At the end of that year, Louis married for the fourth and final time in New York, to Rose Berman.

This union, at last, bore signs of greater success. On the fourteenth of September 1895 a son, Berthold was born. Yet despite the birth of his son, and her relative sturdiness (she was still alive in 1920), theirs seems eventually to have been an ill-fated match. By the Federal Census of 1900, Louis was living as a boarder, described as single. While Rose and Louis are nowhere to be found in this census, it is interesting that they appear arriving as passengers into New York in 1904- they had come from Germany, where Rose was born. In the next federal census of 1910, Rose, while still describing as 'married', is living alone with a teenage Berthold; our man Louis has relocated, supposedly divorced to Massachusetts.

The final piece of busy Mr Bennett's puzzle comes in a marriage, performed by Rabbi Jacob Slavritsky in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 18th of February 1914. This is somewhat described as Louis' second marriage, following a divorce. The full names of parents are given, so we can be quite sure that this is him, but his age, given as 44 (he should been at least 50) seems about fishy as his marital status. He mercifully does not appear to have remarried, though I may well still be proved wrong, as I have not found a record yet of his death. Whilst there are still so many questions remaining about Louis remaining, it is fascinating to conclude that, minus one divorcee, he had the same number of wives with fates as King Henry VIII of England: three died, one divorced, and one survived!

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