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Volumes of Jewish Surnames in London-based Insurance Policies, by George Rigal

George Rigal volumes

Searching for 18th and 19th century Jewish surnames in insurance policies

Richard Wiltshire, Senior Archivist

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) holds important and extensive series of insurance policy registers. The volumes form part of wider London-based insurance company archives. They are vital source for family, social and business history as they document individuals and businesses which operated not only in London but beyond between the late 17th to mid 19th centuries.

An exciting dataset was published late in 2013 titled ‘Jewish Surnames in London-based Insurance Policies; an index to policyholders who were probably Jewish in the registers of London-based insurance companies from the early-18th to the mid-19th centuries’. This index represents the fruits of many years’ research by the late George Rigal who died in 2012. Rigal was a long-standing researcher and friend of the former Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section. He worked through thousands of registers and other insurance records to identify policyholders of Jewish origin.

Rigal’s exhaustive research is published in two volumes, arranged by surnames A-L and M-Z respectively, by The Estate of George Rigal. The data covers over 26,000 Jewish policy holders and draws on the policy registers of the Sun Insurance Office, Hand in Hand, Law Life, Legal and General, London Assurance, Metropolitan Life, and Royal Exchange. An estimated 22,500 entries are derived from the fire policy registers of the Sun Insurance Office alone. All of these records formerly held at Guildhall Library are now accessible at LMA. The index is laid out in tables giving the name of the policyholder, their occupation and address, LMA reference code to the original source, policy date and number, and author’s notes. The published volumes have guidance on the arrangement of the text and how to locate the original of a policy referred to in the data.

The vast majority of individuals listed in the index were Jewish, but there is no guarantee that all people listed were Jewish. In some cases, the presence of a certain name or clause is a well educated guess. Rigal was however able to make connections and identify individuals because of his many years working with other Jewish genealogy sources. The index groups together insurance policies taken out by the same person, and Rigal was careful to use further source evidence to confirm such cases. In addition to names, there are appendices on policies relating to synagogues, communal organisations and cemeteries, marine policies, and on wills and letters of administration in the Sun Insurance Office archives.

The published index was finalised by Petra Laidlaw and Louise Messik in 2013, dedicated to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, and made available as an on demand printout. Aviva, AXA, London Life Association and RSA kindly gave permission for the use of the policy registers in this limited publication. LMA would like to thank the Estate of George Rigal, Petra Laidlaw and Louise Messik for donating the published volumes which are available to consult in the LMA Library. The complete dataset is also available for searching online on The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain’s website.  Any researcher wishing to look at the primary sources referred to in the data should contact LMA or consult the information leaflets on fire insurance records (48KB) and Jewish sources (82KB).

10 April 2014
Last Modified:
26 September 2018