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Rebecca Isaake (abt. 1598 - abt. 1634)

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Rebecca Isaake
Born about [location unknown]
Daughter of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died about [location unknown]
Profile last modified | Created 6 Apr 2014 | Last significant change: 15 Jan 2019
10:59: Chad Olivent edited the Biography for Rebecca Isaake (abt.1598-abt.1634). [Thank Chad for this]
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The Alligood researchers prior to the internet era concluded that Elias LaGarde's wife was never mentioned once in the record. Since the 'cut and paste' era, more malleable souls have accepted whatever is read. In genealogy, especially, there is no more motivating factor by novices than to find that next line. This casual line of thinking has brought us to Rebecca Issacke. She is Elias' wife, oui? Au contraire!

Jewish Origins Question

"The first Jew to set foot on North American soil was probably Elias LeGardo, who sailed to Virginia on the Abilgail in 1621. By 1624 Rebecca Isaake was a resident there."[1] This was written with more zeal than proof. One cannot blame casual writers for copying other works, but the research does not hold up, as a close look at the sources easily show.

Rebecca was the perfect fit for a wife of someone who could lay claim to being the first person of Jewish faith in America. Elias LeGarde never claimed this, so no fault of his, nor of Rebecca. If you base someone's Jewishness on their name only, then Rebecca has a better claim than Elias. Still, the damage is done, and she will forever be tied to him as a result. So for posterity's sake, and in pursuit of the truth, wherever it may lead, it is required of us to debunk this notion, and offer up the misleadings, or rather, misreadings of the facts.

The idea that Elias was Jewish is not new. The first scholar to put forth this notion was advanced by Mr. Leon Huhner, the long time curator of the American Jewish Historical Society. He wrote an article in 1915 wherein he actually quotes another scholar from his society; Mr. Cyrus Adler, who himself cites the MSS on which Hotten's [2] work is based, naming" Elias LaGardo, 38, arriving in 1621. Mr. LaGardo is probably the first Jew to arrive in the Old Dominion. In 1624 there appear also the names of Joseph Mosse and Rebecca Issacke, but there is no evidence that they were Jews." [3]

The article goes on to list several other people, wherein their religion is identified by their names only it seems. Certainly within the Shephardic traditions this can definitely be the case, with many having surnames ending in a final vowel; and perhaps Adler and Huhner viewed the phonetic spelling of LaGarde written once in the documents as LaGardo, as reason enough to declare him a Jew. One has to understand that the English subject writing down the names he is hearing, can only spell what he hears. Ninety percent of the populace was illiterate. It is easy to imagine a Frenchman declaring his name with a strong emphasis on the final 'De' would sound more like 'Da' and be written 'Do'! This is the only instance of the name being spelled this way.

Looking at the preponderance of evidence, he is more likely to be what he is said to be, a French vigneroon, and nothing more. He was not the first Jew in Virginia. The title should find it's rightful owner, namely Issac Jacob, who was in Northampton County, Virginia in 1664.

This work was cited decades later in the William and Mary Quarterly; then we find Adler's entire essay Jews in the American Plantations with his by line and the Smithsonian Institution, printed in it's entirety in an immigrant passenger list book. [4] Here at long last, we can see the scholarly shortcuts and misreadings that brought forward this single notion. On page 16 of that work, Adler is shown hard at work making lists of Jewish sounding names, some with descriptions as Jewish, and others just a name, all of which are coming from Hotten. On that page the list is titled ' Musters of the Inhabitants of Virginia 1624-25

  • P, 261 Elias LaGardo age 38 in the Abigall 1621
  • P. 280. Ipswich. A note of the names of ... all passengers.. <snip> in the
  • Elizabeth ... the last of April 1634. Joseph Mosse aged 24.
  • P. 281 Rebecca Issacke aged 36 yeeres.

There is the smoking gun. Adler's list looks inadvertently deceptive. In the current age of short attention span scholarship, one glance and it isn't a far cry to suppose Elias LaGarde took the beautiful Rebecca Issacke as his wife. She was the right age and religion, right? Look at Hotten's original work here :

and look at page 261 and page 281 ( Hotten's numbering ) It is clear to see the entire ship's passenger list of the Elizabeth from the port of Ipswich embarked for New England and see Rebecca's name. The entire chapter is devoted to returns for New England as opposed to Virginia. Conclusion: There is no evidence that Rebecca Issacke ever went to Virginia, much less met and married Elias LaGarde.

In the Notes below, we find a newer reference,[5] in which the inference is made that Elias and Rebecca surely must have been in the same place. This has to come from the truncated list that Adler threw together.

The Elizabeth left Ipswitch, Suffolk, England mid April of 1634 with her master, William Andrewes (Andres), arriving in Massachusetts Bay [6]

Rebecca Issacke was 36 years old when she left Ipswich, England and sailed to New England. She never went to Virginia. She never met Elias LaGuarde, and they never married. There is no record yet found showing her arriving in Massachusetts, when the ship landed. Estimates vary among scholars, but all agree these crossings were wrought with danger, and sickness was rampant among the passengers. It is reasonable to assume ten to twenty percent of every ship's passengers died at sea.

That very year a census was held in Masachusetts wherein all inhabitants were counted so that the cattle, which had been held in common up until that point, could be divided equitably amongst the inhabitants. Men, women, and children all were sorted into family groups and written down. There is no Rebecca Issacke. The obvious conclusion is poor Rebecca most likely she died at sea.


  1. "First Facts in American Jewish History From 1492 to the Present", by Tina Levitan. Published by Jason Aronson, Inc., Northdale, New Jersey. Page 10
  2. Hotten's Original Lists of Persons of Quality...Who Went From Great Britain to the American Plantations 1600-1700 MSS London, 1874
  3. 'The Jews of Virginia from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Eighteenth Century
  4. New World Immigrants: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature, Volume 2 1979
  5. First Facts in American Jewish History From 1492 to the Present", by Tina Levitan. Published by Jason Aronson, Inc., Northdale, New Jersey. Page 10


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