What's with the name?

Many people have asked me about my unusual surname (to be fair, many more have not!). Until recently, all I knew was that it was of Jewish origin, which was intriguing in itself because my family are not Jewish. At the beginning of 1997, fate took a hand when a friend of Miles Saltiel spotted my father in an article in the Mail on Sunday. Miles is a distant cousin - about 10 times removed!

I now know that the name is one of many variants of the Hebrew name Shealtiel, generally translated as 'Asked of God' or more eloquently 'I asked El for this child'. The family first came to prominence in Barcelona in the 10th century, were forced to flee to Salonika in 1491 and eventually settled in the cities of London, Hamburg and Amsterdam in the late 18th century. We comprise Jews, Muslims, Christians and others of no religion. Until two years ago, I had never met anyone else with my surname outside my immediate family; I now know of many kinsmen in the UK and around the world.

The name appears in the Bible many times, most notably in the genealogies of Jesus at the start of Matthew's gospel '...After the exile to Babylon, Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel...' and there is a debate amongst some historians as to whether the family is of the line of King David. It's not impossible but personally I doubt it. On the other hand, the family crest includes the Lion of Judah so you never know...