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Opticians appear to run in the family. A surprisingly high number of our ancestors took up the calling, too many to be coincidental.

Charles Jasmine Kahn (a great uncle) had a practice at 108 The Strand in London, although at some stage he jumped the boundaries and became a hearing expert, having purchased the business of F. C. Rein, one of the world’s first inventors and producers of hearing aids. His son, Leslie Victor, also became a hearing specialist and at some stage changed his name to Leslie Kahn-Rein, presumably for business reasons.

Grandfather Gaston Victor (Charles’ brother) became an optician sometime before the turn of the century. He joined the 2132 Egerton Masonic Lodge in Cheshire in 1898, describing his occupation as “oculist” and in 1904 he became a member of 1668 Samson Lodge in London, showing his address as Oxford Street and his occupation as “optitian.” I hope he was better at eye tests than spelling. In 1910, a year before his death, he appears in a London Trade directory as “Vickers & Kahn,” oculists, opticians and spectacle makers, still trading from 57 Oxford Street, London.

His brother, Arthur, was an optician by 1893 and he appears to have had a business at 19 Ludgate Hill, London. We know that by 1924 Arthur was a licentiate of the Chicago Opthalmic Hospital, USA, and had an interest in, or owned, the National Silex Optical Company.

Arthur’s son, Victor Leon, became an optician in 1926, trading in London, Penzance and Bromley. By 1967 he was registered as operating from 34 Greenwich High Road, London. Eric Saloman Kahn (Victor Leon’s brother) is also believed to have been an optician, as is another sibling, Cyril Maurice Kahn, who became a member of the College of Optometrists in March 1930. He traded from premises in Bromley, Twickenham and possibly Brighton.

One more optician was Moses Marks Samuels, the husband of Elmelia, a great aunt (Gaston Victor’s sister). In 1901, he was recorded in the census as an “optician shopkeeper” in Kinmel Street, Rhyl, north Wales.

I can’t help wondering why with all these eye specialists in the family I’m as blind as a mole if I remove my glasses. And as a final personal note, what annoys me is that I worked in Greenwich High Road from 1963 to 1965 and never knew that a close relation had a shop not far away. Perhaps I’d at least have earned a family discount.But then maybe not.

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Because of being involved with other things, this website has not been kept up to date in the past year or so. I hope you’ve found the site useful in some small way in spite of our neglect.  We’re pleased that researchers have left comments and hope that between you some answers have been found. Please continue to write and if we can help in any way, we’ll do our best. In the meantime, we’re picking up the reins again and hope to be able to solve some of the mysteries surrounding our branch of the Kahn family.

By the way, when I write ‘we’ it is the ‘royal we.’ Responsibility for the website being ignored rests with me solely. I shall make amends, when I know how.

Alan Kahn

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Thanks to PR of the Wirral and AL of Liverpool, we’ve now received new images of Tuebrook’s neglected Jewish cemetery. If you’re interested, please follow the link under BLOGROLL to the norfolkkahns gallery FLICKR page.

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Eureka! That’s probably the wrong word to use, but we’ve done it! Thanks to Stefan Roos of Trier in Germany, we’ve achieved a major breakthrough in our researches. Victor’s missing siblings have been traced.

Now we know that Victor’s parents Lazarus and Jeanette had six children: Raphael Louis (1818) and his twin sister who was stillborn; Salomon (1822); Joseph (1824); Victor (1827) and another stillborn daughter (1829) - all born in Luxembourg. Perhaps these siblings were not discovered during our researches at the Grand Duchy’s National Archives because Lazarus was registered in Luxembourg as Cahen, the French spelling of Kahn. I can feel another visit to Luxembourg coming on.

As a result of the email from Stefan, we also know that Lazarus and his wife (Jeanette Isaac Lazard) were first cousins, Jeanette being the daughter of Lazarus’s mother’s brother. This was an unsuspected link.

Furthermore, we now know that Lazarus died in Luxembourg in 1873. Perhaps we missed the record of his death because it was recorded under the name of Cahen while we were concentrating on Kahns. In fact, Lazarus appears to have used both spellings of his name, as evinced in the on-line listings of recipients of St Helena medals, the Napoleonic (and hence French) campaign award for those fighting as part of the Grand Armee. (www.stehelene.org/php/accueil.php?page=4&lang=en).

And yet more information: Stefan introduced us to an entirely new family: that of Elisabeth Alexander. She married Ralph Louis Kahn (Victor’s brother) in 1859 in Saarlouis. They had three surviving children: George (1861), Paul (1863) and Henriette (1864), all registered under the name of Cahen and born in Luxembourg. Elisabeth’s father was Lazard Alexander and her mother was born Fleurette Aron.

Finally, here is that elusive Welschbillig connection: Lazarus’s brother Levy and sister Johanetta both settled there with their respective families. So our last year’s speculative trip to that pleasant part of rural Germany was relevant after all.

When time permits, we’ll add this new data to the biographies section. In the meantime, we are very grateful to Stefan for this invaluable information. Of course, the search continues and we’d be delighted to hear from any descendants of Victor’s brothers, no matter how distant.

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Genealogical research doesn’t have to be purely about members of our specific family tree. Fascinating perspectives can occasionally be uncovered through researches into dimly related subjects. For example, DK has looked into the history of a Liverpool photographer named Vandyke, the one for whom our Victor posed so proudly in his ‘Cunard’ uniform.

Like Victor, Aaron Vandyke was a German Jew, being born about 1843 in the Hanover district. Perhaps around the same time as Victor, Aaron arrived in Liverpool and in 1867 established a photography studio in partnership with a Richard Brown. The business seemed successful, although the partnership was dissolved 10 years later and each partner set up his own studio in the city.

Vandyke traded from Bold Street and his business expanded until 1892 when Aaron died at the age of 49. The studio continued under the name of Vandyke until at least 1902, probably operated by Aaron’s son Sidney before the allure of migration to the USA became irresistible.

What this tells us is that the photograph of Victor Kahn was certainly taken between 1877 and 1899 (when Victor died). The image we possess clearly blazons the studio as Vandyke and for the first ten years the business was known as Vandyke & Brown. Using the expertise of Ron at the cartedevisite website, we narrowed the dating of Victor’s pose to sometime after 1880. If we possessed the original card-mounted photograph, we could undoubtedly have defined a much narrower spread of dates, perhaps even pinpointing the precise year.

However, Ron didn’t give up at that point. He consulted a contact, a fashion historian. She ventured that judging by the neat trim of the beard, the photograph could well have been taken in the late 1880s or even 1890. How much can be gleaned from a modest image!

This is hardly a major breakthrough in our research, but we welcome every mote of information to help us eliminate supposition or guesswork and instead focus on hard facts supported by evidence. A few tiny pieces combined can add up to a significant event. Every brush stroke enhances the painting.

If you’d like to know more about Aaron Vandyke, or other contemporary photographers, or have a Victorian image you’d like to be able to date accurately, take a look at Ron’s excellent website: www.cartedevisite.co.uk. And if you have anything to add, please leave a comment or contactus@kahngene.org.uk. (AK)

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Mony a sair darg we twa hae wrought,

An wi’ the weary warl’ fought!

An mony an anxious day I thought

We would be beat!

Yet here to crazy age we’re brought,

Wi something yet.

(Robert Burns)

A day late maybe and not strictly relevant to the Kahn family, but I like this verse from Burns’ poem and in a small way it is appropriate. We haven’t been beaten and we’ve ended up the year ‘wi’ something yet,’ details of which have been reported in previous posts so do not bear being repeated here.

Annoyingly, Victor’s siblings are still hiding, but the more I think about the circumstances, the more I’m convinced he was not an only child. So what happened to his brothers and sisters? That’s the question to answer in 2012; that will be the focus of my genealogical year.

Thanks to all those who have helped us during 2011 and we wish you a very contented, healthy and prosperous 2012. (AK).

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Here’s a question most amateur genealogists must ask themselves at some stage in their researches. How far do we go sideways with the family tree before we decide the relationship is just too distant to be meaningful?

It is not an irrelevent question for the Kahn line. A lot of time has been spent in the last couple of years identifying tenuous and far-flung links. We now have a very good idea of our German connections and the verdure of the tree in that area is fairly dense and bushy. Much more information is indisputably available if we continue the sideways move. But…

… take the case of Moses Marks Samuels, as an example. He’s on our ancestry.com chart and recently we noticed a waving fig leaf against his name, suggesting another had included the man in his family tree. On investigation, we found that the researcher’s wife was the granddaughter of the grandson of the brother of Moses Marks, the husband of the daughter of our Victor, the great-grandfather of me. Thus, a valid direct line can be drawn between a Philadelphian researcher and all of us Kahns.

A great thinker once posited that we are all just six steps away from everyone else in the world. If that’s right, I’d better upgrade my ancestry.com subscription to premium level. But how relevant is it for me to research the family tree of (for instance) the wife of the man in Philly? Countless new avenues would be opened and the nexus would become more and more complex, each additional entry opening several other avenues to be explored. It’s exponential and almost infinite. In theory, if time and space are indeed curved and limited only by infinity, we could travel down this road forever and end up back where we started, but we still wouldn’t have any idea what happened to Victor’s siblings.

So I’m resisting the temptation to keep adding distant names to the tree. On the other hand, the Philly man’s wife is a genuine relative… so…

… where do we stop? Or do we keep going until our subscriptions (and mortal tenancies) expire?

By the way, we’d love to hear from Amanda again. Please email us: contactme@kahngene.org.uk (AK).

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Three of our Kahns are buried in the Green Lane Jewish Cemetery in Tuebrook, Liverpool. Perhaps it’s four, but the gravestone for Philipp has not been found. As mentioned in an earlier posting, the cemetery has not been used for over half a century, is sadly neglected and has fallen into decay – it’s overgrown, vandalised and damaged almost beyond repair.

But perhaps all is not lost. The cemeteryscribes website has taken an interest in the place. They’ve posted a listing of all identified plots, giving names where known and appealing for subscribers to come forward with more information about those interred at Green Lane. This is good news for descendants and genealogists.

The link is: http://synagoguescribes.com/blog/2011/08/green-lane-cemetery-liverpool/

Nobody is suggesting that the cemetery will be refurbished. All local effort is going into the Deane Road project and presumably little is available for an undistinguished cemetery such as Green Lane. And I’m in two minds anyway – part of me says leave the dead alone; they’ve earned their rest and the living have enough on their plates without raising yet more monuments in need of upkeep.

Another part of me would like to see Green Lane Cemetery rejuvenated. But I think that’s just me being selfish and wanting somewhere to go once in a lifetime. Perhaps a more fitting tribute to our forebears would be to allow Nature to reclaim her dominion after the behaviour of man has induced us all to mourn so much. I still believe Nature does things much better than man ever has.

Please take a look at the website above, especially if your forebears became adoptive (or were born) Scousers. And as a final appeal, does anyone have a photograph of Green Lane Cemetery, old or modern? We, and cemeteryscribes, would like to have one. contactus@kahngene.org.uk or leave a comment. Thank you – and please note that the above views are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, living or dead. (AK).

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Jewish migration from the European mainland reached a peak during the last quarter of the 19th century. Desperate to escape religious persecution, prejudice and poverty, many thousands of Jews left their countries of birth to seek a better future overseas.

They travelled from all over Europe – Russia, Germany, France and many central Continental nations. Most had in their sights the USA where they expected to find (and found) a welcome in a more enlightened culture of tolerance and acceptance. Other favoured destinations included Canada, South Africa and South America.

The most popular routes brought the migrants across Europe to seaports on the north-western fringes of the continent. Hamburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam and various Baltic ports were often staging posts from where ships were taken to England, usually the Hull area or London.

After landing on the eastern coast of the UK, they travelled overland to Liverpool, the main port of embarkation for migrants going on to the Americas. A few of them were relatively well-off; many had enough to pay their way. Most travelled with poverty as a constant companion. But help was on hand for the poor, primarily through local Jewish communities.

One form of assistance came for the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter in London, where migrants were provided with accommodation for up to two weeks while they found their feet after the crude and exhausting journeys from their original homelands. More help came from agents employed by transatlantic shipping companies. Their role was to make arrangements for transfers to the port of embarkation and the booking of eventual sea passages. These agents were multi-lingual and usually migrant Jews themselves; they therefore had an understanding of the needs and feelings of their charges.

Great-grandfather Victor Kahn was an early arrival. He settled with his family in Liverpool about 1856, having been born in Luxembourg and living for a while in Paris. He became a mercantile agent and an interpreter, working for the Cunard Steamship Company. The scant evidence that’s available points to Victor being one of the agents facilitating the movement of Jews across the landbridge from the east coast UK to Liverpool. But really that’s no more than conjecture based on census reports, birth certificates and the occasional snippet of contemporary news.

We’d like to know what persuaded Victor to adopt England as the family’s new country and Liverpool as his city of residence. Did he travel to the Mersey port intending to stay and work there, or did he simply seize an opportunity while en-route to the USA? Answers please on an electronic postcard to: contactus@kahngene. org. uk.

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From now on, we’ll see our distant cousins in a completely different light.

These two tanks were named after the music hall duo, presumably as part of boosting morale during the first world war. We’ve found several reports alluding to Beatie & Babs putting on entertainment for the troops across the UK between 1914 and 1918. If anyone knows of reports or anecdotes about them, we’d love to hear: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

Thanks to Roy & Vera Pritchard for contributing the photograph.

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We know very little about Pauline Kahn. She died in 1886 at only 32. Her biography page details what we do know and we’d now like to progress the enquiry with a little more vigour.

To help, we need to trace a different line: the Straus family in the USA.

According to the USA census report of 1880 for Manhattan, New York (district unknown) the family Straus comprised father born in Bavaria, mother born in France and two young children. On the same entry, living with the family, is a Pauline Kahn, described as single, born 1854 in France and having a French mother. Unfortunately, we have no more data.

This could be our Pauline, Victor’s daughter. She appears in the UK census of 1861 as a child, is missing from the 1871 UK census and reappears again in April 1881 age 27. One explanation for the gap is that she could have been abroad in April 1871 when the census took place. For some reason, UK census reports deliberately omit family members not at home on the relevant date, although they are perhaps away for only a couple of nights. Thus, our Pauline perhaps slipped the net.

Was she visiting in the USA when the census of 1880 was taken?

Who are the Straus family?  Could Mother Straus be a relative of Pauline’s own maman Mathilde (or as she often appears Madeline) Cahen?

This Pauline could well be an entirely different Kahn, but we’d at least like to be able to eliminate her from our enquiries. If anyone can help, we’d be eternally grateful and will happily reciprocate with information about own tribe. Does anyone have access to the full census report for this family?

Please email: contactus@kahngene.org.uk. Thank you.

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Philip Brown Kahn’s page has been added to the ‘biographies’ tab. Please take a look. Comments are invited. If you have anything to add, please e-mail: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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We’ve just uploaded a new page with a short history of G B Kahn.

Please take a look by clicking on the ‘biographies’ tab. All (no – most) comments welcome.

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We have posted a page for Emily Victor Kahn under biographies. Please take a look.

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We’ve just uploaded a page on Charles Kahn’s first surviving son. Please click on the page under the ‘biographies’ tab.

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At least three generations of Kahns embraced freemasonry.

As far as we’ve discovered so far, Victor Kahn was the first to join. He became a member of St. John’s Lodge No. 461 (Liverpool) in 1862. On the Grand Lodge certificate he signed his name as Kahnn and described himself as an interpreter, born in ‘Luxemberg, Germany.’ According to our researches, he remained a member until only 1868 when he apparently resigned.

Victor’s three surviving sons all followed in father’s initial footsteps.

Charles Jasmine Kahn was initiated into Willing Lodge No. 2893 (London) on 1st May 1902. He was passed on 17th July 1902 and raised on 11th September 1902. Then he gave his age as 44 and described himself as an optician residing at 108 The Strand, London. In 1911 he became Master of the lodge and he resigned freemasonry in 1924, a year before his death.

Arthur Kahn was initiated into Samson Lodge No. 1668 (London) on 11th February 1896, passed on 12th March and raised 12th May of the same year. Then his address address was given as 19 Ludgate Hill, London EC and his employment as optician. On 24th November 1902, Arthur joined also the Joppa Chapter No. 188 (London) and was ‘First Principal’ in 1907, 1908, 1913 and 1915, then ‘Scribe E’ from 1919 until his death in 1925. He was also awarded the LGCR, but we don’t know when or what it is. Perhaps some kind Freemason will enlighten us?

Gaston Victor Kahn joined the Egerton Lodge (Egremont, Liverpool) in 1898. Then he was describing himself as an oculist living in New Brighton, Lancashire. He resigned this lodge in September 1901, presumably when he moved to London. Like his brother Arthur, Gaston joined the Joppa Chapter  No. 188 on 24th November 1902 and in 1904 he joined the Samson Lodge 1668 (London) in 1904. Then his address was shown as 57 Oxford Street, London and his occupation as optician. We believe he remained a mason until he died in 1911.

The third generation freemason is represented by Leslie Kahn-Rein, the son of Charles. Leslie changed his name at some stage, we believe for business reasons (more about this in another blog). He joined his father’s lodge, Willing No. 2893 (London) on 6th November 1919. At the time he described himself as an artist with an address in Barnes and his age was given as 23. As far as we’ve discovered, he held no formal offices and resigned from freemasonry on 3rd April 1951, five years before he died.

This gives us the skeleton; we’d like to add some flesh. If you can help with any information at all we’d love to hear from you, so please: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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For many years I’ve wandered through far-flung cemeteries looking for the name Kahn on gravestones. The Kahn name never appeared, partly because I was usually in Christian cemeteries and we have an undeniably Jewish name. That’s not to say all Kahns are Jewish; these days many are not, but in the 18th and 19th century, most Kahns would have been of the Jewish race and the Jewish religion. Hence, the majority of our forebears will be found only in Jewish cemeteries.

Freudenburg and Schweich Jewish cemeteries were enlightening. There our name is abundant in death. These little green plots on river valley hillsides are crammed full of Kahns, most of them distantly related to the founders of this blog.

At Schweich, the cemetery has survived since 1850 in a small tree-fringed hollow in gently sloping grassy banks at the end of a tiny and modern residential cul-de-sac: Im Gartenfeld. Almost entirely surrounded by well-groomed gardens, this small Jewish enclave is in the midst of Germanic horticulture.  Cherry trees, no doubt escapers from adjacent gardens, drop fruit on old graves and young silver birches lean in as if to observe in respect and quietude.

The cemetery is obviously tended. Graves have been repaired where possible; grass is mown short and somebody (probably a member of the local synagogue) keeps paths free of weeds. Browsing along the ranks of headstones is easy once through the gate (or over in my case because the entrance was locked). Kahn; Kahn; another Kahn; more Kahns. Some of the headstones are missing; many have been rendered indecipherable by weather and time. Here are three terraces of distant branch-line ancestors represented by the art of the stonemason.

Freudenburg Jewish cemetery is up a steep little slope on the outskirts of a picturesque and tranquil village. The gates were already swung open into a tapering sward of green meadow to reveal long lines of gravestones on the brow of a gentle hill. This is a more natural, maybe wilder, cemetery, but certainly not neglected. The headstones are perhaps in generally better condition than at Schweich. I walked along the ranks, taking photographs of silent Kahns. We’re related to a lot of them. I have a suspicion that our line actually started in Freudenburg and then moved to Schweich, but I have no proof. Something tells me we’ll never know.

Only distant relatives are here in Schweich and Freudenburg. Graves of the grandfathers of our grandfathers are missing. They’d died or moved on before these cemeteries were opened, but most of these Kahns I found are related to us in one way or another and feature in our continually expanding family tree.

Photographs of some of the graves will appear on www.cemeteryscribes.co.uk, a website recording residents of Jewish cemeteries in the UK and abroad.

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A brief history of Arthur Kahn and family has been posted under the heading of ‘biographies.’ Please click on the biographies tab to view the page. As ever, if you have anything to add: contactus@kahngene.org.uk or leave a friendly comment.

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A page with a brief history of Charles Kahn (Jasmine really was his second given name) is posted under the ‘biographies’ heading. If you have any more information about this branch of the family, please leave a comment or e-mail us: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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We’ve just added the following pages:

  • Pauline Kahn, Victor’s oldest daughter – see under biographies
  • the Matthews Family of the Wirral (Lucy Kahn) – see under biographies
  • Green Lane Jewish Cemetery, Liverpool – see under miscellany

ALL comments are invited and welcome: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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