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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.

The Stumbling Stones on the cobbles outside of Gustav Kahn’s House:

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The Jewish Cemetery:

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Gustav Kahn’s House, Freudenburg, Germany: as it is now above (2011); and then (undated but source “Fast vergessene Zeugen”) below:

 

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Time to revisit grandparents: Gaston Victor Kahn and Amy Dubber, an unlikely pairing. Granddad Kahn was born a Jew in 1858 in Liverpool; Grandma Amy Dubber (gentile) was born in 1874 in Pimlico, London. In 1902, roughly when they met, Gaston was 44 and Amy a mere 28. That early Edwardian date is a guess because we still can’t find any record of a marriage between the couple. Perhaps they were living together or possibly they married overseas. In the 1901 census, granddad was living at 1 Kempsford Gardens, London SW5 and Amy lived at 44 Ifield Road, the addresses being about ½ km apart adjacent to Brompton Cemetery. When their first son, Philip, was born in late 1903 at Isleworth, Amy recorded her surname as Brown, formerly Dubber, and the father was shown as Philip Brown. All details are correct except the names so we are confident this is our Amy. But why the phoney name?

 A few years earlier, Gaston’s brother Charles lived under a pseudonym for a while. He and his wife used the name Wigdor for an unknown reason. Name change is unlikely to be genetic, but the coincidence is compelling. Both Charles and his younger brother Gaston appear to have used pseudonyms at around the same time, probably following their migration from Liverpool to London. Incidentally, why did they move from the north-west to the capital? We don’t know.

If pseudonyms run in the family, one reason could be religious: both Granddad Gaston and Great Uncle Charles were Jews and both married non-Jews. But as far as we can trace, our lot were not orthodox or especially conformist to Jewish tradition, so, realistically, fear of family ostracism is an unsatisfactory conclusion to draw. It’s a mystery still.

Eventually Gaston and Amy gave birth to a second son, Gaston Bernard, born in Hammersmith, London on 20 November 1911, 7 months and 11 days after Gaston Victor died in a hospital in Beaumont Street, Marylebone. Within a few years, Amy moved the entire family to Cassiobury Road, Weymouth, where she died in 1960.

confessions

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

We’ve been contacted by Stephen Evans, a theatre music researcher in the process of collecting information on ensembles and group acts during the Music Hall era with a view to developing an online database and perhaps eventually publishing his findings. As part of this, he’s interested in learning more about Beatie & Babs and seeks biological facts, anecdotal gems from both on and off stage, and any material relating to how they delivered their acts and sketches. Photos, notes, diary entries, newspaper cuttings, movie film and personal reminiscences are all of interest.

Our own genealogical researches over the past 30 years have turned-up a modicum of stuff and we’ve given the author access to our records about the duo. But of course much more information remains to be uncovered – we know quite a lot of ‘what happened’ about the family but we’re a bit short on the ‘whys.’

Stephen would welcome your contributions to this project. If you can help, contact him direct at: s.evans16@ntlworld.co.uk or if you prefer send them to us as contactus@kahngene.org.uk and we’ll forward them to Stephen.

Needless to say, we have a vested interest in this. We’ll be sharing the stories about Beatie & Babs so the more Stephen finds out, the more we can fill in some of the many blanks in our family history. Please help if you can.

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