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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)

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).

correction

In my last blog, I stated that we are supposedly 6 steps away from everyone else in the world. Or least we were, according to Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy in his 1929 short story ‘Chains.’ Then, in the 1960s, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram confirmed Karinthy’s idea as a reality in a study of 296 people sending postcards around the world. Thus six degrees of separation became enshrined in the human collective mind.

That’s all changed now. Apparently researchers from the University of Milan have conducted a new study, this time of a rather larger sample of 721 million Facebook users. The result is that today we are 3.74 steps away from everyone else in the world.

How we  should treat the odd .74 is beyond me. But the new study does raise a few other issues. Firstly, it seems a good enough reason not to be a member of Facebook. Secondly, the thought of my father being 3.74 steps away from Hitler is a little distressing. Thirdly, with Italy allegedly in dire financial straits, does it not warm the heart to see that funds can be found for such futile purposes?

Anyway, I take this opportunity to correct my earlier assertion.

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).

Academic genealogy has taken a back seat lately. That’s because we moved home for the second time in as many years. We hadn’t even opened every box from the last relocation before we started packing again. Now we’re ensconced in an old converted Primitive Methodist chapel in rural Lincolnshire, ‘out on the marsh’ as we like to call it. The walls are damp in places, drainage is dubious, heating clamours, hedges are overgrown and the sugar beet campaign has started – beware mud on road. But from all windows we have views over fields; Gedney Church is just visible on the southern edge and Boston Stump is just invisible to the north-west. To the north and east the sea wall forms a pencil-straight horizon worthy of any draughtsman.

So far within our extended curtilage we’ve enjoyed the antics of a covey of about 50 French partridge, a flock of some fifteen tree sparrows, a thieving magpie, several pheasants, lots of tits and finches, a lone muntjac and Lenny. We’ve exchanged the close social accessibility of village life for the bucolic isolation of the countryside. Here we’d like to stay for a while; my next change of address will include the words ‘late of…’.

Within a few days of moving in, with unopened boxes piled in various rooms and the air still redolent of perspiring removal men, cousin David and his wife Anne arrived. They were just finishing a whistle-stop tour of Great Britain as part of their vacation from Canada. We tried to recall when we last met and came to the conclusion it was in 1959 when my sister Maxine married. Half a century ago! After such an interval, perhaps it’s not surprising that I had to keep reminding myself that I was not chatting to Uncle Phil but to his son. Thus can be implied several definitions of ‘distant relations.’

We had a grand if brief time. Now we’re all settling back into the mellowness of autumn with inevitable long nights becoming longer. This is the time for renewed research into the family’s history. After an instant of stirring excitement over a potential USA far-cousin, we were disappointed to find the link was an inadvertent red herring dropped by a misinterpreted coincidence of name and dates. But the search continues with no waning of enthusiasm.

All new developments will be reported here. (AK)

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).

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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