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.

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.

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.

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

kahn by name

I now (believe I) have a clearer understanding of the derivation of the Kahn name.

The Cohens were an ancient Jewish tribe of priests, believed to be descendants of Aaron and entrusted by God with certain sacred rites within temples. Other tribes were, for example, Levy and Israel. Membership of the tribe came through the male line only, contrary to Jewishness which is passed down through the maternal line.

Hebrew has no vowels in the alphabet. Instead, vowels are indicated by accents or dots or small lines below the letter. Thus Cohen is written in Hebrew: kaf-hei-nun (although written right to left) translating to c-h-n.

To allow names to be written and understood in a non-Hebrew language, vowels replace the dashes, giving us Kahn, Kuhn or Kohn, as well as Cahen and Kahan. In fact, they are all variations of the same root name – Cohen.

In theory, all Kahns are descendants of the Kohanim, the priests. The Jewish priest is not to be confused with a rabbi. They complement each other. A rabbi is not required to be a kohein and a kohein can be a rabbi. The two religious roles perform different ritualistic functions within the Jewish faith.

Kohein graves often bear the symbols of the ‘blessing hands.’

This insight was courtesy of GB of cemeteryscribes.com. If you haven’t already, please take a look at this excellent website: www.cemeteryscribes.com

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.

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


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