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Amateur genealogists in our family have an aggregate of about 100 years’ worth of research into the Kahn line. In that time, we’ve had to attempt to unravel various mysteries, many of which remain unresolved. Perhaps we’ll never have the answers to some of them.

Throughout our researches, a repeated theme is name change. In itself this is not necessarily unusual, because Jews tended to adopt surnames which were more indigenous to the areas in which they eventually settled, thus hoping to speed integration.

But our branch of the tribe retained the surname, except for one generation. Victor Kahn signed his name with a double n. At first we thought the signature was a mere slip of the pen, but the name Kahnn occurs too often for it not to be deliberate.

Victor’s forebears all used the more common spelling of Kahn, as did his children and subsequent generations. Yet for some reason, Victor wanted to be different. Oddly, when research started to uncover traces of Victor in newspapers and registers, his name was invariably reported with the traditional spelling of a single n. So where did Kahnn come from?

Perhaps the issue is one of those unintentional red-herrings all amateur family sleuths must deal with. We are now confident that our Kahn product is as it declares on the packet – Kahn.

So what about his son, Gaston Victor? For years we’d never doubted his name. That is, until his birth certificate came through and we found that Victor and Mathilde (or is it Madeline?) had registered the baby in the name of Alexander Gaston.

And Gaston’s brother is even more enigmatic. Charles Kahn had the unusual middle name of Jasmine. We can find no family affinity to such a forename, yet Jasmine is clearly scribed on his birth certificate and is even carved on his gravestone in a London cemetery. But that’s just unexpected; it’s not the true mystery. That follows.

For years Charles’s marriage eluded us. We knew he had children; we knew the name of his wife. Yet we could find no trace of a marriage. Then, serendipity intervened. A friend made a chance encounter with the record for a Charles Wigdor. Subsequent research revealed that Mr Wigdor had to be our Charles – he married Charles’s wife, for example, and had his son. We’re now (almost) confident that Charles moved from West London to Mile End in the east, married Blanche under an assumed name and travelled west again a little later where the couple lived a long and fruitful life as Mr & Mrs Charles Kahn.

Why? Is this an example of expediency to overcome religious bigotry? Or did other influences put pressure on the pair to disguise the truth?

Charles had a son, Leslie. A few years later he emerged in records as Rein-Kahn, having changed his name for, we assume, business reasons through links with F. C. Rein, a pioneer in the development of hearing aids.

Incidentally, we can find no record of Gaston Victor’s wedding to Amy. Their time together was short because he died in 1911, probably little more than eight or nine years after they met for the first time. Could they have followed in the footsteps of Gaston’s brother and married under an assumed name? Perhaps they never married, of course, in which case why?

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Until recently, Victor was our earliest known ancestor. For many years, we knew he was born in “Luxemberg, Germany” but were unable to find any trace of him in what is now Luxembourg. Today, thanks to an unexpected brief e-mail from a contact there, we’ve found him.

 Victor Kahn was born in Luxembourg-Town on 17th July 1827. His parents were Lazar(d) Kahn and Jeanette Isaac Kahn (née Lazard). Lazar was born in Schweich (now Germany) in 1791 and Jeanette in Haute-Yutz, France, in 1794

 Nothing is known of Victor’s early years. The next record we have is his c.1851 marriage in Paris to Madeline (sometimes Mathilde) Cahen, born in Paris in 1833. They had two children, Pauline (1852) and Arthur (1854) before moving to Liverpool, England, where they had another five children, Charles Jasmine (1856), Gaston Victor (1858), Lucea (or Lucy – 1861), Elmelia (or Emily – 1863) and Phillip (born 1866 but died seven years later).

 Victor, his wife and his parents were all Jewish. We don’t know how involved he was with his religion; most known information relates to his secular activities. He was, for example, an interpreter for Cunard Steamship Company, we believe aiding the passage of Jewish migrants from Europe to the USA. He’s recorded in the Mersey area as being ‘a well known character’ to the extent that Reynold’s Amusements in Lime Street (Liverpool) displayed a wax work effigy of him. His wife died in 1883 and Victor moved to Liscard to live with his daughter, Lucy. He died in 1899 (age 72) and is buried alongside his wife and daughter Pauline in the old (and now sadly neglected) Jewish cemetery in Green Lane, Liverpool.

 We have more anecdotes about Victor and his family. They’ll slowly be added to sundry pages of this blog. New stories and snippets of his life will be very welcome.

 Having made the break-through to discover our German and Luxembourg origins, our next aim is to trace Victor’s siblings. We doubt he was an only child. Part of the story suggests we could have relations in the USA. Are they descendants of brothers and sisters of Victor? We’d like to know.

 If you have any thoughts, please contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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