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During an impromptu online search of Google Books, I came across several incidental references to our distant cousins. Unfortunately, full texts are not quoted, so the snippets are enticing but are also infuriatingly incomplete. I suspect the actual printed sources are not available these days except in specialist hands.

However, here are some of the enigmatic comments retrieved:

“He loved music halls and would give imitations of the turns that he saw there. He called himself and Kot ‘Beattie (sic) and Babs’ after two famous music hall sisters who did a comic turn together…”
Mark Gertler: Biography of a Painter 1891 – 1939. p.166 (1972)

“He was a Viennese, and of course knew all the Strauss music well, but in any case the number was not properly rehearsed… I recalled having seen that delightful couple Beattie & Babs giving a music-hall turn in which Babs impersonated a…”
The Maid of the Mountains – Jose Collins, her story (1932)

“… in an endeavour to present an aspect of music hall in its palmiest days… who specialised in patriotism; Beattie & Babs, two youngsters who were immensely popular…”
The Memories Linger On: the story of the music hall. W. J. MacQueen-Pope. P. 365 (1950)

“There is nobody, because the spirit of the music-hall is changing, and women, who are more adaptable than men, are… even Beattie and Babs, though Babs does what she can with stockings that nothing will ever keep up, never seem to…”
A London Mosaic, W. L. George. P 27 (1921)

The spelling of Beatie as Beattie is a common error and stands as a reminder that perhaps when undertaking research we should also consider alternative spellings of names. However, yet again, these types of morsels serve to raise more questions than answers, especially that last quote. By the way, the spelling ‘Beattie’ is unfortunate because “Beattie & Babs” is an example of cockney rhyming slang at its most unsavoury. And as far as we know the duo never even set foot in Cromer; think about it.

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liverpool scan

Victor and his family arrived in Liverpool and, for some reason, stayed. The map shows approximate locations of the family during the last few decades of the 19th century. Double-clicking on the image should enlarge it.

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A new page has been established for a research paper published by Professor Aubrey Newman.
To read the paper, please click the “Jewish Migration” tab and follow the link.

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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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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.

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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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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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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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not forgotten

As evinced by the lack of activity on this blog, research has temporarily hit the buffers. A few new snippets of information about Beatie & Babs were uncovered thanks to the Newspaper Archives website: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk but other ancestors remain obstinately elusive.

After our initial euphoria over Victor’s siblings, we’ve made no further progress to identify what happened to them – or where their descendants are now.

This post, therefore, adds nothing new. It serves only as a sort of musical interlude while the main programme is wound onto new reels ready for us to focus on the big picture again. A poor metaphor, true, but in its utilitarian and perfunctory way must suffice for now. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Please don’t go away.

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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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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.

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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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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)

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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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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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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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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

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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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