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In the 1990s, a German sculptor had an idea to commemorate victims of Nazi persecution. Gunter Demnig, born in 1947, embarked on an ambitious project to install a memorial to each murdered individual outside his or her last known permanent residence.

A brass plaque is mounted on a simple stone block which is then set into the pavement in front of the victim’s house. Inscription details typically comprise the name of the victim, dates of birth and deportation – and location (usually a death camp) and approximate date of death.

The blocks are called ‘stolpersteine’ (literally stumbling blocks) and so far many thousands have been installed in over 30 German cities and in 10 countries. They commemorate Jews, gypsies and others murdered by the regime during the holocaust.

In April this year (2011) Gunter installed 24 stolpersteine in Freudenburg, many of them bearing the name Kahn, probably distant relatives of our branch of the family. I believe Schweich also has a number of such memorials.

Perhaps you already know about this mammoth undertaking. I’ve only recently heard of it courtesy of MD in Amsterdam (to whom I say thank you) although I understand a British school undertook an academic project on the subject a few years ago.

My aim is to find out more. If you have anything to add, please do leave a comment. In the meantime, take a look at www.stolpersteine.com for further information. (AGK)

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We now have a new contact in Amsterdam, a distant relation of ours through the Freudenburg and Schweich branch lines. She is an enthusiastic genealogist and communications have proven to be immensely useful in filling in a few of the gaps in our tree. I hope what we’ve been able to provide in exchange has been equally useful. Thanks to MD of Amsterdam for making contact.

Thanks also to JM of Florida, USA. We found a link to him through Ancestry.co.uk. Included in his family tree was a reference to Moses Marks Samuels who married our Emily and is the starting point for a whole new branch line.

And I mustn’t forget RS in Paris. Thanks for the superb family tree schematic and batch of information which I hope I’ve now correctly incorporated into our mob’s tree.

That’s enough eulogies for now. I’m beginning to sound as tedious as an Oscar winner. (AGK)

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Owing to other commitments (such as trying to overcome winter sadness and ennui), research on the family tree has been a little in abeyance lately. However, thanks to contacts in the UK, Germany, France, USA and (now) Holland, we are slowly expanding our store of knowledge about this wide-spread family of ours.

In common with all amateur genealogists, we face obstinate hurdles. Contradictions and inconsistencies increase with every piece of information. Forenames change; surnames are misspelt or misrepresented in some way. Dates are vague and sometimes surmised. Locations shift awkwardly. Children are omitted or wrongly ascribed to parentage.

Perhaps not unusually, we have several specific difficulties. The French Revolution altered dates and spellings of surnames. Kahn, for example, is spelt Cahn by French registering authorities. Then we have Kahen, Kaan and the infamous Kahnn. Nausen becomes Nathan. Some family members eschew their given names; Alexander Gaston has always been Gaston Victor to us – until recently. And some of our forebears have so many forenames we have no idea whether they’re diminutives, nick-names or good old-fashioned cock-ups.

Entire territories change hands. One minute Luxembourg is Prussian; the next it’s French. Schweich in Germany became French for a while. And we know what happened to European records and archives in modern history, from the middle 1930s to the end of the 40s. Did the politicians and generals of the day have no concept of the problems they’d cause future genealogists?

Despite confusions, we’ve made progress this year. Four paces forwards, two back, means we end the year in credit. In fact, that understates the case. 2010 has been a bumper year for the Moselle River crop of Kahns.

But we still haven’t traced Victor’s siblings. Each piece of evidence so far points to him being an only child, almost the sole incidence of such in the entire Kahn tree. And yet, intuition suggests otherwise.

Perhaps the New Year will bring the breakthrough we seek. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has kept our hunger assuaged with morsels, multiple-pages, articles and entire books of information. We do appreciate your help. May you all prosper in wealth, health and harmony throughout 2011and beyond.

AGK

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We’ve just uploaded a page about two of Victor’s grand children, Bertha Tickler (nee Samuels) and Hilda Henley (nee Samuels) – otherwise known as the music hall act ‘Beatie and Babs.’

Please look under ‘biographies’ for more information.

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Our Kahn line is about movement. Our earliest known origins are in Schweich, where at least three generations were born. For some reason, a grandson of Raphael, Lazarus (or Lazar) Kahn, married in Luxembourg and had a child, Victor.

Victor eventually moved on to Paris, where he married Mathilde Cahen and had two children, Pauline and Arthur. In 1856, the family uprooted and arrived in Liverpool where more children were born.

The family was not alone in their journey. Around that time, thousands of Jews from Germany, Poland and Russia were heading for the Mersey, often via Hull, usually en-route for the USA. Victor settled in Liverpool.

Victor’s motives are unknown.  We can but speculate that perhaps he arrived in Liverpool with the intention of staying, or maybe he was diverted by a job offer. We know he worked as an interpreter. There are strong suggestions that he was an agent for Jewish migrants, helping to smooth their transit through England and on to trans-Atlantic ships.

The one image we have of Victor was taken by a Liverpool-based photographer’s studio. He is posing proudly, but we can’t be certain what uniform he is wearing. One suggestion is that it is maritime, probably the Cunard Steamship Company. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to access Cunard’s records of the day to seek clarification. But as we’ve said elsewhere, Victor seems to have been quite well-known locally, so we hope to be able to uncover references to his life up to his death in 1899.

More information about Victor can be read under ‘biographies.’ If you’ve anything to add, please leave comments, or e-mail us at contactus@kahngene.org.uk if you can fill in gaps or would like more information.

AGK

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Hans-Peter Bungert’s book mentioned in my previous post is proving invaluable. Slowly (very slowly) the information is being extracted and positions on the family tree being defined.

 Because the task is so complex (and my brain so feeble) I’ve set up in Ancestry.com a family tree referring specifically and solely to our newly discovered Schweich/Luxembourg ancestors. So far details are scant but periodically new names and dates are added. If anyone would like to access our on-line tree, please leave a comment or email to: contactus@kahngene.org.uk.

 In the meantime, a fresh contact has been forged in the Trier area and I’m hopeful that soon we’ll have brand new information about Victor’s siblings. That will be the breakthrough we seek in the current phase of our researches. Many questions remain unanswered, but this expanding amorphous jigsaw is slowly taking shape.

 And we have new areas of research. Cryptic clues suggest that we can celebrate having potential relations in the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Israel. Yet other hints bear more sobering overtones, with names bearing annotations such as Riga, Auschwitz, Theresienstadt and Lodz.

 We will keep posting. If you can help, or would like more information, please email.

 AGK

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Marx

From the beginning it seemed that Marx was going to lead a life punctuated by conflict. He was born of Jewish parents in 1818 in the city of Trier, then a part of Prussia. His mother was Dutch and his father Prussian, both from a long line of rabbis. Just before Karl’s birth, however, his father, Heinrich, converted to Christianity and became a baptized member of the Evangelical Established Church. It is thought that this was an attempt to help his professional life as a lawyer at a time when anti-Semitism was on the rise, with the Prussian government banning Jews from high positions in law and medicine.

Young Karl was baptized at the age of six and defended his Christian faith in his early years. But the family’s experience with discrimination was never far from the surface. Combined with Heinrich Marx’s interest in Enlightenment social thinkers such as Voltaire and Kant, this may have led the young Marx to an interest in radical social ideas and his later questioning of religion’s role in human existence.

Trier

 The town of Trier on the Moselle held one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany. In fact, the area between Trier and Colonia Aggripina, as the Romans called Cologne, was settled by Jews in the fourth century, nearly six hundred years before the vast majority of Germans came into northern Europe from Siberia around 1000 C.E.   Jews and some Romans were the first Germans.

Trier is known in French as Treves; both the French and the German name come from the Latin Augusta Treverorum (City of Augustus among the Treveri). It was a Celtic tribal name of uncertain etymology. 

The Jewish surname Trier has many spellings including DREIFUS, DREIFUSS, TREFUS, TREVES.

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Schweich is a small German town on the meandering River Moselle, about 6 miles from Trier. A few weeks ago, I visited and spent a couple of sunny days motor homing in the shadow of lush terraces of grape vines growing on the sides of the steep river valley.

My aim was to visit our homeland and, perhaps, find out more about family origins. The first I achieved easily – the motorway from Luxembourg flies (almost literally) past the door. I failed dismally in the second objective.

On Saturday, the town prepared for an al fresco party; Schweich Week was drawing to a close. Amid the haste and the bustle, I ambled into the synagogue. By pure serendipity, I collided with a local elder. He showed me around and listened to my story. He had patient English, far superior to my wavering German. Then he promised to carry out some private research into the Kahn family tree – and directed me towards the cemetery.

Unfortunately for my researches, I found only the Christian cemetery. Later I drank beer outside a bar at a fork in the road which was, unbeknown to me, no more than a few hundred metres from the entrance to the Jewish burial ground. Believe it or not, I had researched Schweich before I left for Luxembourg, yet somehow I hadn’t discovered the existence of the Jewish cemetery. My own pathetic searches are to blame.

Only after I returned home did I discover that the cemetery not only existed, but was catalogued by one Hans-Peter Bungert. Over ten years ago, he produced a booklet with the explicit title: “Die judische Bevolkerung im Einwohnerbuch Schweich 1669 bis 1880 (bzw 1938) mit Issel (ab 1803) & Haardthof.” I sent for a copy.

Herr Bungert painstakingly researched all officially recorded Jewish deaths in Schweich from 1851 to 1937, producing a chronological list. He then cross-referenced the records against existing gravestones and burial plots in the actual cemetery, where interments were made in strict date order. Thus, he achieved a record of all 88 burial plots.

The names are familiar. Kahn seems to be the most frequent. No fewer than 45 interments have a direct or marital relationship with a Kahn. Isay is another prominent name, as is Israel – both featuring in our family tree in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We have yet to trace the connection between our Raphael (born about 1725) and other Kahns in Schweich. In Herr Bungert’s listings appear another Raphael (born 1727 Freudenburg); Abraham (married Rachel in 1760); Joseph (born 1747 Freudenburg) and various other Kahns possibly part of the family, in addition to those we know already. So the tree can probably be expanded – if only we find the missing link.

With a fair northerly wind, I’ll make another visit to Schweich next year and this time go armed with better advance research and clues as to where to look for answers. And I’m now a card-bearing researcher at the Luxembourg archives – I think. I can’t be sure because my translations leave a lot to be desired. I suspect more answers to the questions about Victor’s immediate kinfolk are hidden within the Duchy’s national archives.

The quest continues. In the meantime, I’ve posted a few images of Schweich – follow the link to norfolkkahns’ Flickr page.

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We’ve think we’ve traced a few earlier generations of our branch of the Dubber clan. Now our earliest ancestor was an antecedent of Amy Dubber, her grandfather to the power of 5 – Andrew Dubber (b.1658). If our maths is correct, the family extends back over a total of twelve generations, more than 350 years.

Through the Dubbers, we have traceable links with Uckfield in Sussex, Dorset, Suffolk, various parts of London and South Africa. Click on the Dubber family tab to learn more.

The search continues.

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A short history of the Dubber family has just been added to the ‘biographies’ tab. As all amateur genealogists will know, trying to confirm information, or verify hearsay, is difficult and immensely frustrating despite the wealth of collective knowledge available on line.

Chinese whispers bounce around the ether. Stories filtering down through generations are often misinterpreted or befuddled, so they are picked up in one form and passed on with variations just significant enough to send the researcher poking around in the wrong places.

The Dubber family genealogy is a case in point. Originally we thought Amy (today she would be a great-great-grandmother to our youngest generation) came from Bodmin. That’s what we were told. Now we’ve discovered she was born in Pimlico, but her brother James married a Bodmin girl. Amy’s youngest sister, Daisy Susan, at age 10, was in Bodmin for the 1901 census, staying with James’s wife Mary Grace. Thus Chinese whispers tried to lead us astray.

Amy’s father, another James, died in Weymouth. Apparently, Amy wanted to leave London for the sake of the health of her elder son, Philip. According to legend, she closed her eyes, stuck a pin into a map of England and discovered Weymouth. Whether she actually followed her father, or vice versa, we don’t know, but they both ended up in the same town, living within a few yards of each other.

Chinese whispers say Amy was there when he died. Yet copy of the certificate reveals his death was registered by his daughter “Mrs A. Allen.” As far as we know, James had two daughters with initials A, one being Amy and the other Alice Rose. Amy was Amy Kahn, wasn’t she? Yet we can’t find a trace of a marriage (or relationship) between Alice and an Allen. So who was Mrs A. Allen?

Perhaps we’re delving too deeply. If we could be satisfied with bare bones, we already have a substantial, if skeletal, family history in the form of dates of main events. But every morsel of data we uncover tends to throw up yet more questions. How can we resist seeking the answers?

Skeletons are fine for anatomical study, but we need flesh and muscle to see the personality beyond the nodes and joints.

That’s why we wonder about Amy – and Alice – and little Daisy Susan. Incidentally, we believe the youngest Dubber sister married Harold James Tarling in 1889, but we can’t be sure.

contactus@kahngene.org.uk if you have any ideas.

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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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