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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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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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