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Posts Tagged ‘victor kahn’

One family legend maintains that the three brothers (sons of Victor Kahn) were involved in a transatlantic gold rush, hoping to make their fortunes. If true, they must have shipped out from Liverpool to the 1896/8 Klondike in Canada, because the former more famous Californian rush took place in middle 19th century, much too early for them.

The story tells of two brothers (Arthur and Gaston Victor) travelling across the Atlantic, leaving Charles at home to hold the family fort and to act as cashier. Money was sent back to Liverpool for safekeeping, but when the two pioneering brothers returned, coffers were empty (allegedly), causing a schism in the family.

After all our researches, little is really known about the brothers’ lives. Bare bones need fleshing out with motivations and aspirations; too many questions remain. So is the story mere speculative hearsay or can we find supporting evidence?

Charles was undoubtedly the wealthiest of the brothers, but perhaps he was also the most entrepreneurial. The Kahns is not the most close-knit of extended families, but even today traces of links between Arthur’s and Gaston’s families seem firmer than with Charles’s. Perhaps this hints that division was real.

We know from passenger lists that all brothers made trips across the Atlantic during the relevant time, but solely to the USA. According to Wiki, the majority of British prospectors favoured landing in Canada for patriotic reasons and to avoid USA border controls, so would Arthur and Gaston have chosen a USA port as the first leg of what must have been an arduous journey across the continent to the Pacific coast and Yukon Territory?

Arthur was a licentiate of the Chicago Ophthalmic College which suggests he qualified as an optician in the USA, so would he have been able to split his time between his studies and panning for gold in a distant remote part of the frozen north? Doubtful, I’d suggest. They were all opticians, which hardly ties in with mining, but then gold rushes attracted hopefuls from all walks of life and occupations.

All three brothers married relatively late in life, suggesting they had other early ambitions (or activities) – and their ages:  Gaston for example would have been about 40 when gold fever set in. So for one reason or another they focussed on matters other than marriage.

Perhaps that clarity of vision was prospecting for gold. But then maybe those rich seams of glittery stuff were more allegories for a golden future to be found in ophthalmics. Probably we’ll never know.

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liverpool museum

During the late 1800s, Liverpool Museum issued a catalogue of exhibits listed against names of donors. The penultimate entry is for a sword and a large Norwegian copper coin, both donated by our Victor Kahnn. This is interesting from several perspectives. Firstly, the spelling of Victor’s surname – he used the double n on several occasions but we have no idea why and as far as I can see, his children maintained the single n spelling. Secondly, presumably Victor himself found the items so at some stage must have visited Gibraltar. Thirdly, perhaps we can surmise that Victor was not transient when he decided to give the finds to Liverpool Museum and was settled in the city. Fourthly, all the other exhibits on this page (the listing appears to be in alphabetical order) are all natural history related; Victor’s contribution is the only cultural gift.

Unfortunately I have no reference for the above image so lack a date for the catalogue’s publication. Perhaps somebody out there could provide more information?

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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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We should now turn attention to the brothers of our great grandfather, Victor Kahn.

Victor’s father Lazarus (or Lazar) married his (Lazar’s) first cousin Jeanette Isaac Lazard and they had six children, all born in Luxembourg and apparently registered under the name of Cahen, the French variation of the name Kahn.

Raphael Louis Cahen was born in 1818 – he had a twin sister but she didn’t survive.
Salomon Cahen was born in 1822.
Joseph Cahen was born in 1824.
Victor Cahen (Kahn) was born in 1827.
Another sister born in 1829 was stillborn.

Our understanding is that Raphael Louis Cahen married Elisabeth Alexander in 1859 in Saarlouis. They had three surviving children, George (1861), Paul (1863) and Henriette (1864), all registered in the name of Cahen and born in Luxembourg. Elisabeth’s parents were Lazard Alexander and Fleurette Aron.

If any of these names chime with you, please email: contactus@kahngene.org.uk. We’d like to know what happened to Victor’s brothers.

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Eureka! That’s probably the wrong word to use, but we’ve done it! Thanks to Stefan Roos of Trier in Germany, we’ve achieved a major breakthrough in our researches. Victor’s missing siblings have been traced.

Now we know that Victor’s parents Lazarus and Jeanette had six children: Raphael Louis (1818) and his twin sister who was stillborn; Salomon (1822); Joseph (1824); Victor (1827) and another stillborn daughter (1829) – all born in Luxembourg. Perhaps these siblings were not discovered during our researches at the Grand Duchy’s National Archives because Lazarus was registered in Luxembourg as Cahen, the French spelling of Kahn. I can feel another visit to Luxembourg coming on.

As a result of the email from Stefan, we also know that Lazarus and his wife (Jeanette Isaac Lazard) were first cousins, Jeanette being the daughter of Lazarus’s mother’s brother. This was an unsuspected link.

Furthermore, we now know that Lazarus died in Luxembourg in 1873. Perhaps we missed the record of his death because it was recorded under the name of Cahen while we were concentrating on Kahns. In fact, Lazarus appears to have used both spellings of his name, as evinced in the on-line listings of recipients of St Helena medals, the Napoleonic (and hence French) campaign award for those fighting as part of the Grand Armee. (www.stehelene.org/php/accueil.php?page=4&lang=en).

And yet more information: Stefan introduced us to an entirely new family: that of Elisabeth Alexander. She married Ralph Louis Kahn (Victor’s brother) in 1859 in Saarlouis. They had three surviving children: George (1861), Paul (1863) and Henriette (1864), all registered under the name of Cahen and born in Luxembourg. Elisabeth’s father was Lazard Alexander and her mother was born Fleurette Aron.

Finally, here is that elusive Welschbillig connection: Lazarus’s brother Levy and sister Johanetta both settled there with their respective families. So our last year’s speculative trip to that pleasant part of rural Germany was relevant after all.

When time permits, we’ll add this new data to the biographies section. In the meantime, we are very grateful to Stefan for this invaluable information. Of course, the search continues and we’d be delighted to hear from any descendants of Victor’s brothers, no matter how distant.

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Great grandfather Victor in Uniform Liverpool REVERSE_1

By the kind diligence of cousin Viv, we were able to obtain a facsimile of the rear of the card on which Victor’s photograph was mounted. A copy was sent to Ron and he has dated the image to between 1880 and 1886, which would make Victor at least  57 years old. Not a great leap for Kahnkind but every snippet offers potential benefits. Thanks to all concerned.

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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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