More Relatives Found

I visited the Walthamstow area where I knew my Grandad had grown up and took photos of the houses he had lived in (where I could find them – some had been demolished for roads). I found the church where my Mum had been christened and I also visited the cemetery where I was so pleased to be able to find the graves of my Great Grandparents, plus one of my Great Uncles.

I now had more relatives on my Mum’s side than I had ever had before and more kept emerging. With the joys of the newly released censuses online I decided to track down all those with the same surname who were hairdressers in London, and I focussed on those who said they were from Hanover.

I found that my Great Grandad’s uncle was the first to emigrate to London from Hanover. He came over in the mid 1800’s, applied for UK citizenship and was even involved in the setting up of the Hairdressers Trade Union in London. Then a succession of four of his nephews also decided to come over to London from the 1870’s onwards.

Germany did not become a Country until 1871, before this date it was a group of states and principalities. After Prussia’s victory in the Franco-Prussian war it was very powerful and exerted this power over the other States and Principalities by uniting them under the Prussian Crown. Prussia was a very militaristic state and young men were conscripted into the army. The four cousins for numerous reasons didn’t want to be conscripted and so left Hanover via Hamburg for England. We have discovered since that one cousin’s father was a drunkard so he would have been bullied in the Army and my Great Grandad was illegitimate so he also would have been badly treated under the Prussian regime and in the army.

My newly found relative in Canada was the descendant of one of these cousins and we spent many happy hours discussing what we knew of our families and linking our trees together.

Finding The German Diaspora

Whilst searching the online records I’d quizzed my Mum’s older sister and also written to my Mum’s cousins in Canada and her only remaining cousin in Essex. These were all whose addresses my Gran possessed, to try and get any information that they may have been passed by their parents. Being the youngest grandchild of almost the youngest child was not an advantage as all the older generation had passed away before I hit my teens.

I was also posting on various genealogy forums hoping to try and track down where he was born and anything else I could find out about him and his family.

From these posts another lovely researcher from Canada contacted me, she was also searching for a German ancestor with the same surname and the same occupation as my Great Grandad. Her ancestor had come over to London about the same time as mine and lived in the Walthamstow, East London area. This made me expand my research to cover all those with the same (unusual) surname who were born in Germany and living in East London. Many of those who emigrated from Germany to London had specific occupations whether it be as a Baker or even a Hairdresser and they set up in the same trade once they’d settled in London, this fact did help my research I must admit.

We still weren’t sure where my Great Granddad was from but some of these other emigrees stated they were from Hanover – finally a clue!

In the meantime, my possibly newfound relative in Canada had made contact with the descendants of Mum’s cousins and arranged a meet up, bringing along lots of photos of their parents and grandparents. They all decided that we were very definitely all related as the photos of our grandparents and great grandparents were sooo similar- there was a specific ‘family face shape’ which was repeated throughout the generations.

Tracing The Origin Of An East London Family

Twenty years ago I began researching my mother’s family after she and her mother (my maternal Grandmother) had passed away. I knew I had so many questions about their family which I needed to be answered. Where did my Grandads family come from??? Was my Gran descended from Huguenot refugees. Why did my Gran keep in touch with a family in Canada.

My first query to focus on was where Grandad’s father was born. My grandad died when I was 5yrs old and growing up whenever I asked this question – no one seemed to know where we came from. All I knew was the family were very much based in Walthamstow, East London. There were so many ‘myths’, but they were a family who over the years had had very little contact with one another let alone tell each other family history. It didn’t help my Granddad was the youngest bar one of 11 children, and my Gran had told me many of his older siblings had emigrated in the 1920’s. The remaining part of the family in England had been told that my Great Grandad was from Alsace-Lorraine, and to add to the confusion my mother had received a tea set from the Belgian authorities. This was a thank you from the Belgian King after Belgium was liberated at the end of the war, so this was another possibility When I realised my Gran had been writing to my mum’s paternal cousins in Canada I contacted them, they had been told we were from Belgium. 

In the 1980’s my aunt had gone to St Catherine’s House (where birth, death and marriage certificates were kept) to look up the marriage of her grandparents and this certificate raised the possibility that Great Grandad could well be from Germany. These tales of Belgium and Alsace could actually be an attempt to take attention away from their ‘foreign sounding’ surname during WW2. I found out much later in my research that my little old great grandfather had escaped the anti-German feelings and riots in Walthamstow during WW1 because he was the ‘nice old German’ who lived at the end of the street – how lucky was he!