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.

Looking For Fritz

After my Mum died at such a young age both myself and my sister-in-law decided we had to sit down with my Grandmother and ask her about her parents and also what she knew of my Grandad’s family and where they came from.

She was in her 90’s at this point and we did not know how much time we had left with her. I was so thankful we did this, not only did we get the names of my Grandad’s parents and his siblings, but he also found out information about her family that without it I would never have found her or her parents in the records – however more about that later, let’s keep to Grandads family.

I began my search for my ‘foreign’ Great Grandad in the traditional way by sending for his marriage certificate in 1884 and looking for him in the census records. On his marriage certificate we finally had his full name – four forenames! All I’d had up to now was his ‘family name’ of Fritz so this was a definite step forward. I need to point out here that when I began this research 20 years ago not many census records were available online. We only had from 1841 up to the 1891 census.

The first possible mention of him was in the 1881 census in Walthamstow. This was the right area, but I couldn’t be certain it was him as Fritz was a common nickname for those with Friederich in their name. What proved I had the right man was in 1891 he was still in Walthamstow, and he was with his wife and children. For his place of birth, he put Germany. – we finally knew where he came from hurrah; however, Germany is a big place so the search hadn’t ended.

Now we had to work out where in Germany, bearing in mind that when he was born – in approx1860, Germany wasn’t actually a country but a collection of small States, Principalities and Duchies.