Mystery solved! The Marriage of Marcus Morreau and Alice Weinmann

A few weeks ago I wrote about the mystery of the marriage of Marcus Morreau and Alice Weinmann—when and where had they met? When and where had they married? We may never know the answer to the first set of questions, but I now have the answer to the second set. I received two days ago a certified copy of their marriage certificate.

This is not a copy of an original certificate, but rather a transcription of the facts in the original record created and certified by the General Register Office of England on September 6, 2019. Nevertheless, it is considered proof of the facts related to the marriage.

Marcus Morreau and Alice Weinmann were married on May 24, 1899, at the British Consulate in Calais, France. Marcus was 39 and a merchant and gave his residence at the time of marriage as the Hotel Terminus in Calais. Alice was 18 and living at 23 Rue St. Denis in Calais. I was not surprised to read that Marcus was a naturalized British subject, but I was surprised to read that Alice was as well, but I then learned that because her father Joseph Weinmann was a naturalized citizen, his children were as well.

The other interesting information on this record are the names of the witnesses, Philippe Weinmann (brother of Joseph Weinmann1) and Isidor Aschaffenburg. Isidor Aschaffenburg was married to Bertha/Barbara Morreau, Marcus Morreau’s sister. They were still residents of Germany in 1899. I wrote about Bertha/Barbara and Isidor here.

And so finally we have more of the answers. But there are always more questions. How had a 39 year old man living in England met an 18 year old woman living in France? Was he in fact living in Calais for some period of time at the hotel, or was he just staying there while the wedding was taking place? Unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to find answers to all those questions.


  1. Philippe Weinmann birth record, Stadt Frankfurt, Page Number: 690;691,
    Custodian: Evangelisches Kirchenbuchamt Hannover, Frankfurt, Author: Evangelische Kirche Frankfurt (Main), Ancestry.com. Rhineland, Prussia, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1533-1950 

The Family of Marcus Morreau and Alice Weinmann

Although I still don’t know exactly when Marcus Morreau married Alice Weinmann, I have narrowed it down to the years from 1896 to 1900 based on the information I found on FindMyPast. It also appears that they were married in Calais, France, perhaps at the British consulate there. I won’t know more until I see a copy of their marriage certificate.

But what I do know is that Marcus and Alice had three children, all born in England. First born was Rene Leopold Morreau on October 14, 1902, in Chorlton, Lancashire.1 Then came Cecil in the spring of 1905,2 and finally Madeline in the fall of 1908.3

My cousin Mark, Marcus and Alice’s great-grandson, shared some wonderful photographs of the Morreau family. Here are some photographs of the three beautiful children of Marcus and Alice Morreau when they were very young:

Cecil, Alice, and Rene Morreau, 1905, Courtesy of Mark Morreau

Rene and Cecil Morreau 1906, courtesy of Mark Morreau

Cecil Morreau 1907, courtesy of Mark Morreau

Cecil, Madeline, and Alice Morreau, c. 1909, courtesy of Mark Morreau

Marcus must have already been quite a successful shipping merchant because in 1911, he and Alice were living in Didsbury in South Manchester, England, with their three children, two nurses, and three servants—a cook, a waitress, and a maid.

Marcus Morreau and family, 1911 English census, Class: RG14; Piece: 23658
Enumeration District: 01, Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census

The children continued to grow, as seen in these photographs taken in about 1916:

Cecil and Rene Morreau, c. 1916. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

Rene, Madeline, and Cecil Morreau, c. 1916

Rene Morreau, Joseph Weinmann, Cecil Morreau,  May 1916

Then Marcus died at the age of 60 on March 6, 1920, in Conway, Wales.4 His children were still teenagers living at home, and his wife Alice was a widow at the age of forty. I could not locate an obituary, but did find this news article regarding the estate left behind by Marcus Morreau.

The Times, London, Greater London, England, 03 Nov 1920, Wed • Page 18

In today’s currency, that amount would be worth over £4,248,616.60, according to one inflation calculator, or over five million dollars in US currency.

Cecil was the first of Marcus and Alice’s children to marry. He married Cicely Josephine O’Flanagan in 1933 when he was 28 years old.5 (I can only imagine how much confusion there must have been with a Cecil married to a Cicely.) Cicely was born on November 7, 1907, in Manchester, the daughter of Martin O’Flanagan.6 Cecil and Cicely had three children between 1934 and 1938. According to his granddaughter Jo, Cecil was a graduate of Cambridge University where he played hockey and trained to be an architect.

Then tragically Cecil died from a burst appendix on March 2, 1939.7 He was only 34 years old and left behind three children under the age of ten and his widow Cicely, who was only 32. Just as Cecil had lost his father when he was still young, Cecil’s children lost their father when they were even younger children.

According to Cecil and Cicely’s granddaughter Jo, after Cecil’s death, Cicely moved with her three young children to Ireland to be with family friends; Jo said that Cicely and Cecil had planned the move in the event that there was a war, and so she followed through with that plan. Cicely remarried  in 1950,8 and she and her second husband, Henry “Harry” Collett, eventually returned to England, where she died on March 2, 1995.9

The other two children of Marcus and Alice lived longer lives than their brother Cecil. Rene married Beryl Scawen Blunt on January 21, 1937.10 Beryl was born November 27, 1911, to Arthur Scawen Blunt and Ada Hudson.11 Rene and Beryl had two children and lived into their seventies. Rene was 79 when he died on March 1, 1982, 12 and Beryl was 75 when she died on September 23, 1987.13

Madeline Morreau, the youngest child of Marcus and Alice, married Emanuel Phillip Nathan on June 19, 1941, in Kensington, England. 14 Emanuel was the son of Phillip Nathan of Johannesburg, South Africa, and as far as I can tell, it appears that Madeline and Phillip settled in Johannesburg after they married.

Marriage announcement for Madeline Morreau and Emanuel Nathan, First Letter of Surname: N
Ancestry.com. England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors. Original data: Andrews Collection. Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Canterbury, Kent, England.

Alice Weinmann Morreau died in Guldford, England, in December, 1971, at the age of 91.15 Her granddaughter Annette shared with me the family story of how Alice died, as told by Alice’s companion—Alice was at the top of her stairs with Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ playing on the radio; she commented on the beauty of the music and then collapsed.

Madeline Morreau Nathan lost her husband Emanuel two years later in 1973.16 Madeline outlived the rest of her family, surviving to age 88 when she died in South Africa in 1996.17

How fortunate I am to have made these connections with my Morreau cousins and to be able to learn more about the family and to see these wonderful photographs. Thank you, Mark, Annette, and Jo.


  1. England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007 First name(s) RENE LEOPOLD Last name MORREAU Gender Male Birth day   14 Birth month  10 Birth year 1902 Age  – Death quarter  1 Death year 1982 District Bexley County Kent Volume 11 Page 0502 Country England Record set England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007 Category  Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records Subcategory Civil Deaths & Burials Collections from Great Britain, England 
  2. England & Wales Births 1837-2006, First name(s) CECIL JOSEPH, Last name MORREAU, Birth year 1905, Birth quarter 2, District Chorlton, County              Lancashire, Country England, Volume 8C, Page 718, Record set England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Category Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records, Subcategory Civil Births, Collections from Great Britain, England 
  3. Madeleine R J Morreau, Registration Year:  1908, Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec, Registration district:  Chorlton, Inferred County: Lancashire, Volume:   8c, Page: 660, FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 
  4. Name: Marcus Morreau, Death Date: 6 Mar 1920, Death Place: Manchester, England, Probate Date: 29 Oct 1920, Probate Registry: London, England, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995 
  5. First name(s) CECIL J, Last name MORREAU, Marriage quarter 3, Marriage year 1933, Spouse’s last name O’flanagan, District Manchester South, County Lancashire
    Country England, Volume 8D, Volume as transcribed 8D, Page number 648, Record set England & Wales Marriages 1837-2005, Category Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records, Subcategory Civil Marriage & Divorce, Collections from Great Britain, England 
  6. Cicely Josephine Collett, Death Age: 87, Birth Date: 7 Nov 1907, Registration Date: Apr 1995, Registration district: Ipswich, Inferred County: Suffolk, Register Number: A14B, District and Subdistrict: 7471A, Entry Number: 257, General Register Office; United Kingdom, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  7. Name: Cecil Joseph Morreau, Death Date: 2 Mar 1939, Death Place: Guildford, Surrey, England, Probate Date: 7 Jun 1939, Probate Registry: London, England, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995 
  8.  Name: Cicely J Morreau, Registration Date: Oct 1950,Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec, Registration district: Marylebone, Inferred County: Middlesex, Spouse: Henry B Collett, Volume Number: 5d, Page Number: 605, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 5d; Page: 605, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  9.  Name: Cicely Josephine Collett, Death Age: 87, Birth Date: 7 Nov 1907, Registration Date: Apr 1995, Registration district: Ipswich, Inferred County: Suffolk
    Register Number: A14B, District and Subdistrict: 7471A, Entry Number: 257,
    General Register Office; United Kingdom, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  10.  Name: Rene L Morreau, Registration Date: Jan 1937, Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar, Registration district: Westminster, Inferred County: Middlesex, Spouse: Beryl S Blunt, Volume Number: 1a, Page Number: 870, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 1a; Page: 870, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  11. First name(s) BERYL S Last name BLUNT Birth year 1911 Birth quarter 4 Registration month – Mother’s maiden name Hudson District Canterbury County Kent Country England Volume 2A Page 1734 Record set England & Wales Births 1837-2006 Category Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records Subcategory Civil Births Collections from Great Britain, England 
  12.  Rene Leopold Morreau, Death Age: 79, Birth Date: 14 Oct 1902, Registration Date: Jan 1982, Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar, Registration district: Bexley
    Inferred County: Greater London, Volume: 11, Page: 0502, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 11; Page: 0502, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  13. Name: Beryl Scawen Morreau, Death Age: 75, Birth Date: 27 Nov 1911
    Registration Date: Sep 1987, Registration district: Lambeth, Inferred County: Greater London, Volume: 14, Page: 317, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 14; Page: 317, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  14.  Name: Madeleine R J Morreau, Registration Date: Apr 1941, Registration Quarter: Apr-May-Jun, Registration district: Kensington, Inferred County: London
    Spouse: Emanuel P Nathan, Volume Number: 1a, Page Number: 430, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 1a; Page: 430, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  15. Alice Frederique Morreau, Death Age: 91, Birth Date: 15 Jun 1880, Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec, Registration district: Surrey South Western Inferred County: Surrey, Volume: 5g, Page: 1177. General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 5g; Page: 1177, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 
  16. Emanuel Philip Nathan, Death Year: 1973, Death Country: South Africa
    Title: Transvaal Estates Death Index (Master of the Supreme Court, Pretoria)
    Source: National Archives, Pretoria, Reference Number: 11990/73, Ancestry.com. Transvaal Province, South Africa, Estates Death Notice Index, 1855-1976 
  17. Source: Mark Morreau, Madeline’s great-nephew. 

A Brickwall: When and Where did Alice Weinmann Marry Marcus Morreau?

As seen in my prior post, my cousin Marcus Morreau left his home in Worrstadt, Germany, as a young man and was living and working as a merchant in Withington, England by 1881, as seen on the 1881 census.

Marcus Morreau, 1881 England census, Class: RG11; Piece: 3892; Folio: 79; Page: 37; GSU roll: 1341930, Enumeration District: 12a, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 England Census

By 1901, he was a shipping merchant and married and living with his wife Alice in Didsbury, England, as seen on the 1901 English census:

Marcus and Alice Morreau, “England and Wales Census, 1901,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X9GW-G8T : 21 May 2019), Marcus Morreau, Didsbury, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom; from “1901 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast(http://www.findmypast.com : n.d.); citing Didsbury subdistrict, PRO RG 13, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey.

Thus, sometime between 1881 and 1901, Marcus married  a woman named Alice. I was curious about their marriage, especially since Alice was 21 years younger than Marcus and French-born, as indicated on the census record.  Where did they meet? When and where did they marry?

I knew from my cousin Mark, the great-grandson of Marcus and Alice, that Alice was the child of Joseph Weinmann and Helene Rothschild, both of whom were German-born, but were living in Calais, France, when Alice was born there on June 15, 1880. Sherri of the Tracing the Tribe group on Facebook generously offered to help me locate Alice’s birth record from Calais:

Alice Weinmann, birth record, Calais, France, located on the online archives for Calais at http://archivesenligne.pasdecalais.fr/cg62v2/registre.php

The records from Calais also show that Joseph and Helen Weinmann’s youngest child, Jacques, was born in 1895, in Calais,1 so the Weinmanns were living in Calais from at least 1880  when Alice, their first-born child, was born until at least 1895 when Jacques was born.

Mark shared these two wonderful photographs of his great-grandmother Alice as a young girl and as a young woman:

Alice Weinmann with her younger sister Estelle, 1890. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

Alice Weinmann, 1898. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

So how did Marcus, a German immigrant living in England since at least 1881, meet a much younger woman who was born in France in 1880 and living in France until at least 1895?

One theory was that Marcus was introduced to Alice through his work with Edward Wihl. Mark found a directory for Manchester in the 1880s showing that Marcus was working for Edward Wihl & Company, and I found one from 1895 showing that he was still working for Edward Wihl & Company.

Manchester Directory, early 1880s, courtesy of Mark Morreau

1895 Slater’s Manchester & Salford Directory (Pt 1); Publisher: Slater’s Directory Ltd (Manchester) and Kelly & Co. (London), Ancestry.com. UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946

Alice’s sister Estelle was married to Edward Wihl’s nephew Joseph Wihl,2 and we postulated that Estelle Weinmann and Joseph Wihl introduced Alice and Marcus. But that theory did not hold up because Estelle married Joseph Wihl in 1906, at least five years after Alice and Marcus were married.  It would seem more likely that Alice introduced Estelle to Joseph Wihl than Estelle introducing Alice to Marcus.

Mark was quite certain that Alice and Marcus had married in Calais, but despite help from numerous members of the French SIG on JewishGen and from Sherri on Facebook, I could not locate a marriage record for Marcus and Alice in Calais. One of the members of the French SIG group also looked at Alice’s birth record and opined that if in fact Alice had later married in Calais, there would have been a notation on her birth record to that effect.  There was, in fact, no such notation.

Then I wondered if they had married in England, not France. What if the Weinmanns had left Calais after Jacques was born in 1895 and moved to Manchester, facilitating the meeting of Alice and Marcus and their marriage in England?

So I searched  to see if the Weinmanns had moved to England before Alice and Marcus married, and I learned that Alice’s father Joseph Weinmann had lived in England, but before Alice’s birth in 1880.

Records show that in 1870, Joseph Weinmann became a naturalized citizen of the United Kingdom, then residing in Ireland, meaning that he had lived in the UK for at least five of the preceding eight years. In 1871, Joseph Weinmann, born in Frankfurt, Germany, was working as a commercial lace clerk and living in Nottingham, England.3

Joseph Weinmann UK naturalization, 1870, The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage; Class: HO 334; Piece: 1, Piece 001: Certificate Numbers A1 – A496
Ancestry.com. UK, Naturalisation Certificates and Declarations, 1870-1916

This photograph is labeled by the family as “Joseph Weinmann, Nottingham, c.1868, age 20.”

Joseph Weinmann, c. 1868, Nottingham, England. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

When I saw that, I recalled something else that Mark had mentioned: that both the Wihl family and Joseph Weinmann were somehow connected to the lace trade in Nottingham. Mark wondered whether Marcus also had at some point been in Nottingham. All of that made some sense as a theory—that Marcus met Joseph Weinman in the 1870s in Nottingham before Joseph moved to Calais and Marcus moved to Manchester.

But I had and have no proof. In fact, I have no English records for Joseph Weinmann after the 1871 England Census until a 1909 directory showing him living in Manchester and working for Morreau, Spiegelberg & Company.4

When I first saw the two photographs below, I thought these might be wedding portraits. They were both taken in Manchester, and the one of Alice is dated 1901. But since they were taken by different photographers in Manchester, they were probably not wedding portraits.

Alice Weinmann Morreau, 1901, Manchester. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

Marcus Morreau, undated, Manchester. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

I was about to give up on ever finding a marriage record for Marcus and Alice when I decided to search FindMyPast, the genealogy website that is best for research in Great Britain. There were several records for Marcus Morreau on the site, but the one that most interested me was from a database called “British Armed Forces and Overseas Banns and Marriages.” The entry for Marcus was described as “Marcus Morreau 1896-1900 Calais France MCON Gro Consular Marriages (1849-1965)(emphasis added).”  But I could not see the actual document or the transcription without subscribing to FindMyPast.

I debated whether or not to spend the money (about $15) for a one month subscription. Finally my curiosity got the better of me, so I took out my credit card and subscribed. I was excited to click on the icon to see the record, but this is all it showed:

Marcus Morreau in marriage register

The transcription didn’t help much either. It said:

Gro Consular Marriages (1849-1965)
First name(s) Marcus
Last name Morreau
Sex Male
Marriage year 1896-1900

 

MarriageFinder ™

Marcus Morreau married one of these people

Alice Frederique Weinmann, Agnes Mary Matthews

Marriage place Calais
Place type Place
Country France
Type Consular/Overseas
Source Gro Consular Marriages (1849-1965)
Records year range 1896-1900
Archive reference MCON
Volume 10
Page 409
Line number 20
Archive
General Register Office
Record set British Armed Forces And Overseas Banns And Marriages
Category Birth, Marriage & Death (Parish Registers)
Subcategory Civil Marriage & Divorce
Collections from Great Britain, UK None

There was no wedding date date provided, just the range of 1896-1900. But it certainly appears that Marcus and Alice were indeed married in Calais as Mark had believed. But when? And how did they meet if they were living in different countries and 21 years apart in age?

It seems more and more likely that somehow there was a prior connection between Marcus and his father-in-law-to-be, Joseph Weinmann, and perhaps an ongoing business connection.

The next step is to try and get the actual marriage record. I’ve sent away to the GRO in England with the hope that they will find it and that it will at least provide a wedding date. Now I wait.

UPDATE: Mystery solved! The GRO sent the record, and the answers are here.


  1. Jacques Weinmann birth record, found at http://archivesenligne.pasdecalais.fr/cg62v2/registre.php 
  2. Marriage of Joseph Wihl and Estelle Weinmann,Registration Year: 1906
    Registration Quarter: Jul-Aug-Sep, Registration district: Prestwich  Inferred County: Lancashire, Volume: 8d, Page: 818, Records on Page: FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915 
  3. Joseph Weinmann, 1871 England Census, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1871 England Census; Class: RG10; Piece: 3530; Folio: 28; Page: 13; GSU roll: 839753, Enumeration District: 2, Ancestry.com. 1871 England Census 
  4. 1909 Slater’s Manchester, Salford & Suburban Directory (Pt 2); Publisher: Slater’s Directory Ltd (Manchester) and Kelly’s Directories Ltd (London), Ancestry.com. UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946 

A Morreau Family Update: In Memory of Patrick Morreau 1934-2019

When we were in London, I was very fortunate to meet two of my Seligmann cousins, Annette Morreau, my fourth cousin, once removed, and Mark Morreau, my fifth cousin; I wrote about our meeting here. Since then, Mark and I have stayed in touch and shared some of our research into our shared family.

Before I delve into what I’ve learned from Mark, let me first explain how we are connected. Mark and I are both descended from our four-times great-grandparents Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, Mark through their daughter Caroline, me through their son Moritz, my third great-grandfather.

Caroline Seligmann married Moses Morreau on October 8, 1830 in Worrstadt, Germany:

Marriage record of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau October 8, 1930
Worrstadt Marriage Record, 1830-10

P. 2 of Marriage record of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau

They had two children, Levi (1831) and Klara (1838), about whom I wrote here. Levi Morreau married Emilia Levi and had five children, including Markus, who was born in Worrstadt on August 27, 1859:

Markus Morreau birth record, August 27, 1859
Worrstadt birth records, 1859-36

Here is a photograph of Emilia Levi Morreau, the mother of Markus Morreau:

Emilia Levi Morreau, courtesy of Mark Morreau

Markus married Alice Weinmann, and they had three children all born in England. Their first child Cecil, Mark’s grandfather, was born in April, 1905.1 Cecil married Cicely Josephine O’Flanagan in 1933 in Manchester, England,2 and they had three children, including Mark’s father Patrick, born in 1934.3

When I met Mark, his father Patrick was scheduled for surgery within a few weeks after our meeting on June 1, 2019. Patrick made it through the surgery, but then unexpectedly died not long afterwards on June 30, 2019. He was 85. I was heartbroken for Mark and his family and very sad that I had missed the opportunity to meet Patrick myself, especially after Mark shared some of his stories with me. I am grateful, however, to have met Mark and also our cousin Annette, and very glad that Mark was able to share with Patrick some of what we had discussed and to ask a few more questions about the family history.

So in memory of and in honor of Patrick Morreau, let me tell some of that history and those stories.

I will start with Mark’s great-grandfather Markus Morreau. As mentioned above, Markus was one of five children of Levi and Emilia (Levi) Morreau. He had four younger siblings: Albert, Adolf (who died as a child), Bertha, and Alice. I’ve written about them all here and here. In fact, my discovery of the Morreau cousins really started when my cousin Shyanne Morreau found my blog and we together put the various pieces together. Shyanne is descended from Albert Morreau, who left Germany for the United States in 1883 when he was 22 and settled in Cleveland. Albert’s older brother Markus also left Germany as a young man and was living in Withington, a suburb of Manchester, England in 1881; by then he had adopted the more English spelling of his name, Marcus. 4

Here is a photograph of Marcus taken in 1880 when he was 21. It appears it was taken in Frankfurt, either before he emigrated to England or during a visit back to Germany:

Marcus Morreau, aged 21. Courtesy of Mark Morreau

I don’t have a photograph of Albert as a young man, but this photo from his 1915 passport with his wife Leonora shows the family resemblance:

“United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJP-423K : 4 September 2015), Albert Morreau, 1915; citing Passport Application, Ohio, United States, source certificate #49162, Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925, 234, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,514,173.

Marcus was living in Manchester when he became a naturalized British citizen in 1892.

UK Naturalization Certificate for Marcus Morreau
The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage; Class: HO 334; Piece: 19

Two of the questions that Mark and I had were why Marcus and Albert left Germany in the 1870s and 1880s and why one went to England and the other to America.  As for the first part of that question, the answer seems answered in part by what was happening in Germany in the 1870s and 1880s. According to several sources, Germany was substantially affected by the worldwide depression that began in 1873. Britannica.com reports that:

The prices for agricultural and industrial goods fell precipitously; for six successive years the net national product declined. A sharp decline in profits and investment opportunities persisted until the mid-1890s. About 20 percent of the recently founded corporations went bankrupt.

In agriculture, the deeply indebted Junker elite now faced severe competition as surplus American and Russian grain flooded the German market. Among the more immediate consequences of the crash was a burst of emigration from the depressed provinces of rural Prussia. During the 1870s some 600,000 people departed for North and South America; this number more than doubled in the 1880s.

Lynn Abrams, a scholar writing about this same period, noted that one of the other consequences of the depression of 1873 was an increase in anti-Semitism:5

The Depression, which did not recede until 1879, had profound consequences. The period beginning in 1873 saw the organization of economic interest groups, nationalism of a rather chauvinistic nature, militarism and modern anti-semitism.The Depression caused the landed and industrial interests to mobilize behind the policy of protective tariffs in order to retain their economic and political base. Thus, they succeeded in maintaining their power and the political status quo.

Ironically, the unification of Germany under Bismarck in 1871 led to some increased rights for Jews, but also increased anti-Semitism, as the Center for Israel Education described on its website:

In July 1869, Prussian King Wilhelm I promulgated the North German Confederation Constitution, which gave Jews civil and political rights in twenty-two German states.  This Constitution was adopted by the new German empire upon its establishment on April 14, 1871.  On April 22, 1871, the Jews in all of Germany were finally given emancipation when the Constitution was extended to Bavaria. 

The process of Jewish emancipation led to many changes in both Jewish and non-Jewish society.  Some Jews continued religious identification with non-Orthodox Judaism, seeking to remain Jewish but more like their Christian peers; some converted to Christianity because the Emancipation of 1871 still prevented Jews from gaining access to certain high profile social positions; others simply assimilated.  Emancipation also led to new and more virulent forms of anti-Semitism, a term that was coined in 1879 in a pamphlet by Wilhelm Marr. Marr became the father of virulent racial anti-Semitism, singling out  Jews as inferior because of their racial impurity.

Another website, Jewish History Online, further elaborated on the increased anti-Semitism that occurred in the 1870s and thereafter:

With the onset of the economic crisis of the early 1870s known as “Gründerkrach”, the atmosphere in the newly founded German Kaiserreich started to change. Reich Chancellor Bismarck reacted with a protectionist economic policy and changed his political course to join the conservative camp. As supporters of liberalism and Social Democracy, the Jews now found themselves on the side of the political enemy. They were accused of being responsible for the economic crisis and the ever more pressing “social question.”

There were thus multiple reasons why Marcus and Albert Morreau would have left Germany during this time period—to seek better economic opportunities and to escape anti-Semitism.

As for why one went to England and the other America, we can only speculate. Perhaps they were hedging their bets as to which country would give them more opportunities. Maybe they didn’t get along and wanted to put an ocean between them.  Or maybe they each just found a specific job opportunity that led them to settle in two different countries.

More to come…

 


  1. Inferred County: Lancashire, Volume: 8c, Page: 718, Source Information
    FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 
  2.  Inferred County: Lancashire, Spouse: O’flanagan, Volume Number: 8d
    Page Number: 648, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 8d; Page: 648,
    Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 
  3.  Registration district: Watford, Inferred County: Hertfordshire, Mother’s Maiden Name: O’Flanagan, Volume Number: 3a, Page Number: 1485, General Register Office; United Kingdom; Reference: Volume 3a, Page 1485, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007 
  4. Marcus Morreau, 1881 England Census, Class: RG11; Piece: 3892; Folio: 79; Page: 37; GSU roll: 1341930, Enumeration District: 12a, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
  5. Lynn Abrams, Bismarck and The German Empire 1871-1918 ( Routledge, 1995), found at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3c20/c71ec7760438fd5651738e40dea8a81a8c19.pdf 

Seligman Update, II: James Seligman, Vintner and Hotelier

My second Seligmann update is about James Seligman, who was born Jakob Seligmann in Gau-Algesheim, Germany in about 1853; he died in Birmingham, England on March 11, 1930.1

Birmingham Daily Gazette, March 14, 1930, p. 3

James Seligman was the son of Moritz Seligmann and Babette Schoenfeld and the younger brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard and Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August. I wrote a post about James and his life back on December 8, 2017, describing his life and business in England and Scotland. James went to England as a young man to represent Seligman Brothers, the wine business that he was in with his brothers August and Hieronymous. In 1890, the partnership with his brothers was dissolved, and James continued the wine business on his own in England and then Scotland as Seligman & Co. He also became involved in the hotel business in both Scotland and England. A good portion of the information and images in that earlier post came from Wolfgang.

London Gazette, March 20, 1891

In looking through old emails recently, I realized that I had never posted some of the photographs that Wolfgang later sent me of one of James Seligman’s hotels, the George Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. I also had forgotten to post some of the photographs my cousin-by-marriage Shirley had sent me of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham, England, where James had been the managing director.  My apologies to Wolfgang, Shirley, and my three-times great-uncle James Seligman for somehow letting these wonderful images slip through the cracks.

Here are the photographs and other images that Wolfgang sent of the George Hotel in Edinburgh and some stationery letterhead that Wolfgang found on the internet showing the hotels owned in 1911 by James Seligman and August Mackay.

It looks like a gracious old hotel with a beautiful lobby. It is still in business and just had extensive renovations done. If I ever get to Edinburgh, this is where I will stay.

Shirley’s photographs are of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham where James was the managing director. It also is a grand and gracious old hotel:

I was able to learn a lot more about this hotel from its website:

The Grand Hotel first occupied part of the building constructed by Isaac Horton, on Colmore Row and Church Street between 1877 and 1879, with 100 bedrooms and a first floor reception. It was let to Arthur Field, a hotel operator from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and opened on 1st February 1879…. For the next 74 years the hotel was operated by Hortons. During this time it played host to royalty, politicians and film stars as well as staging many dinners, concerts and dances in the Grosvenor Suite. The room had many admirers including Sir John Betjeman who described it as “a unique, simply stunning, masterpiece.” The list of those attending functions at or staying in the hotel included King George VI, the Duke of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney and Joe Louis to name but a few.

Maybe some of those people stayed in the hotel while James Seligman was the managing director.  According to its website, the Grand Hotel is currently in the process of substantial renovations. Maybe someday I will get to stay there also.

As for the wine business, Seligman & Co stayed in business long after James’ death. In fact, Wolfgang found an obituary for a man named David Smith who was also in the wine business and who had been a director of Seligman & Co. in Birmingham as late as 1989. Shirley took a photograph of the location that once housed the Seligman & Co. wine business in Birmingham.

Thank you to Wolfgang and Shirley for their help in telling the story of James Seligman.

 


  1.  General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 6d; Page: 198, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 

England, Part V: The Final Day

Our last day in England was as action-packed as our first two days in London. We had planned to go to Churchill’s War Rooms. Several friends had recommended it, and after seeing The Darkest Hour, we were both very interested in learning more about Winston Churchill and his role in World War II. We had passed the site the day before and noted the very, very long line of people on the sidewalk and decided that we’d better get there as early as we could.

We showed up at 9:10, knowing that the museum didn’t open until 9:30. There was already a line ahead of us—perhaps about thirty people. What we hadn’t realized was that it would have been possible to buy tickets ahead of time for a set time on the priority line, but now it was too late. As we stood outside waiting, the line behind us grew longer and longer, stretching down the block almost to the corner by the time the doors opened at 9:30. Then we had to wait as the priority ticketholders entered. Every ten minutes or so they would allow in more people, including a few from the regular line.

We finally entered at 10:20, saying to each other, “This had better be worth the wait.” It was. Without question.

We spent two hours underground at the exhibit. The audioguides were excellent, providing clear directions on where to go and lots of information about what we were seeing as well as interviews with some of those who worked in the war rooms with Churchill. It was a fascinating tour. Seeing the spaces that were recreated in the movie and realizing that these men and women had spent days and nights during the long years of the war burrowed beneath the ground, doing intelligence work and collecting information about the war’s progress, made us appreciate even more Churchill’s leadership and commitment to winning the war.

There is one very large gallery devoted to an exhibit about Churchill’s life. For some reason they decided to start with the war years, then the post-war years and his death, and then his early years as a child, a young adult, and a politician. I found that room a bit confusing and overwhelming. Maybe because I am such a linear person and like things to be in chronological order. I most enjoyed hearing some of Churchill’s speeches in his own voice and also seeing pictures of him and his family as a boy and then as a father and husband.

We finally emerged from the dark around noontime and were grateful to see sunlight, although it was a cloudy and gray day. We walked over the Westminster Bridge. Well, we tried to walk. The throngs of people made it as crazy as being in Times Square before theaters open. You could barely move. We were heading to the Tate Modern, which is on the other side of the Thames. When we finally managed to get away from the crowds, it was quite a relief.

After a quick lunch, we continued our walk to the Tate Modern. We enjoyed the walk along the river with the London skyline in view—we could see St Paul’s Cathedral and all the modern skyscrapers that we had seen the day before, but now from a distance with the river in the foreground.

We finally reached the Tate Modern, and it is an imposing structure. Once a power station, it was converted to a museum and opened in 2000. I can’t say that I found it a terribly inviting building—it still looks more like a power station than a museum, although there are glass additions on top of the old building.

Entering the building felt a bit like entering a huge train station—a very large open hall descending down towards the ticket booth and museum itself.

We went to two of the exhibits, the first being Artist and Society, which focused on how artists use their art to comment on society. Some of those works were very provocative—like the collection of firehoses attached to each other to evoke the hoses used to spray African American protesters during the civil rights movement in the US or a series of photographs showing the demolition of buildings in the name of urban renewal. But some just left me cold, like the one of strange large forms just strewn on the floor.

The second exhibit we saw was more traditional and included works of artists who were more familiar, such as Picasso, Dali, and Rothko. It focused on the artistic process itself. I enjoyed that exhibit more than the first because I tend to be more conventional in my idea of what is art and prefer art that is more about aesthetics than politics.

We wanted to take the elevator up to see the observatory on the tenth floor. But the lines were too long, and we gave up. I think we’d just had enough of crowds for the day.

Our last evening in London was much less hectic than the day. We took an Uber to Covent Garden and had a fabulous sushi dinner at Sticks and Sushi. Then we walked from there to St Martin-in-the Fields Church for a concert of Vivaldi, Mozart, and Purcell. The music was soothing and relaxing, and the setting quite beautiful.

For our last morning in England, we had the wonderful treat of meeting two of my cousins—Annette, my fourth cousin, once removed, and Mark, my fifth cousin. Annette and Mark are related to me through my Seligmann family. We are all descended from Jakob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, my four-times great-grandparents. Mark and Annette descend from Jakob and Martha’s daughter Caroline who married Moses Morreau, and I descend from Jakob and Martha’s son Moritz. We had a delightful time together—sharing family history and our own stories. Mark and I have now continued to share and explore our mutual family history.

And after saying goodbye to my cousins, we packed our bags and headed for Heathrow for the flight back to the US. I was quite sad to leave. It had been a perfect vacation with the right mix of relaxation, exercise, gorgeous views, art and culture, history, and friendly people. I was in no way ready for it to end.

But it did, and now I have found great pleasure in recreating and remembering it all through my blog. I hope you have enjoyed my travelogue as well. Thanks for coming along.

Next—a return to the story of the children of Henry Goldsmith.

 

 

England, Part IV: Visiting My Ancestors’ Neighborhood

One of the reasons I wanted to revisit London on this trip to England was that when we first visited London in 1995, I had no idea that I had ancestors who once lived there. I did not start doing family history research until 2012, and sometime thereafter I learned that my three-times great-grandfather Hart Levy Cohen was born in Amsterdam, but had immigrated to England and settled in London by 1799. He married my three-times great-grandmother Rachel Jacobs at the Great Synagogue in London in 1812, and together they had five children born in London, including my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen, who was born in 1824. By 1851, however, Hart and all his children had left London and settled in Philadelphia. 1

But from at least 1799 until 1851, I had direct ancestors living in London, and I wanted to know more about where they lived and what their community was like. I’d done some research several years back about the area and about the treatment of Dutch Jews, known as Chuts, so I knew that the neighborhood ranged from poor to middle class in those days and that Dutch Jews like my three-times great-grandparents were often treated as outsiders in the community.2

I was fortunate to find Isabelle Seddons, a historian who does walking tours of London including the former Jewish neighborhoods of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. I knew that the Cohens had lived on New Goulston Street in 1841 and at Number 8, Landers Buildings on Middlesex Street, in 1851, both addresses located in Spitalfields in the Whitechapel district of London. I gave Isabelle the information I had, and we arranged to meet at 2 pm on May 30 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

What made the tour even better is that my friend and cousin-by-marriage Shirley and her husband Ron were able to join us. Shirley and I had connected years back when I was trying to sort out the three Selinger brothers who married three of my Cohen relatives and Shirley was trying to learn more about her Selinger ancestors. I was quite excited that we would finally get to meet in person. Shirley kindly brought me a copy of an 1875 map of the neighborhood showing New Goulston and Middlesex Streets.

The four of us on the tour

Shirley and I standing in front of the pub where we and our husbands shared some beers and some stories after the tour

Here’s a current map of the area we visited.

 

Isabelle started the tour with an overview of the Jewish history of the area. She pointed out that during World War II, the neighborhood was heavily bombed by the Nazis because of the ports that were (and are) located nearby. Thus, many if not most of the original buildings are gone, as can be seen from this photograph and from others.

According to Isabelle, the Whitechapel-Spitalfields area was predominantly Jewish from the 18th century until World War II, when the neighborhood was evacuated because of the bombing. After World War II, the Jews did not return to this area of London, and a new wave of immigrants settled in the area. Today it is primarily a Bengali neighborhood where mosques have replaced synagogues.

This building was originally a church, then later a synagogue, and now a mosque. See https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1240697

The area was always poor, though some of the Jewish merchants were better off than most of the residents. As Hart Cohen and his sons were china merchants and living on a street that Charles Booth designated on his historic poverty map of London as less poverty stricken than others, I assume they were among those who were somewhat better off. Nevertheless they left London by 1851.

The largest influx of Jews came in the late 19th century from Eastern Europe, long after my Cohen ancestors had emigrated. They came in huge numbers and lived in terrible conditions, and much of what is left in the area that reflects its Jewish past dates from that era of immigration and afterwards, not from the early 19th century when my family lived there.

Isabelle took us to see the archway built in the late 19th century as part of a housing project supported and promoted by the Rothschild family and other wealthy English Jews to provide the poverty-stricken Jews living in the area with decent housing. It was called the Four Percent Industrial Dwellings Company because the investors were promised a four percent return on their investment.  The housing units were destroyed during the war, but the arch remains as a reminder of this early attempt at urban renewal.

One Jewish entrepreneur had what today would seem like an excellent business idea.  He wanted to create an indoor market where various vendors could sell their wares—food, clothing, household goods—all in one covered space. In today’s world where places like Covent Garden Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace thrive as well as all the shopping malls that exist throughout the US, such an idea would seem to be a no-brainer and an instant success. But in those times people—vendors and shoppers—rejected the idea, and the owner converted his building into a textile factory. Today it houses graduate departments of Glasgow Caledonian University offering advanced degrees in, among many other areas, in International Fashion Marketing and Luxury Brand Marketing.

Most of the Jews made their living in the late nineteenth century as tailors or working at a nearby matchstick factory, and working conditions were terrible. In 1888 the matchstick workers went on strike after organizing themselves at Hanbury Hall, a building originally built as a Huguenot chapel in 1719. The hall became a center for union and radical activity during the late 19th century. Today it operates as a café and venue for social events.

Hanbury Hall

The poverty of the Jewish residents of the area was also reflected in this building, which was built as a soup kitchen for poor Jews, as the engraved inscription indicates, and still operates as a soup kitchen today for the newer poor immigrants in the area.

Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor

But there are still some signs that this was once a Jewish neighborhood, such as these old store signs:

And this Star of David at the top of a drainpipe. This is the Christ Church primary school on Brick Lane, one of the major thoroughfares in the area. It was founded in 1708 as a parish school, but when the building on Brick Lane was built in 1874, most of the children in the neighborhood who attended the school were Jewish. According to Isabelle, the Star of David was added to reflect the school’s tolerance and openness to students of all backgrounds.

Christ Church Primary School with Star of David on the drain pipe

We saw another Star of David with what appears to be the scales of justice inside it so perhaps this was once a lawyer’s office.

UPDATE: A member of the Tracing The Tribe group on Facebook provided me with this information about the Star of David below: “The interesting Magen David at 88 Whitehall is not on scales but is actually shown as supported by two lions of Judah wielding sabres. Beneath is a pair of medallions, decorated with Menorahs. It was designed by Arthur Szyk in the mid 1930s. It is a staple of every Jewish London tour and there is actually a more ornate but similar design also by Szyk located inside.”

And we found an old mezuzah painted over a doorway at this house:

The relief sculptures above the windows and door on this building reflect that this was at one time a Jewish bakery:

Once a Jewish bakery

There is also still one active synagogue in the neighborhood, the Sandy’s Row Synagogue. Although the synagogue was not housed in this building until 1867 after my ancestors had left the area, this could be the congregation that my ancestors joined as it was founded by Dutch Jewish immigrants to the area.

But Hart Cohen and Rachel Jacobs were married at the Great Synagogue in 1812, and their son Jacob, my great-great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandmother Sarah Jacobs were also married at the Great Synagogue in 1844. Unfortunately, the Great Synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis and no longer exists though Isabelle did show us where it once stood.

Where the Great Synagogue once stood

I asked Isabelle how a synagogue could survive today in this community, and she explained that there are a number of Orthodox Jews who work in downtown London who come to the synagogue for daily minyans before and after work.

We also heard the story of Jacob Adler, an actor and violinist who played in the Yiddish theater. His former home was marked with a plaque of a violin in the sidewalk. Adler had immigrated to London from Odessa where he had already had a career in theater. After Yiddish theater was banned in Russia in the 1880s, he came to London and within a short time had established his own theatrical club on what was then Prince Street in the Spitalfields neighborhood. His theater was quite popular until a fire broke out and the audience panicked. In the stampede to exit the building, seventeen people were killed. After that Adler lost his audience and so immigrated to the US, where he became a well-known actor on the Yiddish stage in New York.

The last few stops on our tour were of the streets near and where my three-times great-grandparents lived between 1841 and 1851, according to the census records and other records: New Goulston Street and Middlesex Street. The Landers Buildings identified  on Rachel Jacobs’ death certificate in 1851 no longer exist, and Isabelle had no luck finding where they were located or what they were, though we do know they were somewhere on Middlesex Street. Both streets are located in the area where Dutch Jews once lived and where the principal market for the neighborhood was located on Petticoat Lane. As you can see in the photograph below, it still is the setting for an open air market.

Petticoat Lane

These other photographs are my attempts to capture a sense of where my ancestors once lived. I don’t know whether any of these buildings were even there in 1841. But 180 years ago or so, my Cohen ancestors walked, lived, and worked on these streets:

And like so many neighborhoods in cities in the United States, this once poor neighborhood is today being gentrified by young people who want to live close to where they work in downtown London. In many of the photographs you can see the skyscrapers of the financial district looming behind the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. Isabelle told us that this house is now worth four million pounds:

So this neighborhood that was for almost two hundred years a Jewish neighborhood and then a Bengali neighborhood is now becoming a chic place for millennials and others looking to live close to work.

Signs of gentrification

Will they tear down what remains of the evidence that the area was once Jewish? Will the Stars of David and Jewish signs and other reminders disappear as yet another upscale community of coffee shops and expensive restaurants takes over? I hope not, and if so, I am glad I got to see this area before that happens.

 

 

 

 


  1. My three-times great-grandmother Rachel died in London on January 9, 1851, and Hart and the two children still living with him in England came to the US shortly after her death. I still haven’t found out where she was buried. 
  2. See my earlier blog posts here and here

James Seligman: More Items from Wolfgang

When I wrote the recent post about the news articles my cousin Wolfgang had found about our Seligman(n) relatives, I had forgotten that a month earlier Wolfgang had sent me some other items he’d found about our relative, James Seligman—brother of Bernard, my great-great-grandfather, and August, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather. Somehow that earlier email had gotten lost in the mess that is my inbox. My apologies to Wolfgang!

A little more background on James: He was the youngest child of Babette Schoenfeld and Moritz Seligmann, born in about 1853 in Gau-Algesheim. By the time he was 28 in 1881 he had immigrated England where he was a wine merchant in Kilpin, Yorkshire, in conjunction with his brothers August and Hieronymus, who were living in Germany. He took sole control over that business in 1891.

London Gazette, March 20, 1891

In 1887, James married Henrietta Walker Templeton in London. In 1901, they were living in Scotland, but by the 1920s they had returned to England and were living in Birmingham where he remained for the rest of his life.

Henrietta died on October 4, 1928, and a year later in December 1929, James married his second wife Clara Elizabeth Perry. Clara was 45 years younger than James; she was 31 when they married, he was 76. He died just three months after they married on March 11, 1930. Clara remarried two years later and died in 1981. James did not have children with either of his wives.

Wolfgang found an obituary for James in the March 14, 1930 issue of the Birmingham Gazette:

b Birmingham Daily Gazette, March 14, 1930, p. 3

Mr. James Seligman

Death of Birmingham Hotel Expert

The death has occurred at the age of 77 of Mr. James Seligman, of 11 Yately-road, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Formerly in business in Scotland, where he owned a number of hotels, Mr. Seligman was managing director of the Grand and Midland Hotels, Birmingham, and of the King’s Head Hotel, Sheffield.

He was an expert on all business matters connected with hotel management, and was often consulted by proprietors and managers of hotel establishments in all parts of the country.

He was the sole proprietor of Seligman and Co., wine merchanges, Colmore-row, Birmingham, and although ill in bed, was dealing with business affairs up to within a few hours of his death.

A great lover of music, Mr. Seligman was a regular concert-goer and an enthusiastic supporter of musical societies.

A funeral service will be held at Perry Barr Crematorium on Saturday.

From the obituary, Wolfgang knew where James had lived and captured this photograph of the former residence from Google Maps:

James Seligman residence in Birmingham, England

He also sent me this photograph of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham where James had been the managing director:

Grand Hotel, Colmore Road, Birmingham, England 1894

Interestingly, Wolfgang located an ad for Seligman’s Wine Merchants in the October 30, 1969, Birmingham Daily Post. It was still located on Colmore Row in Birmingham and called Seligman’s almost forty years after James died in 1930.

Birmingham Daily Post, October 30, 1969, p. 3

Thank you again to Wolfgang for sharing these items which shed more light on the personality and life of James Seligman, my three-times great-uncle and Wolfgang’s great-great-uncle.

Imprisoned on the Isle of Man

Some of my readers were disturbed, as was I, to learn that England imprisoned Jewish refugees in internment camps on the Isle of Man during World War II; one of those imprisoned was my cousin Ilse Gross, daughter of Karl Gross, as I wrote about here.

By one of those strange incidences of serendipity, someone on the JewishGen listserv and on one of my Facebook groups today posted a link to a recent story on the B’nai Brith International website about these camps.  It gives a much fuller picture of the history of the camps, what conditions were like, and why England did this.  It demonstrates how fear can lead us to do things that are fundamentally unfair and discriminatory, judging people by their race, religion, or national origin.

Here is one excerpt from the article.  You can find the rest here:

On May 27, 1940, Isle of Man residents gathered behind barricades at the docks, witnessing the arrival of the first 823 prisoners. Leaving the boat under armed guard, they included German Nazi sympathizers, mixed in with Jewish men in their 20s and 30s, as well as a few school boys, conspicuous in short pants. They would set the pattern for those coming in the next weeks and months, assigned to camps located in Ramsey, Douglas, Onchan and other seaside spots. Cleared of tourists, ordered to leave behind their sports equipment for the inmates, quaint Victorian rooming houses and private hotels were grouped together and ringed with barbed wire to form compounds. In some, Jews and Nazis shared the same spaces.

Additional information can be found at the following links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutchinson_Internment_Camp

http://www.manxnationalheritage.im/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/CG4-Internment_Web.pdf

http://timewitnesses.org/english/IsleOfMan.html

A Family Uprooted by the Nazis: Mathilde Gross Mayer and Her Family

My last post ended with the tragic deaths in November 1901 of my cousin Bertha Seligmann and her husband Bernhard Gross; they had died from carbon monoxide poisoning while in their own home in Bingen, Germany.  Bertha was the first cousin of my great-great-grandfather, Bernard Seligmann.  We are both descendants of my 4x-great-grandfather, Jacob Seligmann.

Much of what I have learned about the life of Bertha and Bernhard came from the memoir written by their daughter Mathilde, Die Alte und Die Neue Welt (1951). As I mentioned in the last two posts, Mathilde lived a hundred years, from 1869 until 1969, and resided on two continents during her remarkable life, first in Germany, then in the United States.  This post will focus on Mathilde and her family and descendants and their lives after 1901.

Mathilde was the oldest of Bertha and Bernhard’s five children. [1]  As stated above, she was born in 1869, and she married Marx Mayer in 1888. They had three children: Wilhelm (known as Willy) Mayer-Gross (1889), Ernst (1893), and Alice (1896).  All three would live interesting lives.

jpf-family-sheet-for-mathilde-gross-mayer

Although Alice Mayer was the youngest of the children of Mathilde Gross and Marx Mayer, I am going to write about her first because it is her daughter, Ellen Kann Pine, whose book One Life in Two Worlds (self-published, 2009) provided me with insights into the life of the Mayer family in the 1920s and 1930s.  All the facts related in this post came from Ellen Kann Pine’s memoir, except where noted.

20160810_174631600_iOS

According to Ellen’s memoir, her mother Alice Mayer married Arthur Kann, whose father was in the wholesale grain business in the Bingen area.  Their twin daughters Ellen and Hannelore were born in 1921 in Bingen.  Ellen’s description of her childhood growing up in Bingen sounds quite idyllic.  She describes Bingen in those days as the largest town in the area with about 10,000 residents.

Her family shared a house with her father’s brother Julius Kann and his wife.  The house was on the edge of town and was located across the street from Ellen’s grandparents, Mathilde (Gross) and Marx Mayer.  She saw her grandparents every day.  Ellen wrote:

No day passed without a visit from one or both of them.  Our Grandfather (Opapa) was usually the first to come.  He always brought each of us a piece of chocolate wrapped in foil in the shape of a coin. …Our Grandmother (Omama) usually visited in the afternoon and she was always interested in what we had been doing and asked us to tell her.

Pine, p. 7.

Their grandmother Mathilde would take them for walks in the neighborhood every day.  In addition, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins lived nearby.  The town was small enough that most people knew each other, and the Kann home had a big enough yard for the children to play.

In 1927, the twins started school at the local Volksschule where both Jewish and Christian children attended. At that time, they became more aware of their Jewish background.  As Ellen described, “[i]n Germany, religious instruction was part of the overall curriculum and was taught during regular school hours by clergy of each denomination.”  Pine, p. 20.  Ellen and Hannelore were taught by their cantor and received instruction in Hebrew and Bible stories.

The family had Shabbat dinners with their Mayer grandparents and celebrated the Jewish holidays together.  The Kann family also liked to travel, and Ellen recalled family trips to the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, and Austria during her childhood.

Ellen’s uncles Wilhelm and Ernst, the sons of Mathilde Gross and Marx Mayer, were also living comfortable lives in Germany in the years before Hitler came to power. Wilhelm became a renowned psychiatrist.  According to Edward Shorter’s A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry (Oxford University Press, Feb 17, 2005), Wilhelm studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg and then further specialized in psychiatry at Heidelberg.  His doctoral thesis was on “the phenomenology of abnormal feelings of happiness,” and by 1929, he was an assistant professor of psychiatry in Heidelberg.

On the personal side, according to Shorter’s book, Wilhelm had married in 1919; his wife was Carola Meyer, and they had one child.  Around the time of his marriage, Wilhelm adopted the surname Mayer-Gross, hyphenating his mother’s maiden name with his father’s surname.

Wilhelm’s younger brother Ernst served in the German military during World War I. Once again Matthias Steinke helped me out and translated the documents reporting Ernst’s military record.  According to Matt’s translation, Ernst served in the military first from October 1907 until September 1909 as a private in the 9th Infantry Regiment in Zabern.  Then when World War I started, he was on active duty from August 1914 until September 1918, again serving in the infantry.  He was a bona fide war hero for Germany.

He fought in over twenty battles all over Europe: in France, in Italy, in Bukovina and Slovenia, and at the border of Greece.  On the 5th of October he was shot in the back during a battle near Lille, France, but returned to the front by June, 1915, where he fought in a battle near Tirol. Beginning in December, 1914, he served as a ski trooper for some of his time in the army. His service ended when he was sent to the hospital in September, 1918, with influenza.  His rank at the end of his service was a reserve lieutenant.  He received several commendations for his service including the Prussian Iron Cross, the Edelweiss medal, and two Hessian orders.

Bavaria, Germany, World War I, Personnel Rosters, 1914-1918, for Ernst Mayer Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Mnchen; Abteilung IV Kriegsarchiv. Kriegstammrollen, 1914-1918; Volume: 11697. Kriegsstammrolle: Bd.1

Bavaria, Germany, World War I, Personnel Rosters, 1914-1918, for Ernst Mayer
Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Mnchen; Abteilung IV Kriegsarchiv. Kriegstammrollen, 1914-1918; Volume: 11697. Kriegsstammrolle: Bd.1

Ernst Mayer WW1 military register 6

Bavaria, Germany, World War I, Personnel Rosters, 1914-1918, for Ernst Mayer Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Mnchen; Abteilung IV Kriegsarchiv. Kriegstammrollen, 1914-1918; Volume: 11697. Kriegsstammrolle: Bd.1

After the war, Ernst became the owner of a successful publishing house in Berlin, Mauritius Verlag.  He married Helene Hirschberg, and they had two daughters and were living in Berlin.

Thus, as of 1933, Mathilde (Gross) and Marx Mayer and their three children were successful citizens of Germany.  The world and lives of all these members of the family changed drastically with the election of Hitler as chancellor in 1933.

Ellen Kann Pine was then twelve years old and remembers well how things changed in Bingen.  She wrote:

As soon as Hitler became chancellor, fierce looking men wearing different colored uniforms appeared everywhere. … Part of the uniform was a red armband with a large black swastika on a white background.  Almost all teenagers of both sexes belonged to the Hitler Youth and wore similar brown uniforms and red armbands.  They all were disturbing and frightening as they marched in the streets day and night carrying Nazi flags and singing Horst-Wessel Lied and other vicious anti-Semitic songs. Swastikas were painted everywhere: on walls, on buildings, on flags, and on women’s brown blouses. …. 

It was soon obvious that the anti-Semitic propaganda and lies that abounded in the streets had their desired effect.  It helped turn our previously friendly and courteous Christian neighbors and their children into hostile anti-Semites.  Now we rarely went for walks, and when we did, we kept strictly to ourselves.  We could not go shopping, or to the movies, or a theater, since most of these activities were out of bounds for Jews.

Pine, pp. 35-36.

Things changed for Ellen and her sister at school as well because they were Jewish. Friends ignored them, as did their teachers.

Adding to the family’s stress and sorrow was the heartbreaking death of Mathilde’s husband and the family patriarch, Marx Mayer. Ellen wrote:

Our beloved Opapa died in 1934.  It was the first family death we experienced and it was wrenching.  I cannot forget the look on our Omama’s face when we came to visit her.  Sitting on the sofa, she looked utterly lonely and sad with grief.

Pine, p. 29

After September, 1935, with the passage of the Nuremberg Laws, Ellen and her siblings could no longer attend school at all. Their father also lost his job as director of a synthetic fertilizer company.  The family made the important but painful decision to send the twins and their younger brother to boarding school in England.  For two years from 1936 until 1938, the children lived away from their parents.  Ellen wrote movingly about the experience and the issues the children had adjusting to life away from home.

Fortunately their uncle, Willy Mayer-Gross, was in England and was a source of comfort and support for the children while they lived there. The Nazi laws prohibiting Jewish doctors from practicing medicine on non-Jewish patients and other restrictions had led Willy to emigrate in 1933.  He was able to obtain funding through a Rockefeller Foundation grant to go to England to work and live.  His niece Ellen Kann Pine wrote this about her uncle Willy:

Learning a new language, a new culture, new ways of treating patients, and having to retake his medica exams made his first years there very difficult.  Although Uncle W. was in his forties he persevered, brought his family to England and was able to continue his research.  … He was our guardian and his support was invaluable when my sister and I entered boarding school in England in 1936.

Pine, p. 32

Willy did in fact have a remarkable career in England; Edward Shorter described him as the “Importer of German scientific rigor and psychopathological thinking to English psychiatry.” A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry (Oxford University Press, Feb 17, 2005).

According to the Whonamedit website:

In the 1933 Mayer-Gross came to the Bethlem Royal Hospital, London, to work with Edward Mapother, who provided fellowships for German academics who were fleeing Hitler, such as Guttmann and Mayer-Gross. He worked at the hospital from 1933 to 1939, when he became a licentiate of the Royal College pf Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons. He subsequently became senior fellow with the department of experimental psychiatry, Birmingham Medical School 1958; Director of Research, Uffcalme Clinic. He was a fellow of the British Eugenics Society 1946, 1957. It was Mayer-Gross who first suggested, in about 1955, that tranquilizers converted one psychosis into another. Wilhelm Mayer-Gross was the winner of the Administrative Psychiatry Award for 1958.

Willy’s younger brother Ernst also suffered due to the Nazi persecution of Jews.  Despite his distinguished service to Germany during World War I, like other Jewish business owners he was forced to sell his publishing business in accordance with the Nazi policies requiring “Aryanization” of all businesses.  Like his brother Willy, Ernst decided to leave Germany once he’d lost his business.

He arrived in New York on June 8, 1935, leaving his family behind until he could bring them over as well.

Ernst Mayer passenger manifest 1935

Ernst Mayer passenger manifest 1935 page 2

Ernst Mayer passenger manifest, June 8, 1935, line 8 Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867.

Soon after arriving in New York, he and two other German Jewish refugees, Kurt Safranski (whom Ernst had listed as his contact in NY on the manifest) and Kurt Kornfeld, formed Black Star Publishing Company.  Marvin Hefferman wrote in the New York Times blog “Lens” on July 15, 2013, that Ernst Mayer and his partners were “innovators in Germany’s picture press and publishing world and fled from the Nazis.  Their New York-based company commissioned and brokered the use of photographs that documented important events, the comings and goings of notables, and human interest stories.” Marvin Hefferman, “Black Star Shines Anew,” The New York Times (July 15, 2013), available here.

Among their early clients were the magazines Life, Look, The Saturday Evening Post, and Collier’s, which retained their services for the procurement of photographs. The Black Star company’s website describes Ernst’s important role in the success of Black Star:

It was Mayer who made the decisive step uptown into the Rockefeller Center to Time Inc. He brought with him an enormous pile of essays from photographers including Fritz Goro and Paul Wolff, whom he had brought safely from Berlin to New York.  Soon after, the chief editors of Life Magazine had chosen Black Star as one of their main suppliers of pictures. Emigre photojournalists viewed the agency as their best means of gaining access to the magazine. For the mostly Jewish photographers, Black Star was a piece of Europe in the middle of New York.… According to photo historian Marianne Fulton, Life brought Black Star 30 to 40 per cent of its business. Black Star, in turn, contributed to Life becoming the most popular magazine in America for nearly three decades, with tens of millions of readers.

A little over a year after arriving himself, Ernst was able to bring his wife and daughter to the United States on August 11, 1936.[2]

Ernst Mayer and family August 1936 manifest

Ernst Mayer and family passenger manifest August 11, 1936 Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867.

Ernst Mayer and family passenger manifest August 11, 1936
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867.

One year after that, on October 11, 1937, he returned once more to Germany to bring his mother Mathilde back to the US.[3]  As you can see, the manifest shows they left from England, not Germany.  Ellen Kann Pine wrote that her grandmother Mathilde came to see her and her sister at boarding school in England before leaving for the US.

Mathilde Mayer passenger manifest October 1 1937

Mathilde Mayer passenger manifest October 1 1937 page 2

Mathilde Mayer and Ernst Mayer on passenger manifest, October 11, 1937 Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867.

Ernst and his family and his mother were all living in New Rochelle, New York, at that time.

In August, 1938, the daughters of Alice Mayer Kann, Ellen and Hannelore, left England to come to the US.  Their parents and brother followed a month later, and the Kann family also settled in New Rochelle, New York.  Thus, by the fall of 1938, just a few months before Kristallnacht and the increased violence against Jews in Europe that followed, all of Mathilde’s children and grandchildren were safely out of Germany, as was she.

I will leave for another day what Mathilde’s life was like once she got to America—that is, until I can read the rest of her memoir.  As for her granddaughter Ellen Kann Pine, like her two uncles Willy and Ernst, she not only survived, she thrived—she worked hard, ultimately obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and became a successful research scientist.  I highly recommend her memoir as another lesson in the resilience of people and their ability to start life over in a new place and find not only security but happiness.  Her book is available on Amazon here.

Sadly, Ernst Mayer’s wife Helene Hirschberg died on July 19, 1945, at age fifty.  Willy Mayer-Gross died in 1961; he was 72.  Mathilda outlived her oldest child, dying at 100 in 1969.  Her other two children also lived long lives.  Ernst died at ninety in 1983, and Alice died in 1993 when she was 97. Her husband Arthur Kann had died many years before in 1966 when he was 83.

My cousin Mathilde had suffered greatly during her life: she had lost her parents in a terrible tragedy, her husband had died too soon, and she had been forced to leave her homeland and the place where her family had lived for hundreds of years.  But she and her three children and all of her grandchildren escaped Nazi Germany in time and survived.  Although all of them suffered from the Nazi treatment of Jews, they all found success. It’s hard to say they were lucky, given what they’d endured, but they at least survived.

Other members of their extended family were not as fortunate.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Later posts will relate what happened to Mathilde’s siblings and their families.

 

[2] Ernst and Helene Mayer had another daughter Dorothea, who had died before the family left Germany.

[3] It appears that Mathilde was listed on an earlier ship manifest to leave Germany in February, 1937. There is a notation “Ext. 9/17/37,” which I assume meant she extended her ticket for an additional seven months. Perhaps she did not want to sail alone, and it was only when Ernst returned to bring her back in October that she came to the US.  Or maybe she did come in February and returned because there is another notation that says “RT.”  Return trip? I am not sure.

Mathilde Mayer-Gross on passenger manifest February 1937

Mathilde Mayer-Gross on passenger manifest Feb 1937 page 2

Mathilde Mayer-Gross listed on February 1937 manifest Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867.