Genes Reunited Blog
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Larry Lamb shared his family history in the fourth episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, allowing us all, how with dedicated research you can find living relatives who are willing to meet. I'm Rhoda, Head of Genes Reunited, and for me Larry's story demonstrated the power of researching your family history, and showed the amazing ‘goose bump' moments that this subject matter can provide.
Larry was interested in researching his Mum Jessie's family, as at the age of two she was adopted and never saw or heard about her parents again. Whilst Jessie had a happy upbringing and Larry felt that his Grandparents, Fred and Mel White, couldn't be better Grandparents to him, he did want to help his Mum learn more about her natural parents. Jessie has a memory of seeing her Mum when she was two and has kept a silver bracelet that was given to her.
Jessie's adoption was never discussed as she grew up, and due to the adoption law of 1926 there was no access granted to either parents or children to discover anything about each other. A change in the law enabled Jessie to work with an adoption agent to obtain her adoption file, where inside she found all the details she needed to know. There was even a letter from her Mum, Catherine Walker Burns Rose, who was just 17 when she had Jessie, explaining that she had given up all rights to Jessie in the adoption. It was incredibly sad, as Jessie learnt that her mum had wed Albert Day when she was five months pregnant, to ensure Jessie wasn't illegitimate, but they then didn't live together and Albert left Catherine just after Jessie's birth. Catherine had paid for Jessie's upbringing through foster parents, but when she couldn't afford to contribute anymore she let Jessie be adopted. Catherine was living in London, away from her family in Scotland and must have had a very tough decision to make as a single Mum.
Larry took up the search of Albert Day, his maternal Grandfather and discovered he and his family was travelling showmen. The Day family one of the best known fairground family's and Larry learnt that they had an impressive menagerie. Albert Day appeared with his parents in the 1901 census aged 4, where his father Albert Day was a managerist. Sadly his Mum, Elizabeth isn't on the 1901 census and research led to her death record showing she died of TB earlier in 1901, aged just 27.
In 1911 Albert appeared to be living with his uncle, James ‘Wildbeast' Day and his wife Rebecca. Albert was 15, and worked as an assistant showman, responsible for the setting up, packing down and coordination of the showmen on the road. James, and another uncle, known as Martini Bartlet, were both famous showmen and Larry saw photographs of both men and their stalls.
Larry was quite overwhelmed by the material presented and realized that entertaining was clearly in his genes. He went on to meet the John Joseph Day, the grandson of James ‘Wildbeast' Day, who are still travelling with the fairs today. They explained how if the Day family had known about Jessie, she would have been cared for in the family. Whilst Larry saw a photograph of his Grandfather Albert, he seemingly disappeared from the fair and no trace has been found of him since.
Larry then took up the life of Catherine, who it appears after seven years of no contact with Albert, married Louis Rosen after converting to Judaism. Larry's research took him to a London Synagogue where he saw records of her committal to the Jewish faith. She was 30 on conversion and marriage to Louis where records also show she was four months pregnant. Catherine and Louis had a son, John Michael Louis Rosen, a half-brother to Jessie, when Jessie was 12 years old. They then set up home and a business together just a few miles away from where Jessie was growing up.
In the 1950's, the trail of Catherine stops in the UK, so Larry looked into the passenger lists, and found the Rosen family emigrated to Los Angeles, where after nine years Catherine sought naturalization. Records showed Louis died in 1967 aged 60, but Larry struggled to find Catherine's death record, despite researching under her ‘nickname' of Kay, as discovered on Louis's death record.
Further research uncovered Catherine (Kay) had married a Sam Levitz in 1971, aged 62. Catherine died in 1991, aged 83 in Los Angeles. Larry was quite emotional to learn that he was in fact in LA when his Grandma was alive, if only their path's had crossed.
Larry then went in search of John, his Mum's half-brother and they had an emotional meeting, where John shared photographs of his Mum, Catherine and had a phone call with Jessie back in the UK. Both Jessie and John believed they were only children, and were thrilled to learn about each other. Larry asked John to describe Catherine, who Larry felt was identical in character to Jessie.
Larry's search took him on an interesting journey of discovery and he was able to explain to his Mum, about the lives' her natural parents led. He met two sets of living relatives and showed the emotional rollercoaster and satisfaction you can achieve through researching your family history. A brilliant programme, and in my opinion, the best this series has broadcast yet!