Do you know Mr Burns?

A US resident wonders whether a photograph on an East End blog might be of someone to whom she is related. The subject of the photograph, a Mr Ralph Burns, bears a striking resemblance to the writer’s grandfather, who went to the US as a child. She thinks they might be relatives. Can you help her contact Mr Burns?

This plea has been forwarded to us by The Gentle Author, that indefatigable writer about East End life past and present. The blog posting referred to is at http://spitalfieldslife.com/

I'm writing from Washington, DC to ask if you could help put me in touch with Mr Ralph Burns of Bow or a member of his family. Mr Burns' photo appeared in your blog posting of March 18, 2013 when you visited with congregants of the Settlement Synagogue in Stepney. I wonder if we are possibly related and would like to share some family details with him.

As a member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB), I received a link to the 2013 posting when it published. Yesterday, as I was going through old emails more thoroughly, I was stunned by Mr Burns' photo. He bears a striking resemblance to my grandfather, born in London in 1871.

I joined the JGSGB specifically to find out about my grandfather. He was born to Jewish parents from Germany. Despite extensive searches of public records, I have no information about where in London he was born. Nor have I been able to figure out why his mother was in Great Britain. Family stories say his family was associated with the silk industry, thus my special interest in Spitalfields. For most of his life my grandfather was known as William Meyerhoff. This last name was his adopted father's, so below I provide additional details to ask if any names or places are familiar to Mr Burns or his family. I've also included a photo of a portrait of my grandfather painted from life along with the 2013 photo of Mr Burns (see below).

If you have contact with Mr Burns or a member of his family, please feel free to forward this email to them. Thanks for any help you can give.

With best wishes,

Andrea Meyerhoff

Washington, DC

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Names, places, and dates:

  • My grandfather was the child of a Jewish man named Silberberg from Germany, who I was told might have been in shipping, and a Jewish woman named Johanna Meier, the daughter of a cloth merchant in Offenbach am Main, near Frankfurt.
  • I was told that Silberberg died at sea, before my grandfather was born in London on June 10, 1871.
  • Some time after the birth of my grandfather, his mother Johanna emigrated to the US, where in 1875 she married a Jewish man named Meyerhoff, a dyer who had emigrated to the US a few years earlier and worked in the silk industry in New Jersey. He came from a family of dyers in a small German town in northern Hessen called Volkmarsen. Interestingly, there was also a Silberberg family in this small town of Volkmarsen during the same period.
  • As a young child, my grandfather, the biological child of Silberberg, was adopted by his stepfather, and for the rest of his life was known as William Meyerhoff.
  • William Meyerhoff died in 1937. The only other information I have about his background is that on his Hebrew marriage certificate in 1904 he was called Zev Wolf, son of Reb Avraham HaLevi. Whether this was information about his biological father or simply a nice way of calling him a son of Abraham I don't know.

                                      The photograph that intrigued the writer

                                    William Meyerhoff, the writer's grandfather

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