You know, I manage to make friends wherever I go in the world. Sometimes, serendipity happens, and I am ever so grateful and always somewhat amazed when it does. That’s how I met Said, in London, on a very bad day. Grab yourself “a spot of creamed tea,” because I’m going to tell you a story and we’re going on an adventure….so come right along!!!
When Jim, my husband, and I arrived in London, we had flown all night and attempted to sleep on the plane. The infamous red-eye flight. Now just doing that is enough to make one a bit grouchy. Of course, it’s substantially cheaper, which is why we booked that flight. And first class….we only know about that section because it holds the restrooms we can see (without the line) and can’t use.
After we arrived in London, we eventually found the right train station at the airport and drug our suitcases onto the train, and off the train, and on, and off. That little sign that says “mind the gap” means that there is a space between the train and the platform and it’s the perfect size for suitcase wheels. Need I say more??? I’m sure there’s a candid camera someplace filming unsuspecting tourists. I quickly learned how to swear in Brit:) – Bloody Hell.
Yes, Bloody Hell….I love it. I just sounds so British, especially with that nice Cockney accent thrown in….and it’s just so much NICER than what I used to say. Nothing to do with bodily functions, or body parts, or any deity, and, well, Bloody Hell is just cute. You could say it in front of your grandkids and no one would get offended. I mean, even Ron Weasley said it, repeatedly, in Harry Potter. Listen for yourself.
In any case, we arrived outside Paddington Station relatively unscathed and ready for our adventure to begin.
However, we didn’t exactly have what happened next in mind. We had been told that our hotel was “just a couple blocks straight down the street” from the station, an easy walk. Never believe what the Brits tell you in the way of distance – they are the ancestors of many of the people in Appalachia that tell you that whatever destination you are looking for is “just over yonder” too, and believe me, yonder can mean a wide variety of things.
And did I mention that London was having a heat wave? Bloody Hell.
So off we went, with only a phone map that was, shall we say, less than helpful. We walked and asked and walked and asked (well, I asked, Jim didn’t) and drug our luggage along behind, which got progressively heavier. We did eventually find our hotel, several blocks away and nothing resembling a “straight shot” only to discover that the travel agent, or so she calls herself, had not booked us in to the hotel. Well, she had…just 2 days later. And no, they did not have a vacancy. Ahhhhh….Bloody Hell.
Did you know that British English and American English are only distant cousins, much as we are to them? You can only understand about half of what they are saying. So here we are in London, now about noon, hot and sweaty, sleep deprived, in a place with no reservation and no place to go. We were trying to understand the hotel clerk to whom neither English, nor British, was a first language which means we could understand maybe 25% of what she said. However, “no” was unmistakable.
Thankfully, the hotel did help us find another location, just down the street a couple blocks. Does this sound familiar? Everything in London is either “just a couple blocks” or “far away.” So off we went again dragging our luggage. By the time we found the hotel and got settled, we had missed the tours for the day that we had planned to take, all of which left before noon. BLOODY HELL!
One minor hiccup was that the hotel we found did not have air conditioning. They passed out electric fans at the front desk when you checked in. Seriously. And there was literally about 18 inches clearance around the bed between the walls. No chair, no nothing, except the “water closet” which was about 3X5 and explains vividly why they called it a “water closet” in the first place.
When you say you have to go to the bathroom in England, you say you are going to the “loo.” I wrote an entire article about the “loo” for my family Sunday Story, but since there is absolutely no DNA connection to it, I can’t really find a way to work it in Just suffice it to say that in one location, in order to make the shower work, you had to turn on a switch on the wall, turn a knob on a box in the shower and then pull a red string attached to the ceiling over the toilet….but I digress.
By now, I was in a seriously bad mood – otherwise known as an unhappy camper – but I was unwilling to sacrifice the entire rest of the day because we only had two additional days in London and this is one of those trip of a lifetime experiences, it turns out, in more ways than one. In other words, I don’t ever expect to be back in London, except to leave at the end of this trip. And by now, I had already backslid from cute-as-a-duck Bloody Hell to something decidedly less cute and way more American.
So, we decided to call a cab and have them take us to a quilt shop. I’m a quilter and while quilt shops aren’t quite the same as a heritage tour, they are certainly interesting in any country. My husband was game for anything as long as it was in a cool location (read had working AC) and made me happy.
The hotel called us a taxi and not two minutes later, a man in a business suit and tie shows up in the lobby and announced he is here for us. We walked outside to see a beautiful black Mercedes – not a taxi, per se – with both air conditioning and chilled bottled water waiting for us. Things are definitely looking up!
Talk about our lucky day. We had managed to be fortunate enough, luck of the draw, to get a private driver, a chauffeur, for our taxi. And before you choke on the thought of the cost, when they aren’t doing chauffeur service, they do taxi runs for the local hotels, at taxi prices.
We managed to get even luckier. Our driver’s name was Said Zahouani. He took us to the quilt shop, and then he said he would wait for half an hour, no charge. Well, one thing led to another, and he knew some other quilt shop locations too, and off we went for a wonderful afternoon, one shop after another – plus a bakery and coffee.
But that wasn’t all. When he discovered what had happened. He drove and narrated the “tour” that we missed, between quilt shops. He’s specially licensed for that – part of the 3 year process of becoming a licensed “cab driver” in London. Guaranteed, you’ll never look at London cabbies the same way again. They’re amazing!
But it gets better yet – my ancestors – the 1709 “Poor Palatines” lived at a location in London called St. Katherine’s, today known as “St. Katherine’s by the Tower.” I’ll do a future article about the Palatines. Theirs is an amazing story of both resilience and stubbornness. You can see St. Katherine’s to the right of the Tower of London, below, on this 1746 map. In 1825, the area where the church was located was “redeveloped” into a much larger dock area. The church and houses on 23 acres were all demolished.
In 1709, St. Katherine’s was the poorest dock section and the Palatines lived in tents there for nearly a year, waiting for a way to America. The Londoners would come down to view the “Poor Palatines” who were living in a pathetic state. The document below shows a woodcut of the Palatines living in tents, nearly 30,000 of them in a very small area, about 23 acres, plus another 11,000 of the poorest English residents as well. I shudder to think of how it must have smelled in that area and the conditions under which these people lived.Today, as irony would have it, this area is very upscale condos on the River Thames.
Here I am, at St. Katherine’s, standing by one of the rope ties from when the ships used to unload there. Behind me are some of the condos, where the tents that the 1709ers lived in were located. That small circular building to the left of my head – it’s a Starbucks. My, how things have changed!
Said, of course, knew all the back ways everyplace and he took me to where my ancestors lived. This location was on NO TOUR of course. By now, I’ve decided that this isn’t a bad day after all, but my lucky day indeed. He took me to where I could get this wonderful view of the Thames River and Tower Bridge, located very close to the Tower of London.
It’s a moving experience to stand where your ancestors stood, to see what they saw, even if they were living in desperate straits. The plight of the 1709ers was one of poverty, stubbornness and resilience. It’s hard not to at once admire them and shake your head about their overt stubbornness too. I have to wonder, is that genetic??
I had more than one family among these refugees seeking land and resettlement in the American colonies.
When I was planning this trip, I looked to see if any of these lines had DNA tested, and I wasn’t able to find any…..so I’m officially looking for the surnames Kobel, Egli, Schaeffer and Suder from these families and there’s a DNA scholarship for a Y-line descendant of any of these families!
- Jacob Kobel born 1682 Hoffensheim, Germany, died 1733 Philadelphia, married Anna Maria Egli who was born in Germany in 1684 and died in Tulpehocken, PA in 1774.
- Their daughter Maria Barbara Kobel married Johann Jacob Schaeffer who was born in 1709 in Relsburg, Germany, just before leaving Germany for London, and who died in 1789 in Schuylkill Co., PA.
- Jacob Schaeffer’s parents were Johann Nicholas Schaeffer born 1670, Relsburg, Germany, died 1745 Tulpehocken, Berks Co., PA, married Maria Catherine Suder, born 1670 in Relsburg and died in Tulpehocken.
The 1709ers aren’t my only connection to these docks in London.
I have another ancestor, Henry Bolton, born about 1759, who is alleged, along with his brother Conrad Bolton, to have been abducted on the London docks as lads and sold into indentured servitude in the colonies, an unscrupulous practice not terribly uncommon at that time.
Henry Bolton is reported by the family to have arrived on the ship Calvert in 1775 which did, indeed, depart from London. If this is true, then it’s likely that Henry was abducted from this dock area as well. I can just see two teen-age boys messing around, getting themselves into trouble and making a nuisance of themselves – just before they were nabbed. And I can hear their mother warning them against doing just that….can’t you? In fact, maybe they were enticed onto the boat with the promise of a treat, food or payment for some odd job. Maybe this is the same place that they lived and unwillingly departed for America. The tenements, the poor area, were adjacent the docks and everyone left the stench of the overcrowded quarters in the day. I’d love to find any records for Henry and Conrad, anyplace in England.
We spent several hours in and out of the car with Said, and we discovered even more. Said’s parents moved to London when he was a small child, so he was raised a Londoner. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and worked overseas in Brazil for a British firm for several years before meeting his wife and returning to London to start a business of his own.
He owns the Mayfair Chauffeurs – a self-made man – and he drives one day a week to stay in touch with his clients. He is the most courteous, genuine, gracious person you would ever want to meet – and his business is built on exceptional customer service, referrals and repeat business.
Being a history, culture, genealogy and DNA junkie, I of course had to ask him a lot of questions about his family, which he was gracious enough to answer.
If you’d like his contact information, here you go:
- Said Zahouani – Inside UK Phone: 07 930 133 584
- Outside UK Phone: 004479 30 13 35 84
- Personal e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Roberta, nice article. My ancestors lived in Fulham and Hammersmith areas, and one, my grt grt grt gfather, was in the Coldsteam Guards at the Tower of London. This would have been a few years after your Palatine encampment. A second prize in sculling on the Thames, The Clarkson Prize, is named after my grandfathers brothers son.
Well, “bloody hell” indeed! Thanks for this post and telling Mom and I something we didn’t know about our ancestors, Maria Barbara Kobel and Johann Jacob Schaeffer. Thoroughly enjoyed this post:) I come for the DNA stuff and find an ancestor!
Diane Kelly Weintraub
Have you done any of the autosomal testing? We’ll have to see if we match. If so, then it’s that Kobel/Schaeffer DNA:)
Yes, both Mom and I tested with 23andMe.com. And we uploaded both raw files to GEDmatch:) That would be so cool if we match!
My kit number is F6656 and my mother’s is F9141. Do you match either?
My kit is M094320
Mom’s kit is M120110
Hi, Just a small correction, the bridge in the photograph is not London Bridge. At least not to Londoners. who call it Tower Bridge.
Important for us Brits as the original London Bridge was bought by a rich American, dis-mantled stone by stone, taken to USA and rebuilt in Lake Havasu city in Arizona. “Bloody hell”. Always enjoy your blogs. What with your research and Pamela’s we shouldn’t need to wait another hundred years to solve the Henry/ Conrad problem. Fingers Crossed ( – another Brit export)
Roberta, if I ever get to London, I will have this column of yours with me, so I can find St. Katherine’s. My first research assignment when I was “just a kid” in genealogy (yeh, age 22) was my great-aunt Allie telling me to find the Starns/Starnes family in Virginia. (I lived/worked in Arlington VA, far from where the Starns settled in the Cumberland Gap). I soon discovered that they were from the Palatine family of Frederick Stahring who was 9 years old when he lived at St. Katherine’s. His wife was (I think) also a Palatine from the Kaltman/Goldman family and they married in the Palatine settlements along NY’s Mohawk River and eventually moved to the “New River” in Virginia. Lots of known history there, but like you, there is something about standing where your ancestors stood and seeing what they saw that thrills me. Thanks for the column!!
Janet, I have an Anna Catherine Stahring who married George Dachstadder. George immigrated with his parents as part of the Palatines, and I believe Catherine’s parents were also Palatine immigrants. Both families came to New York in 1710.
I have a wonderful history of the Johan Adam and Frederick Stahring/Starnes families, but not with me at this time. It’s titled “Of Them Who Left a Name Behind: the History of the Starnes Family in American” I think. If we can stay in touch, I’ll try to figure out how your Anna Catharina is related. I’ve matched 3-4 relatives with my FTDNA Family Finder test, but they are in later generations.
I’m descended from Frederick Stahring too! Through Nicholas, but the family stayed in upstate New York until about 1870, when descendants Joseph Myers (son of Julia Sterling and David Myers), his wife Alma, and daughter Myrtle went to Pueblo, Colorado.
Bloody Hell indeed!
Great story! Thanks for sharing
I’m always amazed at the small differences in the English language on the two sides of the Atlantic. In the UK we don’t “drug” our suitcases with pharmaceuticals! We drag them around instead!
Yes, I was amazed by the small and not so small differences too. Drug is the past tense of drag, here. However, some good drugs would have improved the situation immensely:)
Excellent story. We had something of a similar experience with London cabs — got us to Heathrow in short order when the Underground just wasn’t going to get us there on time. Very helpful! I have a Carlock line from the Palatine, and you’ve inspired me to learn more about their story. Small correction: That’s Tower Bridge in the photo; London Bridge is the next one upstream, with the HMS Belfast moored between them. The current incarnation of London Bridge isn’t a lot to look at, which is why Tower Bridge is frequently misidentified. Bloody hell!
Lol on the Drag/Drug! Roberta, what a great article and how wonderful that you were able to travel there! I also have ancestors that had children baptized/christened at St. Katherine’s. I like how on the map it is spelt as I spell my name, with a “C”! Maybe that is why they had you as a match to me at 23&me? As I did not put your side into my tree, as that is my kids and not my line, unless we cross [DNA] paths way back when.
Like a song stuck in one’s head, methinks “Bloody Hell” will be sung all day, driving my husband nuts. What an amazing story and so glad you ended with a positive experience! I love London and have been in England 4 times, can’t get enough. However, I think I would have fired my travel agent for that first incident at the hotel. Now you’ve left us in suspense!! Thanks for sharing Said and his magic carpet machine (with A/C)!
It’s been stuck in my head too. Even my husband is saying it now:)
Great story. I see you stayed at the Henry VIII. I’ve stayed there before and you’re right, the rooms are very small and hard to maneuver. I will definitely remember Said and his business name when I’m in London next year. I have been fortunate to have great tour guide/chauffeurs while there, but many wind up moving on or leaving the city. Glad to know I have this information now.
What a wonderful article. I love the photos and title page, which I had not seen. I have 40+ ancestors who came with the 1710 Palatine movement. Of course, one is a Schaffer named Jose Henrich from Hochsteur in the earldom of Hartenburg, near Kaiserslautern. Are you aware of the Palatine DNA Project http://www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/palatine? also this: http://www.worldfamilies.net/search/node/schaffer. I started the Palatine project but turned it over a few years ago when I got bogged down with other projects and hoped my successor might give it the time and attention it deserves.
Thank you for sharing your great experiences.
Doris – it was through your wonderful gift of information a couple of years ago that I connected into this line. I can’t thank you enough. I did not know about that project. How could I have missed it? Thank you, again.
Geat story!!! I so wish you were in my family tree or I in yours. Going to have to check out the past tense of drag. I have been saying dragged.
I may be mistaken, but I thought dragged was the past tense of drag.
Well, y’all, I had to go and look. I love Grammar Girl and she says that dragged is the past tense of drag but that drug is used instead in the southern dialect, which explains why I’ve always used it that way. Who knew. Here’s what she said about this: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/dragged-versus-drug
I had always thought “drug” was a proper past participle form of drag, e.g., compare give/gave/given with drag/dragged/drug. If that were true, it would be okay to say, “I looked like something the cat had drug in.” But, I’m surprised to discover that just ain’t so! “Dragged” is both the past tense and past participle of “drag” (according to Webster’s Collegiate). Learned something new (now I’ll have to unlearn something old).
I am afraid your London Bridge is Tower Bridge – but thousands or millions of Americans have made the same mistake.
Yes, and oops. Thanks to you kind folks, I changed it:)
Fun and interesting to ready – as always! Thank you Ghita
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:52:19 +0000 To: email@example.com
actually on the way home today – at about 1245pm CST, was listening to the local Public Radio/NPR – they a piece on the Lumbees of NC and their owned fishing grounds. -about ? a new ship way? docks to be brought into the area – and their concern if would cause issues with the fish they caught. eg disrupt the ?breeding… did not hear all of it as had a pickup a sick child from school. Ghita
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:52:19 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org
What a great story! I enjoyed it so much! I have been thinking about my ancestors with the hypothesis that at least some of them found their way up the Iberian Peninsula, through Southern Germany, and then through England to America. I notice that Said had the “eye” hanging from his mirror. If I understand it correctly this is a Mid-eastern tradition intended to watch for evil and ward it off should it approach. Did Said say anything about it or explain it to you?
Yes, said and I spoke about the eye. Ironically, I had purchased one exactly like it two years ago in Turkey, for the same purpose. It was a common bond between us, even as people whose common origins stretch back thousands of years.
A few years ago I purchased an eye just like that as a graduation gift at our local arts council during an imported rug show . A young man had come from Turkey with the importer and we had a long conversation that day (since I had volunteered for the afternoon). Seems like he was married to a Japanese sociologist which I found to be surprising in several ways. Talk about mixing it up!
I have a number of really unusual things on my Christmas tree from my travels and such, and my “eye” is one of them.
What a wonderful story. I’m glad that your day wasn’t wasted and turned out so well. The well known incarnation of London Bridge stands at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, so maybe you will get to see it one day. A couple of suggestions – don’t use travel agents, research and book things yourself – and walk the walk to the hotel on Google Street View before leaving home so you know what to expect.
The trip itself was for a group of 30 people from all over the world, included busses and such, so a travel agent really was quite important, in this case. I normally don’t use them, for this very reason. The ironic part is that she thought we were doing the add on days ourself and we thought she did them, as we had asked. And as for the map issue, my husband assured me that he knew the way. We just won’t discuss that anymore:))
For those researching families that came from or through the Palatinate due to religious persecution, I recommend the extensive genealogical files of the Huguenot Historical Society based in New Palz, New York. New Palz was established by French Huguenots who, in recognition of the country that gave them sanctuary, named the city after the Palatinate, Palz in German. I have to assume some of the early settlers were also German Palatines or married to one. A friend of mine visited the museum there many years ago and to his amazement discovered that his family pedigree had been already researched completely with books on each Huguenot family containing hundreds of listings. A helpful site to get started:
Dumb question, but where would be a good place to start, to look into whether any of my non-Amish, early Pennsylvania German ancestors had originally been part of that group of Palatines?
Great question. There is a series of books by Henry Z. Jones Jr called the Palatine Familes of NY Vol 1 and 2 and then a third called More Palatine Families. He has done an inordinate amount of work on these families and each person is detailed, as much as is known. I bought them on Amazon.
I always learn a lot form your blogs and this one was no exception. However, this one had the added delight of being a terrific travel log/blog! I enjoyed reading it and laughed more than once. Great job!
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I read and laughed too. You should write a little book about all your experiences and the things you are finding out about people in general. What a patchwork quilt we make, don’t we. Wonderful story about Said and his father the little “bumble bee”.
Roberta, I really enjoy reading your blog. You DNA articles are so informative. I also have German Palantine ancestors and your article on their stay in London was another interesting story I didn’t know about these people. Thanks!
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I sm a descendant of Jacob Kobel’s brother who came to Pennsylvania with his wife and kids in 1733. His sons later came to North Carolina. Somone has started a DNA project at family tree DNA. So far there’s two people in it, I think a 3rd is pending. Check it out here. http://www.familytreedna.com/group-join.aspx?Group=Kobel-Coble I am the one with 67 markers tested.
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Thank you for this wonderful story. I am a direct descendant of Georg Dachstatter who was one of the Poor Palatines that came to New York between 1709 and 1710. If I ever get to London (it’s on the bucket list) I will most definitely be checking out St. Katherine’s.
I am also a descendent of the Palatine Germans – Johannes and Anna Magdalena Zeh. Magdalena was the famous leader of a group of women who ran the sheriff out of town in Scholarie. It looks like she was later arrested. So one of my first ancestors in America has an arrest history! When we visit London I am going to make sure I go to that area to stand where they first handed in England. I have already been to Germany to Oppenheim. After that will be Governor’s Island and then Scholarie.
Wonderful story. Very American.