Celebrity genealogy series. Actor Larry Lamb sets out to learn about his biological grandparents, who gave his mother up for adoption as an infant.
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Lawrence Larry Lamb was born in Edmonton, North London in 1947.
After a very long varied career,
he became known to millions at the age of 60
for his roles in EastEnders and Gavin and Stacey.
God, not this again, you two.
He is struggling, Nick, to come to terms with the loss of Gavin.
Gavin's not dead, Pam.
Three days running I've come home to this. Tears at the table.
I had no inkling that I would become an actor.
Me dad and mum had a fish and chip shop
so it just wasn't, it wasn't part of the set up.
There's a real wanderlust in me.
It's like, what's on the other side of that next hill?
My mum's got this real move-on gypsy sort of thing in her
and I certainly have,
I mean, I can set up camp and be there for a while
and I can, over the years lived in,
I don't know, dozens and dozens and dozens of places.
Larry has a son, George, from his third marriage
and two young daughters with his partner.
Now Larry wants to solve a family mystery on his maternal line.
I've always been intrigued about what my real background is
due to the fact that my mother was adopted.
And so there were people that I knew as my mother's parents,
I realised later in life, were not.
Knowing that a whole side of me is a bit of a mystery,
it fascinates me, frankly.
Larry now has the chance to shed light on this unknown family history,
as his mother has finally accessed documents relating to her adoption.
This is the perfect time.
Seize the opportunity and really go for it. Find out what I am.
Larry was well into adulthood when he discovered his mother was adopted.
The people that raised my mum were Fred and Nell White,
a childless couple who met just after the First World War and married
and then my mum came along.
I believe they fostered her and eventually,
from what I know, that led to them becoming her adoptive parents.
For everything that I gathered, she'd had a wonderful life with them as her parents.
I certainly didn't realise they were anything but her real mum and dad when I was a kid
and so they were, as far as I was concerned, my grandparents.
They certainly fulfilled that role
and so I feel no different about them at all,
I'm just inquisitive to find out about who the real ones were.
Larry's on his way to see his mother, Jessie.
After a lifetime in London, she now lives in Eastbourne on the south coast.
Larry's younger sister, Penny, is visiting too.
-What are you doing here, eh?
Hah, hah, hah!
What you laughing at, eh? What are you laughing at?
-How are you?
-All right, thank you.
You're looking grand, Ma, eh?
You look lovely.
Jessie is now 84.
Although she was adopted as a baby
Jessie remembers a visit from her real mother when she was a very small child.
-I remember her in a wrap-round overall she had on.
But I don't remember her at all, not her face.
-Just an image?
But I've got this little silver bracelet from her.
Look at that.
I remember her saying that was their parting gift to you.
-So you've had this all these years, yeah?
Despite this contact, Jessie's adoption was never discussed.
For decades she didn't even know her birth parents' names,
and there was no official way to find out.
Jessie was born in 1926,
the year the first ever Adoption Act was introduced in the UK.
The Act formulised the adoption process
but it also ushered in unintended decades of secrecy.
Adopted children like Jessie had no right to information about their birth parents
and could not access their birth certificates or their adoption files.
As a result of later changes in the law,
Jessie recently discovered her parent's names.
Albert Day and Catherine Walker Burns Rose.
Now an adoption support agency has just helped Jessie access
all the remaining documents
connected to her legal adoption in 1930.
"The child is the legitimate daughter of Albert and Catherine Walker Burns Day."
So you were legitimate?
Yes, I was.
I didn't even think they were married but they were.
This is the marriage certificate, they married in 1925.
On the 17th August 1925,
-that was five months before you were born.
-And she was only 17.
Oh, dear oh, dear.
"It appears the parents were living apart
"shortly after the child's birth."
So they made you legitimate by getting married and then split up.
"The address of the father was not known
"and when the child was three months old,
"she was living with the mother at 100 Camden Road."
Is that it, Camden Road?
Catherine was originally from Scotland
and so was away from her family when she found herself alone with baby Jessie.
That must've been so hard. 17 and a baby.
Yeah, it must've been.
When Jessie was three months old,
Catherine placed her with a foster mother.
"To whom ten shillings a week was paid by the mother."
It's not like today then where the State would pay for that.
She was actually paying a lot of money to have Mum looked after.
"After 11 months, she could no longer pay the ten shillings maintenance
"and intended to have the child adopted."
But I've got to show you this one piece, Larry.
There's this little note. With Catherine's signature.
Oh, God. "The Infant Welfare Centre, 5th of the 1st '27.
"I hereby agree to give up all claim to Jessie Dorothy Day,
"and to have her adopted by Mrs White."
And it's signed Mrs Catherine Day.
I just find it so sad that someone must've told her what to put there.
The mother's only made one visit to the applicant and child,
on the 27th of the 1st 1928.
So she came to visit you on your second birthday
after giving you up, just short of your first birthday.
So she did come back.
And since then, nothing has been heard of her or the father.
That was it. She just disappeared.
Yes, we don't know where.
The documents in the file give very little information
about Jessie's father, Albert Day.
Do you have any memory at all of him?
Absolutely no picture of him or anything.
So, Albert Day remains the phantom.
Well, we know one thing, don't we?
We know that he worked on a fairground.
-Assistant to travelling showman, he was.
"Residence at the time of marriage, fairground,
"corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street."
Dear, oh, dear!
But maybe that's why we're all so restless?
Maybe we're travellers too?
So do you ever think about Catherine and Albert?
And wonder where they are and where they went.
Let's see if we can find out, eh?
Yes, that would be wonderful.
It would, I'd really like to know.
You'd like to know.
I'd love to know. We'll do our best though.
I feel like I've really sort of got the bit between my teeth now.
The first thing I want to find out is what on earth happened to Albert Day, God bless him.
Well, I don't think there's a lot of point in starting looking for a fairground
at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street!
And he's a showman. What does that mean?
Does that mean that he's a carny boy,
you know, a traveller that works on the fairground?
It's just the weirdest thing.
Larry's hoping he can find out more about his grandfather,
Albert Day, by investigating the world of travelling showmen.
He's come to the Black Country Living Museum in the Midlands,
home to a traditional fair, to meet fairground historian, Guy Belshaw.
-It's Guy, yeah?
-Nice to meet you.
Pleased to meet you. Welcome to the fairground.
Hey, thank you.
What do you think of it?
Yeah, yeah, look at it. It reminds me of fairgrounds when I was a boy.
Now, Guy, I'm given to believe that you're the man
who might be able to help me in my quest.
This is a copy of a marriage between Albert Day,
who is in actual fact my grandfather.
And at the time of the marriage, Albert Day, my grandfather,
was an assistant to a travelling showman
and Albert Day was the son of another Albert Day, who was a showman...
Now that's quite interesting there
because the name Day was very well known in the fairground business
from the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century.
-Very well known.
And this could link you to that well-known family.
And what about the classification of showman, does that imply anything?
It does, it means that Albert Day, your grandfather
was in the higher echelons of the business
because they owned own equipments and were showmen in their own right.
-So he was at the top end of the business if you like.
The early decades of the 20th century were a golden age of the fairgrounds,
and the Days were one of the best known fairground families.
Mechanical rides were an exciting new invention,
made possible by steam and electricity.
And visitors would flock to fairs in their hundreds of thousands.
Fairs would visit most towns and cities just once a year,
so their arrival was a cause for celebration and a holiday atmosphere.
Though reputable enough for families to visit together,
the fairs were also a chance to let loose
and find release from the daily grind.
So Guy, my long lost granddad, Albert Day,
as a assistant to a travelling showman, you know,
what would that involve?
-Pretty hard graft really, Larry.
They probably pulled down on a Sunday,
-pack it up Monday, move Tuesday and Wednesday.
If you look at the thing behind us, imagine shifting the mounts on that
and you've got a kid on each end lifting those.
-So it would've been a very hard life.
While visitors came to fairs for respite from the everyday,
for showmen, they were a way of life.
Showmen like the Days were not gypsies or travellers
but they did live on the road.
Through spring and summer they worked long hours, in all weathers,
moving their rides and stalls every few days,
travelling the country from fair to fair.
Families all travelled together.
As they did not belong to settled communities
traditional schooling was difficult.
Their nomadic lifestyle created a world apart,
where show families had their own culture and language.
This was the close-knit community Albert Day would have grown up in.
So, Albert Day married Catherine Rose in August 1925
and then sort of pretty much disappears from my story
and I understand you might be able to tell me something about what happened to him afterwards.
Well, unfortunately we haven't had a lot of luck in tracing Albert after that,
because working on a fairground it was difficult to trace people,
they moved around, but I had more luck in going back in time.
So I've got something to show you here. This is a birth certificate.
Good Lord! "13th April 1897, the fairground at Ellison's Tenement, Accrington,
"Albert, boy, father, Albert Day,
"mother, Elizabeth Day formerly..."
-Cubbins the name is.
"And occupation of father.
"A Menagerie proprietor."
-Animal, animal show?
-That's right, yes.
-So there we are.
-So, an unusual profession?
With no information about Albert after Jessie's birth,
Guy is going to help Larry trace Albert's early years.
The mention of menageries suggests his family were originally involved
in the world of fairground shows.
They're starting with the census from 1901.
So, 1901 is the first one.
He would have been about four by then, wouldn't he?
He would have been around four, yeah.
So we'll search for the person's name there.
So this is it and we're looking for the Day family.
Day, Day, there you go, there's an Albert Day.
That's him, so that's, that's Albert your grandfather
and his birth place is Accrington in Lancashire which we know
-from the birth certificate.
So we know this is definitely Albert
and his father, also Albert, we're searching for.
-Here you go.
-We can see him there.
The address is given as Easter Fair, Back Fields and they're living in caravans here.
-So that would tell us that they're travelling people.
And funnily enough, there's this Elizabeth who was the wife is not listed here.
Elizabeth, the mother, isn't there.
She would be normally, would she not?
She would, but I've checked
-and sadly Elizabeth died earlier in that year.
-What in 1901?
In 1901 before the census was taken.
The death certificate indicates she died of TB at the age of 27.
So young Albert growing up, only four years old without a mother.
Wow, I wonder what's happened by 1911, can we check on 1911 which will be the next one?
-Yeah, so we'll see if we can trace them.
-So here we are, 1911 and here is Albert, your grandfather.
-The head of the family now is James Day.
-And Rebecca, his wife.
-Albert's the only one who's not...
-A son or a daughter.
-A son or a daughter and he's a nephew.
-So he's now with his uncle's family?
-He's now travelling with his uncle
and he's 15, so he's obviously a working man by this time.
So he'd be employed, I guess, by James Day.
James Day, we can see here this is 1911, he's down here as a showman stallholder.
-In previous years he was a very famous menagerie proprietor...
One of half a dozen travelling the country, but Day was very well known
for that kind of entertainment.
Jimmy Day, travelling showman. Hmm.
I thought I was the first one.
-No, there were entertainers in your family generations before.
And the whole thing and my mum and me being people,
my sister, my brother can up sticks and move at the drop of a hat, huh.
Just this whole thing of finding out that one is another in the line of travelling people,
people that entertain, people that move around,
transient, picking up people along the way,
and, you know, from what I gather, going back several generations
and, you know, that's part of me.
I'm beginning to feel, this is where I stand in the line of things.
I don't think I ever felt I would feel that way.
The records show that by 1911, Larry's grandfather Albert,
son of his great grandfather Albert,
was living with his uncle, James Jimmy Day.
Both Albert's father and Uncle Jimmy were menagerie proprietors.
Larry wants to know more about the world his grandfather was born into,
the old world of the exotic travelling shows.
He's come to the National Fairground Archive at Sheffield University.
Larry is meeting the head of the archive, Professor Vanessa Toulmin.
-Morning, welcome to National Fairground Archive.
-Good morning, Professor.
-Professor, yes, Vanessa.
-Professor Vanessa, fantastic!
-I've had many jokes about that.
-I was going to say, you should try being Larry Lamb.
Do you want to know something about your family?
I'd like to know as much as possible about the Day family.
-A very famous show family, let me show you some material.
So it's quite easy,
we just do a search
and let's see what comes up.
And there it is, Day's Menagerie.
-So this is the front of the show, yeah?
-Quite amazing, isn't it?
-Good lord, so when would this have been?
-1890s, about 1895, this one.
-That's just what we call the top flash.
-Top flash, yeah?
The showmen say, it's not the show that brings the dough, it's the flash that brings the cash.
-I love it.
-This would have cost a fortune.
All hand carved, hand painted and these incredible tableaus telling you...
-What you're going to see, yeah.
-It's slightly over dramatic but...
-..that's the showman.
-Then you can see just over there, Day's Menagerie.
Would this have been enclosed in a tent behind where the show was, or was it open air?
It was all inside. I can show you what the inside of a menagerie is.
-Let's go round the table and have a look.
-Fantastic. Thank you.
OK, Larry, you've seen the outside, that's what you'd see inside.
A travelling menagerie were known on the fairground as the beast shows, the wild beast show.
The show is made up of all the different cages with different animals,
the hyenas or camels or monkeys.
Amazing, so they'd walk around and see into the different cages?
Yeah, and then they'll be a performance in the middle in one of the cages.
Oh, there will, yeah?
This is great, of the menagerie on the road, but you look at the train,
-look how massive that is?
They would have gone from town to town and done this fantastic parade
of all the animals, a bit like a circus parade.
-People must have been just absolutely mystified to see this lot turn up.
And the travelling shows were the first time that anybody
-in Buxton, Nottingham, Oxford would have seen a wild animal.
The travelling menagerie was a 19th century phenomenon,
and the Days were one of half a dozen families travelling the country with their wild animals.
Menageries had existed for centuries, but had been the preserve of the very rich and royalty.
The expanding British Empire made it easier to access wild animals
and enterprising showmen, like the Days,
saw the possibility of cashing in on the public's love of the exotic.
Keeping these zoos on the road was an expensive and, at times, dangerous undertaking.
Elephants could cost several hundred pounds,
and lions well over £100 each.
And there was the constant pressure of buying enough horsemeat to feed the wild beasts.
But the effort and the investment were worth it.
At the height of the business, menagerie owners could make their fortunes.
-So, this is the Day family, very, very large family but these are the main ones.
That's Albert Day, your great grandfather and those are his brothers and sisters.
-That's the father of my grandfather, as it were?
-Yeah, Albert's son.
-Albert was living with his uncle.
-James Day, or Jimmy Wild Beast Day.
-Jimmy Wild Beast Day!
-Here we are.
-That's Jimmy Wild Beast?
-Fantastic costume, as you can see.
-Yeah, Mexican bandito.
-Mixed up with a cowboy, mixed up with a pirate.
-He knows how to strike a pose.
-And then what's really interesting...
..probably the most famous of all the Day brothers,
who was even more exotic, is this guy, Martini Bartlett,
and he was known as the Lion King, the King of the lion tamers.
Martini Bartlett, a lion tamer.
-It sounds more exotic than Tom Day.
-Of all the things in the world!
-And this is Martini.
-God, look at him.
So Martini Bartlett would have been my actual granddad's uncle?
-He's have been a great, great uncle of mine?
-Your great, great uncle.
-And a really, really famous showman,
a really famous showman.
And we've got some material, some interviews with him,
reminiscences of him and his life...
-Are you OK?
-Yeah, completely overwhelmed.
-Lion tamer was a real exotic figure.
To be related to those people, to be part of that same clan, huh.
Larry has discovered his ancestors were at the top of their profession.
This was the extraordinary world that his grandfather, Albert Day, grew up in.
But he still wants to know what became of Albert, after Jessie's birth.
With help from the Showmen's Guild,
he's discovered the Day family are still involved in the fairground business today.
He's got contact details for a branch of the family in Devizes in Wiltshire.
Looking for a sign of trailers, caravans.
It's like looking for a film location as one's done on countless occasions.
Trailers and caravans.
Oh, here we go, here's something, here's something.
A bit of fairground equipment in there.
-Morning, I'm looking for John Joseph Day.
-And you've found him.
-That's you is it?
-Yes, that's me.
-How you getting on?
-Eh, all right, all right, all right.
-This is John William Day.
-John William, yeah? how you doing?
-And this is Jason.
-Pleased to meet ya.
-One of me son's, yeah.
-So how old are you?
-73, are you?
-I'm one of the youngest of them, there's ten of us, but me grandfather, there was 13.
-So what was his name, your grandfather?
-Wild Beast Jimmy Day.
-Wild Beast Jimmy Day.
-He was your granddad, was he, Wild Beast Jimmy, was he?
-And your grandfather?
-Was Albert the younger one. Come in, out the cold, come in.
-Come in out the cold, eh.
Over a century on from the heyday of the menageries,
it's harder now for the Days to earn their living from the fairs, and preserve their way of life.
But like generations of ancestors before them, the family all still live in trailers.
Look at this lot, eh?
John Day has a collection of family photos.
Now, that's one of the famous lions, that was Wallace.
-That was Wallace, was it?
-One of my grandfather ones.
Man-eating lion, a man-killing lion.
-Supposed to be.
That's Joey. My grandfather worked his lions all his life and they'd ride the backs of 'em.
-Yeah, to them they was like dogs to them.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-That's one of the pets.
-And he's an amazing looking beast, isn't he?
So I've got something specific I want to ask you now,
the census of 1911 shows Albert Day,
who we've established is my grandfather aged 15 in the household of your granddad.
-Jimmy Wild Beast.
Why was Albert, my granddad, registered down in the household?
-In the care of them.
-In the care of.
Well, Albert, your great grandfather ended up in Manchester.
I don't know what happened, if he went to drink, cos they did like...
-All of them liked their drink.
-He ended up with no show.
So that's how young Albert come to live with my grandfather.
-Right, and which is your dad there?
-William Day here, look, see.
-There's William Day, he's 12, look.
-He was 12. Well, two to three years younger than my granddad.
Him and dad got on well, that's something me oldest brother said.
There doesn't seem to be anything about him.
He went in the First World War.
-He did, did he?
-Yeah, and I'll show you now.
-He fought in the First World War.
-Here he is!
-They call that little Albert.
-So that is my granddad?
-I suppose that's the first time you've seen him?
Huh, my granddad.
-I will tell you, there he is again, look and there's Uncle Jimmy Day.
-There's my father, Billy Day.
-That is Albert.
This looks like they're gathered to have their photograph taken with him...
Yes, he was like a brother to 'em, not a cousin.
-Yeah, he's become a brother living with them.
-He was a brother.
You know my mum knows nothing more of him that just a name on a couple of bits of paper.
-That's all she's ever known.
-This thing is, father's sister, Aunt Lizzie...
Said about 25 years ago before she died, she was telling me about him.
-And he was restless.
He'd been with 'em and disappeared.
One morning, they got up and he was gone, where he went they don't know.
-And was that sort of unusual...
-It was unusual.
-..in your community?
Oh, yes, because if he went with any fair right up and down the country...
-Yeah, you'd know.
-That would come back to us.
-That would come back to us.
-He must have kept away from...
-From the fairground business side?
And they all died saying that they never know where he went to.
-But it was spoken of, his disappearance, yeah?
That's the interesting thing, because to us he was a disappearing person who never really existed.
-No, he did have a family.
-To you he was a disappearing person who disappeared.
-I'm glad your mother's found him.
-Did anybody ever tell her anything?
-She never ever knew anything about her father at all.
-By the time all the documentation was put together...
-To, to adopt her.
He'd been long gone and nobody knew where he was.
That's unusual with our people, because they'd have took the baby back to the family.
-They would have.
-When you see...
-When you see your mother, if they'd have known...
-She'd have been took in.
-Yeah, but it seems to me he wouldn't have known at all.
-He just disappeared and nobody known what happened with him since.
Seeing the picture of the long lost,
deeply mysterious, enigmatic Albert, Albert Day,
Little Albert as they called him, is just a little bit strange, you know.
So all of a sudden, there's a face to this name.
And strange to think that, er, had Catherine and Albert stayed together,
that this would have become my mum's life.
This life would certainly suit her, that's for sure,
constantly moving on.
She'll be tickled pink when I tell her about this, absolutely.
In a way, it's a rounding off of the story.
And then meeting all these extraordinary people,
finding out about this element of my life that I had no idea of.
This travelling instinct, for sure, this element of the showman,
that's the answer to a lot of questions for me.
I just love it,
Despite everything he's discovered,
Larry still doesn't know what became of his grandfather Albert Day.
It appears there are no further records relating to him after 1926,
when Albert was named on Jessie's birth certificate.
Back home in London,
Larry now wants to turn his attention to his mother's birth mother, Catherine Walker Burns Rose.
My mum has always had this
sort of image of this female character in her mind.
Now, whether that's just been generated over the years,
I don't know, but she seems pretty certain
that she remembers this person who was her mother.
And that sense, that feeling, is really important to her.
I mean, she's always nursed this, you know, increasingly impossible dream
of seeing her mum and she, you know, she's 84.
According to the file, Catherine visited and saw my mum
on her second birthday, but that's it, she's disappeared.
So, what happened to Catherine Day?
To start his search, Larry's checking the marriage index
to see if Catherine married again after separating from Albert Day.
Change the Day and put Rose in there.
Well, this could... This says there's a Catherine B Rose which may or may not be her,
but there doesn't seem to be anybody else with that name or similar,
marrying somebody called Rosen.
December 1932 in Hampstead.
She's dropped the Day but that's it, doesn't tell me any more.
To find out more about this marriage Larry needs the full certificate.
He's ordered a copy from Camden Town Hall in Central London.
Um, I've come to get a marriage certificate
and the surnames are Rose and Rosen.
-OK. There you are, sir.
If you want go in there and just check it through,
-you're more than welcome to do that.
-Thank you, thank you.
31st December 1932,
Catherine Burns Rose - 24 years,
and her father's name John Rose - deceased. That's her.
Louis Rosen, rank or profession - hairdresser.
Wow, and she's described as a spinster, interesting.
I think I'm going to ask the lady here, I think she'll be very helpful. Excuse me?
-Um, do you think you could just, um, have a look at this with me...
..and check something out.
I've got a...
I've got a copy of...
Catherine Burns Rose, my grandmother.
-That's a copy of her wedding certificate to the guy who was my grandfather.
-And she's down as a spinster.
-Married to Rosen.
-So this marriage was in 1925, that marriage was in 1932 so that's seven years.
-After seven years, if she had no contact with this Mr Day...
-..she could, um, she could have him presumed dead.
If she'd have gone down the legal channel and said, "I married this man in 1925,
"I haven't seen him for seven years.
-"I haven't heard from him, nobody's seen him."
-He then can be presumed dead.
-She would have gone down as a widow.
-Technically, she's committing perjury.
-Yeah, because she's...
-This is supposed to be sworn as true, right?
-That's correct, yes.
Maybe she thought after seven years, you know, "I haven't seen him, haven't heard from him, you know,
-"I'll just declare myself as a spinster."
-And, you know.
-Take the risk?
Right, what's the next step if I want to find out about them?
-Going by his name, he could be Jewish.
His father's name's Isaac Rosen.
Yeah, so there are Jewish records that you could perhaps, um, research.
Hm, wow, thank you.
Here, in 1932..
..my mum would have been approaching her seventh birthday,
just short of her seventh birthday, six and eleven months.
And not too very far away,
her mum is beginning a new life.
A completely new life.
To discover if there are any Jewish records relating to Catherine,
Larry is on his way to meet genealogist, Lawrence Harris.
He's asked to meet me at the Walford Road Synagogue
in Stoke Newington.
Well, there we go.
Right on the corner.
Walford Road Synagogue, Shaare Mazal Tov.
-Welcome to Walford Road Synagogue.
-Would you like to pop a skullcap on?
-I would, I'd love to.
-Thank you, thank you.
-You've never been here before, I guess?
-I've never been here, I've been to Walford before,
-but not Walford Road!
-This is an amazing building.
I'm just wondering why you chose here to meet.
I have to tell you that your grandmother Catherine
was actually married here in 1938.
Oh, was she, in 1938?
1938. Now you know she was married in a registry office.
-Six years after the registry office wedding, yeah.
1938, my grandmother was married here.
Would she have been allowed to marry in the synagogue as a, I assume, a gentile?
The simple answer is no, she would have actually had to have converted.
-To have married here, she would actually had to have converted to Orthodox Judaism.
-In fact I've got some documents I'd like to show you that actually describe that process.
This is the first one.
Certificates of proselytisation.
Right, CW Rose,
Oh, date of application is October 1933
and the date of reception 1938, so it's five years.
-She took five years to convert.
They didn't make it easy for somebody to convert.
-Yeah, she was obviously committed, wasn't she?
And this is the declaration she made.
"I, the undersigned, Catherine Walker Rosen, nee Rose,
"declare that I have accepted the Jewish Faith of my own free will,
"and solemnly undertake to lead the life of a true Jewess."
There we are.
So by this time May, May 26th 1938, she's 30 years of age.
-That's when she's been accepted in, right.
-So I have a Jewish grandmother because she converted.
Well, well, well, well, well.
On the day of the marriage, it's likely that this ark would have been open.
-These are the ark scrolls.
And there would have been a number of blessings,
they would have drunk wine from a glass.
It must have been a really big moment for her, very obviously at this point
joining the community and joining the family.
-Yeah, she's been accepted.
-She's been accepted.
Also, I've got to tell you there was another reason why it was important
for her to officially marry in 1938.
At the time of her marriage, she was actually four months pregnant.
And I've got a little document.
9th September 1938 at Willesden Maternity Hospital,
John Michael - a boy, name and surname of father - Louis Rosen,
and there she is Catherine Burns Rosen formerly Rose. Hah!
-So my mum at that moment in time had a half-brother.
A half-brother John.
And I, another uncle, hah!
Larry now knows that in 1938, when his mother Jessie was 12 years old,
her mother Catherine had another child, John Rosen.
At the time, Catherine and her new family were living and running a hairdressing business
just a few miles away from where Jessie was growing up.
Only a few hours after leaving the synagogue,
Larry receives some new information from Lawrence,
relating to Catherine's life after her conversion.
OK, and about what year would that be?
Early '50s, OK, early '50s. OK, and I'll just wait for your text.
Fantastic. All the best to you, Lawrence. Thank you, bye, bye.
Well, everything seems to come to a stop around the 1950s,
and as everything up to then all sort of adds up, the only thing
that he can think of, is that they maybe emigrated and left Britain.
He's going to text me a number of a good website to get onto
for tracking passenger records of people leaving the country
around the early '50s.
Supposedly, according to Lawrence, this is easy.
I'll put Catherine in.
Now, year of birth - 1908, port of departure - all ports, I guess.
Destination - all countries, ba-boom, search.
Here they are. She went to America, ha!
Date of departure - 9th February 1953.
The ship name - United States, there we are.
I just love it.
And they've gone to 426 South Hill Street,
Los Angeles, California.
Cor, dear, oh dear, oh dear. Dear, oh dear, oh dear.
I suppose the next thing is to start checking up records in America.
To follow Catherine's story, Larry must travel to the United States.
So, here we are, on our way to Heathrow to fly to LA
to find the whereabouts or something about Catherine Rosen
and John Michael Rosen.
I'm excited, but I know just how excited my mum would be to find,
after all these years, that she had, or has, hopefully, direct family,
and at times when I've been there, conceivably,
there were relatives of mine,
you know, full blood relatives of mine maybe living there.
Los Angeles has always attracted immigrants in pursuit of the good life
and the 1950s was no different.
When Catherine and her family arrived in the city, LA was a boom town.
It offered a temperate climate, affordable housing
and, as the home of the Hollywood film industry,
a touch of glamour as well.
The contrast of bomb-damaged post-war London would have been stark.
At the time, the United States operated a quota system for immigrants,
that favoured Western Europeans including the British.
It also helped to have relatives in the country,
and records show that Louis Rosen already had a nephew in LA.
To find out how Catherine and her family fared in this new world,
Larry's come to the Norwalk Library in Los Angeles to meet genealogist, Ted Gostin.
I am so hoping you can take me on to another step.
All right, well, one of the first things I did, was to look to see
whether Catherine became a citizen here in the United States.
-And we found that she did become a citizen.
And this is a copy of her naturalisation petition which she filed in 1962...
-..after she'd been here for about nine years.
-But it's got quite a bit of information about her.
Yeah, Catherine Walker Burns Rosen, from Orange County.
-Just south of us.
-My personal description is as follows,
complexion - fair, eyes - brown, and a beauty operator.
From what I understand of their occupations, probably would have been easy to get a job in LA
with the entertainment industry going on and things of that sort.
You know, what I never even thought about that.
My husband is Louis and I have one child there, John Michael.
And then there are a couple of witnesses who are attesting
to the fact that she's been here for the required number of years, that they know her personally.
Yeah, Millie Levy and Maurice Levy,
-Well, they're Jewish people as well, by the look of it.
I'm sure there was a big Jewish community at that time in Los Angeles, yeah, in the '50s and '60s?
Absolutely, California was attractive to a lot of people,
-we had a large Jewish community then, as now.
-And it has now.
Well, the next thing we want to do then is find out what happened to them after 1962.
-They're here, they're citizens, they're planning to stay.
In California we have a death index that's state wide,
and we can take a look
to see here on the computer whether we can find Catherine or Louis.
-If they're dead, it will come up?
-Got ya, it should.
-So, we'll see what we can find.
If there is no death record for Catherine,
she would now be alive at the age of 102.
-I'm going to do a quick search for Catherine Rosen.
-And we only get one Catherine Rosen.
-Born in '53.
-Yeah, so that's clearly not her.
But let's look for Louis because if we find information about him,
it might lead us to more information about her.
-About her, yeah.
-So, we'll look for Louis..
-..and as you can see, there are quite a few.
-You can see it by the...
-..by the birth date we have.
Yeah, 13th April 1907.
So, it looks like Louis died in 1967, he died relatively young.
-He did, didn't he?
-He was in his 60s.
Well, he was 60, wasn't he? He just made 60.
Yeah, exactly, exactly.
I ordered a copy of the death certificate which we have here.
Name of deceased - Louis Gershen Rosen -
name of present spouse - Kay Rosen.
-OK, so that's...
-Kay - K-A-Y.
-So, we should probably check again on the deaths.
To see if we can find her as Kay Rosen.
We'll, er, we'll do the same kind of search
but we'll look for the name Kay.
-No results, no matches.
So since Louis died in '67, this raises the possibility in my mind
that maybe she got remarried.
Now, this would be very late in life to remarry,
so we'll go over here to the marriage index
and we'll look for her under her legal name.
We have several Catherine Rosen's who got married in California.
-Well, that's about right, that's the closest.
-It is, Catherine W Rosen...
-Catherine Walker born about 1909.
-None of the other dates fit at all.
-She married Sam Levitz.
-And that marriage took place.
-Right, so a few years after Louis died.
So I ordered that certificate so that we could take a look at it
and you can see right here where it describes the bride.
Catherine Walker Burns Rosen.
that's it, that's her aged 62, number of this marriage, two, oooh.
Oooh, another little porky pie!
-So then what we do is we put that in there.
As Catherine Levitz now, yeah?
There we go.
And again we get no result.
-But from her husband's death certificate, we know that she had a nickname.
She had the nickname Kay, so let's try that.
Look what shows up.
-Can you read that?
-Kay... Oh, no.
-You can see what we got...
Kay Rosen Levitz...
..died on the 20th February 1991,
That's what will upset my mum, I know that.
She was still hoping she might find her?
Well, you know, I guess you do, don't you?
If you've lived all your life wondering where she went,
the one thing your doing is hoping you're going to see her.
She died aged 83 in 1991.
So I had been here in Los Angeles...
A really, really interesting time in my life, 1988.
Three years before my actual grandmother died here.
-So you were here when she was.
-I was here, yeah.
I was, didn't know, didn't know.
She died on the 20th February 1991.
Before Larry leaves Los Angeles, he wants to see if he can track down Catherine's son John.
Using local records, he's found just one John Rosen,
who could be his uncle, living on the outer reaches of the city.
He's agreed to meet Larry.
I'm, er, I'm feeling rather excited, really.
Here we are in a, unfortunately rather rainy, California,
which everybody assures me is not the case normally,
um, about to meet this...
..long-lost remnant of a long-lost part of my family.
So, er, yeah, great moment.
-Good to meet you.
-Eh, nice to meet you, nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, hey, what a lovely place.
Hey, what a lovely place,
Let's just give you that old hat down there, I'll take this off.
-Do you want to sit here?
-Yeah, just here.
OK, I'll sit down, I'll sit slowly.
So, um, I don't know how to do this,
I guess you must be sort of fascinated to know why I'm here.
-That is mild.
-An understatement, right?
-Very much so.
Well, it would appear from everything we've discovered
that you are my uncle.
-So, so, er.
-Hello, nephew, how are you?
-There you go, there you go.
Your mum, was the mother of my mum, yeah.
Your mum had a life before your dad. She's had an extraordinary life,
I mean, you know the end of it, we know the beginning of it.
Actually, I know very little of it, she never ever told me anything
about what happened prior to her marriage.
-You, you being born, yeah.
She married, very briefly, a man called Albert Day.
It just didn't last but they had a child, the child was my mother.
-She tried to support the child because he disappeared off the map,
Albert Day. He's another... I'll tell you about that story, there's another enigma.
So she decided to have the child adopted
and seven years later,
she marries your dad, Louis Rosen.
-So how old was she when she had your mum?
She had my mum when she was 17 years of age.
We'll, I've got something that I think maybe you'd like to see.
Oh, I'm sure you do.
Just one thing, if I can find it.
I think this is the woman that had your mum.
-That's Catherine as a young girl.
-Probably around 16 or 17 years old.
Oh, wow, she was a beauty, wasn't she?
I think so.
That's where I get my looks from.
-There you go, you got it, you got it. She's a beauty.
-You're my nephew. God, that's funny.
-Yeah, I can imagine.
This is a picture of my mum and dad in the shop we had here in Glendale.
-Back in the late '50s.
-Yeah, look at that.
-What was she like, your mum?
-Made a good home.
-Er, I never wanted for anything.
Very good cook, tenacious, once she started something,
once she put her mind to it...
-..it was going to get done.
-A very giving person.
Well, I'll tell you what, you've just described my mum to a T.
-Well, I guess she passed something along the way.
That's my mum, Jessie, that's the name that your mum gave her.
-Cor, she's my sister?
-Yeah, there you go.
-That's so exciting.
-Tell me about it.
-It is SO exciting.
-I've always been an only child, at 72 I got a...
-So is she, so is she!
-Not any more.
-And, I'm, er, I'm going to call her.
I'm in California.
And do you know, I'm sitting next to somebody.
-'Who is it?'
-..have got a brother.
-'I've got a brother?!'
'How old is he?'
-He's a younger brother. Yeah. He's 72 and he...
-72, not 22, Mum, no!
-72 and his name's John.
And I'm going to put you on to him because he, like you,
has spent all his life as an only child...
'Oh, I say!'
..and he's the son of your mum.
And there you are, here he is, your long lost brother John.
'Oh, my goodness. So you felt just the same as I did?'
Yes, I did. Jessie, I'm John.
'Hello and I'm Jessie and I'm so glad to speak to you.'
This is so exciting.
'What a surprise.'
Oh, yeah, I had no idea and I gather you didn't either?
'No, no idea at all, I never knew where she went, is she still alive?'
No, we lost her almost 20 years ago.
'Oh, 20 years. Oh, I say.
-'So perhaps you've got a photograph you can send me.'
-I'll be happy to.
'It's so kind of you all to ring, it's really, really lovely.
'So I've got a brother! It was lovely to speak to you.'
-So there you go, Mum.
-'Oh, it's marvellous, isn't it?'
Eh, the end of the trail, all right.
'Yeah, and you can, you can bring me some pictures, can't you?'
I shall being you some pictures and we're just going to have to fix it up so you get to meet him.
-All right, darling.
-'Thank you very much.'
-I'm going to love you and leave you.
-'All right then. Bye, bye.'
-Bye, bye, Jess.
-He's saying goodbye.
-Goodbye. Bye, bye.
God, dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
My mum's brother.
-My yiddisher uncle.
Well, I said at the beginning
that half of myself was missing,
and I guess that really was the quest,
that's really what I wanted to find out about,
what the other part of... The other part of me.
So the gradual discovery of Albert Day and Catherine,
it's sort of not only fulfilling, but it's sort of strengthening for me.
TEARFULLY: Because you're just a part of the journey yourself.
Now that I have an understanding of those two other grandparents,
I feel stronger.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Celebrities trace their family trees to reveal the lives of their ancestors. Actor Larry Lamb was an adult before he discovered that his mother Jessie, now 84, was adopted as a baby. It is a revelation that fascinates Larry, and he is keen to discover more about this unknown side of his family. Larry especially wants to find out about his biological grandparents, as much for his mother's sake as his.
Larry learns that Jessie's birth parents were Albert and Catherine Day. He discovers that they married five months before Jessie was born, when Catherine was just seventeen, and that the marriage lasted less than a year. Following his grandfather's trail leads Larry to a surprising and exotic world of fairgrounds, travelling showmen and wild animals. Larry also sees a photograph of his elusive grandfather for the very first time. Larry's mum Jessie last saw her birth mother on her second birthday and never heard from her again. Larry is determined to find out what happened to Catherine. It is a detective hunt that takes him across the world to America, and ends in a poignant and emotional reunion with a long-lost relative.