Thursday, September 29, 2011


Or Ganzl. Or, it seems, Gansl. Or, I've just discovered .. Gánsl. For a man who spends a large part of his life, delving into the genealogy and personal facts and figures of other people's lives, I've always failed signally when it came to my own family history. My brother and I had resigned ourselves to 'never knowing', since, years ago, my paternal grandmother told us -- and I was in my mid-twenties, already! -- that her husband, who had died before we were born, had been Jewish. Central European Jewish records ... after the war ..? Well, I didn't know. 

 When you don't know, you invent. And when I came upon another Ganzl (no umlaut, that was my mistake, and I'm stuck with it!), Régis by name, and French, of Swiss descent, we immediately decided we must be some sort of distant cousins. Well, I was sure Switzerland came into my tale somewhere.

Two things then happened. My mother dumped upon me a vast plastic bag of photos and stuff which had been the property of said grandmother. I glanced in. Holiday snaps. And put them on a shelf. Then I came in contact with Marie-Theres Arnbom of Vienna, operetta historian. I wrote a piece for her new book, and she mentioned her husband's forthcoming work: on Viennese Jewish families. 'Hah!', I laughed. 'Find mine!' And she did. She found me a great-grandfather and mother, and ... there was grandfather Pepi, and his boring but long-lived brother Fritz, and the mysterious Onkel Max ... and three sisters, great aunts of whom I had never suspected the existence! (It was brief). Great-grandfather was Adolf Gánsl, born in Mór, Hungary in 1844. Great-grandmother was Julie Rosenbaum from Königsberg, Bohemia, daughter of Adam Rosenbaum - great-great-grandfather .. how did they meet? Great-great-grandmother was Katharina Schweizer .. oh dear, is that how the muddle with Switzerland got into my head? All this only came on us 24 hours ago, so I've got a bit of ordering and tidying to do, but I did cast a more careful eye at Nana's plastic bag. And there they were: great-grandfather Adolf (b Mór, 1844; died Schulgasse 8, Währing, Vienna 8 April 1889). So young.

And great-grandmother Julie, died 8 Schulgasse, 5 June 1888. Oh dear. So the stories about Fritz and Max being brought up in an orphanage -- they really were five and two when their parents died. Why did I think it was a car crash. Cars were hardly invented.

And here, look, Pepi and Max. Photographed by Grillich in the Währing Hauptstrasse. Before they were split up. Max to the orphanage, and Pepi to be brought up, as we knew from my father, by Tante Rosenbaum ...

And Pepi on his wedding day, with his bride, Rudolfine Josefine Stojetz. Our Nana. Goodness, she was pretty. But strong .. and that's another story.

Here's the certificate, too, which confirms much of all that.

Well, we've opened the box of tricks now. We'll have to delve a little more into it. I mean, why were Adolf the Hungarian and Julie wed in Franzenbad (where the hell, IS Franzenbad ..), and why did they come to live in Vienna's Zirkusgasse, Antonsgasse, Mosergasse, Buchfeldgasse and Schulgasse? Come to that, why were they always moving! And .. Oh dear, I'll have to put aside Miss Matilda Florella Illingworth, soprano, of Yorkshire, and spend a little time on the Gánsl family! Maybe Johnny and I aren't the end of the family -- by any of its variant names ... as we thought we were!


mta said...

We got the facts - you the faces! And suddenly a whole family comes back and gets real! Wonderful, this connection between Vienna and New Zeeland! By the way: Franzensbad is (and was) a famous spa in Bohemia, near the much more famous Karlsbad. Perhaps they met there?

Duffy the Wonderdog said...

Congratulations. If only my family had been as watchful over the family ephemera. You have such interesting roots.

Emmie said...

Apologies if you can't help me but the detective in me thinks you may be able to ..... I am trying to contact Kurt Ganzl who is/was writing a book on victorian vocalists? Are you him? If so, please can you please email me on

I am a relative of Mahlah Homer :)

Petra Gansl said...

Dear Kurt,

I came across your blog on the Gansls while doing a search of Ganzls from Bohemia. I would like to email you , can you please tell me your email address or email me at

I'm really looking forward to talking to you and sharing with you my extensive Gansl tree.

Best wishes