When did my Swiss great grand­fa­ther ar­rive in Bri­tain?

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - QUESTIONS & ANSWERS -


I have a Swiss great grand­fa­ther and have no idea when or how he came to Bri­tain.

He was born Paulo Cat­ta­neo in 1866 in Ti­cino to Carlo Cat­ta­neo, a tai­lor. He em­i­grated be­fore 1891, when he ap­pears on the cen­sus in Is­ling­ton, work­ing as a ho­tel cook. I’d love to know why he came here and where the rest of his fam­ily were. Linda Tucker, via email


In the first in­stance, some re­fin­ing re­search is needed be­cause Cat­ta­neo is an Ital­ian sur­name and Paulo was born in the Ti­cino can­ton, which un­til the cre­ation of the Swiss Con­fed­er­a­tion in 1803, was an­nexed to Italy.

If his par­ents were Ital­ian, Paulo may have been Ital­ian and not Swiss. At the time of em­i­gra­tion, the Swiss had to pay a “mov­ing away tax” and many peo­ple avoided do­ing so, mean­ing there may not be any of­fi­cial record of him leav­ing the coun­try.

The first place to start would be to find his pass­port record, which will in­clude: name, age, oc­cu­pa­tion, date of birth, place of birth, res­i­dence, des­ti­na­tion, wife’s and chil­dren’s names and ages, rea­sons for em­i­gra­tion, taxes paid, re­li­gion and mil­i­tary ser­vice. If he em­i­grated of­fi­cially and was not Ital­ian, you should be able to find this in the Ti­cino Can­ton Ar­chives in Palazzo Francini.

If he was Ital­ian he may have em­i­grated through a Mediter­ranean port, but most Swiss used Ger­man ports. Bri­tish in­com­ing pas­sen­ger lists, al­though com­menc­ing in 1878, do not in­clude jour­neys start­ing in Eu­rope or the Mediter­ranean, but you can find the Ham­burg Pas­sen­ger Lists (1850-1934) on ances­try.

co.uk. You will need to browse the hand­writ­ten in­dex first to find the cor­rect en­try. If this is not suc­cess­ful, try the UK Aliens En­try Books (1794-1921), which can also be browsed on Ances­try. These con­tain let­ters re­lat­ing to aliens, so some­thing may ex­ist for Paulo there. Any­one com­ing to the UK from out­side Bri­tish Colonies or Ire­land had to reg­is­ter with the lo­cal jus­tice of the peace. Records are usu­ally at county record of­fices.

Try the records of the Swiss Church, which are held at Lon­don Metropoli­tan Ar­chives. Most re­late to events in Lon­don, but they could con­tain clues to help ear­lier re­search, for which you may find the fol­low­ing web­site use­ful: ge­nealo­gien­etz.de/reg/CH/em­i­gra-m.htm. This lists em­i­gra­tion sources by can­ton. Ian Waller

The mar­riage cer­tifi­cate of Paulo Cat­ta­neo in 1888 gives his oc­cu­pa­tion as ‘cook’

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