When did my Swiss great grandfather arrive in Britain?
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’