Behind The Scenes
Esther appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? in 2008. The TV presenter investigated the life of her maternal great grandfather Montague Leverson (the black sheep of the family), before uncovering the rags-to-riches story of her Rantzen ancestors
How WDYTYA? researched Esther Rantzen’s family tree
One of the world’s oldest national newspapers, The
Times, has digitised the majority of its archive and made the records available to subscribers at thetimes.co.uk. The archive can also be viewed for free from most libraries, many offering access from home to members.
We searched for Montague Leverson in the database, and came across an 1867 article revealing that he was charged with fraud and later absconded.
Esther also discovered how her paternal grandfather, Hyam Henry Rantzen, escaped the Whitechapel slums thanks to her great great uncle Barney Barnato. Born Barnet Isaacs in 1851, the wealthy diamond merchant left the Rantzens a large sum of money in his will. Details can be found via the National Probate Calendar at www.gov.uk/search-will-probate, and the will can be ordered digitally from the same website for £10.
1880 US Census
Another source we used for tracking Montague was the 1880 US census, in which we found him living in California. A complete set of decennial US census returns is available for 1790–1940 on subscription sites ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk, and for free on familysearch.org, while thegenealogist.co.uk has the 1940 US census.