Theodore Christian Tenten and family


Theodore Christian TentenTheodor Christian Tenten
Catherine Josephine Caroline Josephine
Augustus Tenten Augustus Tenten
Catherine Marie Catherine Mary, known as "Kitty"
May Julia May Julia

Theodor Christian Tenten was the eldest son of Christian and Gertrude, and was a tailor like his father. He was about 15 when he arrived in this country. In most censuses, he described himself as 'born in Belgium, a German subject'. In the last available census in 1911, he instead claimed (in his own handwriting) 'born in London, of German parents'. I wonder why?

Theodor Tenten birth certificate
Theodor's birth certificate
Click to enlarge in new window

Theodor married Catherine Ronan on 10 September 1889 in Marylebone. Catherine was from Kilkenny, Ireland - she claimed. I'm not so sure - the census records show a young Catherine Ronan, born in London to Irish parents; the date of birth fits, as does the time that London Catherine left her family, presumably to get married. However, that's all speculation - it needs a look at the Theodor & Catherine marriage certificate, to see if the bride's fathers name and occupation fit.

UPDATE: I now have a copy of their marriage cert. Catherine was the daughter of Joseph Ronan, a builder. So my speculation was all wrong.

Theodor & Catherine had 6 children, all born in London, all still alive at the 1911 census:

At their marriage in 1889, they lived at 11 Poland Street but had moved to 24 Duke Street Bloomsbury by the christening of Theodor Jnr on 25 Jan 1891 and were there for the 1891 census (5 April).

The following year, they were at 24 Stephen Street, off the Tottenham Court Road, for the christening of Caroline Josephine on 16 October. That address is interesting, because it was the address of grandad Henry Tenten three years later, for his marriage to grandma Blanche Borrett. Blanche lived at 23 Stephen Street - the girl next door...

They had moved to 55 Cleveland Street Marylebone by 9 Sept 1900, when Joseph was christened, and were at that address for the 1901 census.

All Souls Catholic School

A puzzle - around 1905, Catherine Mary was attending 'All Souls Catholic School'. Were they Catholics?

By the 1911 Census, the family had moved to 25 Seaton Street, St Pancras (another interesting address - more of that later). Theodor Jnr (20) and Augustus (16) are both jewellers apprentices with a goldsmith, and Caroline is a 'tailoress apprentice'.

Then World War 1 happens.

Augustus Henry Tenten

Rifleman Augustus Henry Tenten was killed in action on 15 September 1916 in the First Battle of the Somme, aged 22. He and over 72000 others are commemorated by the Thiepval Memorial for servicemen who died in the Somme sector and have no known grave.

Stretcher Bearers on the Somme

Stretcher bearers on the Somme, September 1916

Caroline Josephine

Caroline married Ernest Megroff on 24 April 1915. Ernest served in France as a Staff Sargeant in the Army Ordnance Corps. After the war they started a family, with Catherine Megroff 1918, Winifred 1922 and Frederick 1924-1995. I think there was an Albert as well.

"This is without doubt one of the most interesting surnames that we have researched. It gives an almost "Baltic" appearance, but nothing like the same form appears in any of those countries. It is almost certainly Irish, but there are at least two possibilities. We know that the Megrof(f) nameholders have had a presence in the Basingstoke area since the early 19th century, and that they were associated with the canal. The Basingstoke and Kennet & Avon Canals were cut at this period, using Irish labour, the original "navigators". A cross check with known Irish-English records suggests that Megroff is a dialectal transposition of the Irish surname McGrove, but there is no such Irish name as McGrove! There is "Grove" originally an English planter surname found in Munster, and there is McGrath, and there were McGraths in Hampshire as early as 1745 at Fareham. On August 12th 1866, one Thomas McGrove is recorded at St. Philips Church, Stepney. So where did he come from? An example of the recordings of Megroff, is that of Thomas who married Eliza Porter at Basingstoke, on October 29th 1848. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Charles Megrof, which was dated January 17th 1804, married Sarah Pidgen at Basingstoke, Hampshire.

The Internet Surname Database

Catherine Megroff is the little girl in the white bonnet, front row of the 1924 wedding photo above. She says she doesn't remember the photo being taken, but she remembers the hat. Winifred is the baby peeping out between bride and groom.

Megroff - such an unusual name . The website indicates that the top country for Megroff is the UK, with 0.15 per million of the population - i.e. about 9 people! Compare that with 0.44 fpm (frequency per million) for Tenten in this country - 26 people (it much more common in the Netherlands and Germany at 7.06 fpm and 6.31 fpm respectively).

Caroline and Ernest Megroff

Caroline with Ernest, on leave from France Sun 28 Nov 1915

May Julia

The next addition to the family was May Julia's son, Arthur Hull Tenten, born 1920. The father isn't named on the birth certificate, but perhaps Arthur's unusual middle name is a clue - or maybe he was conceived on a works outing 'oop north'. (May's occupation is described on Arthur's birth certificate as 'Omnibus Co's Clerk').

There may be another clue in the 1911 Census of the Hull Family at 96 Prince of Wales Road, a five-minute walk from the old Seaton Street address of the Tentens. The youngest son ( 8 years old in 1911) is called 'Arthur Hull'. When Arthur Hull Tenten was conceived, May would have been 21, but this Arthur Hull was just 16 - was he May's toy-boy, perhaps? Being under 18 would have made Arthur Hull a 'minor' who would have required his parent's consent to marry. Maybe that's why they didn't - or maybe Arthur or his parents didn't like the idea of marrying into a German family, immediately after WW1. One possible reason for them being not-too-keen on the idea could be to do with Arthur Hull's elder brother Frederick having died in action in the Salonika campaign on 1 October 1918 - just a few weeks before the war ended.

May Julia is the bridesmaid hidden under the huge hat, bottom right of the wedding photo above. A year after this wedding, she died in a road traffic accident - or a fall, I've been told both versions. I've not been able to trace what happened to little Arthur. The answer may be in the 1921 census, so we just have to wait another ten years to find out.

Catherine Mary

Catherine Mary married William Forrest on 27 Jan 1924 - the wedding photo above.

Catherine and William Forrest

They had one child - Lewis Forrest, c1926

Lew Forrest and father Sweet shop Gt Titchfield Street 1936

William Forrest and son Lewis, Sweet shop Gt Titchfield Street 1935/36

William and Catherine Forrest, Duke of Clarence, Osnaburgh St NW1

William and Catherine Forrest, Duke of Clarence, Osnaburgh St NW1

The Somerset Maughan Connection - but not quite

As I mentioned earlier on this page, 25 Seaton Street was an interesting address. In the 1991 Census, Theodor and Catherine were living there with their six children; Theo, Carrie, Augustus, Kit, May, Joseph and Edward. Now in the book "The Maugham Dynasty", it is reported that Somerset's son Robin bought 25 Seaton Street with his inheritance, because it was very like the house he had lived in after the war and had used as the setting for "The Servant" (later made into a film by director Joseph Losey, starring Dirk Bogarde and James Fox - 1963). What a good story. However, I've looked into the details and I'm pretty sure it wasn't the same Seaton Street. The Tentens were in the Seaton Street (now gone, redeveloped in the '70s) near Warren Street tube, whereas Maugham was in the Seaton Street (also now gone, redeveloped in the '70s) at the unfashionable end of King's Road, Chelsea. There are now no Seaton Streets left in London.

Male Enemy Alien - Exemption from Internment - Non-Refugee

Poor old Theodor. He was arrested in 1939 for being an 'Enemy Alien'. He was 74 years old. He had been in the country for 60 years. He hadlost his eldest son at age 22 in WW1, fighting in the British Army. I think he might have been more than a little pissed off about the 'alien' tag. (There is a rumour that his wife got drunk and shopped him - not realising that as his wife, she would be arrested as well.) From :

Enemy Alien