The aim of this site is to be a hub for people researching their German pork butcher ancestors. There are a lot of research options and available information on this subject spread across the internet This site is an attempt to draw them together. Links are provided to various collections and resources that will hopefully be of use during your research. They are specific to German pork butchers rather than genealogy in general. The ‘News’ page is designed to keep everyone up to date with events and research.
The German Pork Butcher Story
The story for the vast majority of Germans who emigrated to Britain to become pork butchers starts in the small region of Hohenlohe, north-east of Stuttgart, in the modern state of Baden-Württemberg. The main market town in the area and centre of much of the migration is Künzelsau. Hohenlohe was a predominantly agricultural region with few large towns or cities.
The first wave of migration was from Hohenlohe to England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. These pioneers noticed a niche for speciality pork products in the rapidly growing English cities, especially those in the industrial north. Long working hours and steady wages created a market for fast, cheap food. This was a market that these entrepreneurs, with a cultural background in producing pork products, could service. Most of these pioneers married local women, but sent word home that a good living could be made in England as a pork butcher. Later migrants mainly married those who came over from Hohenlohe.
This triggered several increasing waves of chain migration from Hohenlohe, which was eventually halted by the onset of World War I. The reasons for why such a large number of migrants came from this small area is explored in greater detail in this article:
Most pork butchers made a good living, some were highly successful, amassing large fortunes that either, secured them a respectable place in British society, or enabled them to build large English style houses back home in Hohenlohe. The key was to successfully fill the market niche they had discovered. They would then send word back to friends and family who would in turn migrate to Britain. In time a substantial network of German pork butchers developed, tied together by family connections and friendships from the fatherland. Newcomers would be found work by their relatives who were already established. Eventually they would open shops of their own. Successful pork butchers often invested in property, stocks, shares and bonds, leaving wealthy estates or trusts for their families. One pork butcher used his will like a finance manual for his family:
This success was brought to an end for most German pork butchers with the outbreak of World War I. In 1914, at the outbreak of war, sporadic, but violent attacks took place against German owned shops. Worse came when the Lusitania was sunk by a German u-boat, leading to the Lusitania Riots of 1915, which were nationwide. Hardly a German shop window survived.
Those who weren’t naturalised British subjects were interned, usually on the Isle of Man, Knockaloe being the most well known camp. Many who were detained were later deported back to Germany. Once deported most stayed, but some still had families in Britain that they had been separated from and eventually came back. Others found it difficult to resettle in Germany, finding that their connection to their homeland had over time been lost. Instead they chose to emigrate a second time, this time to the USA, Canada or New Zealand. Naturalised Germans were relatively lucky, not being persecuted to the same extent officially, but suffering from widespread and often violent anti-German feeling.
Many pork butchers had sons fighting in the war. Often when home on leave they would serve the customers dressed in their uniform to shame the people who had expressed ill feeling towards their families. For the children of non-naturalised Germans options for military service were limited. Most were placed in a special labour corps in the Middlesex Regiment by the War Office under issue ACI 1209. The theory being that they might hesitate to fire on the front line, or mutiny. As the sons of pork butchers many were involved in supplying food to the troops. Keeping them off the frontline did mean that few fatalities were suffered among the families of non-naturalised pork butchers. For the children of naturalised parents the choice of regiment was more wide ranging.
World War I heralded the end for most German pork butchers. Many were deported, some left due to their treatment and some changed their names and blended into British society, abandoning the pork butchery business. Some families carried on and there are a few family shops still trading, bearing their German names.