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Excerpt from ‘Where did the sugar bakers go?’
‘… How many more men like Alexander worked at the gruelling, often dangerous end of the sugar business during its decline? I was curious to know what happened to some of his contemporaries, those 252 souls who had come from Germany and who in 1881 were living in the same part of London. Which of them survived and how were they making their living ten years later? Were any still working as sugar bakers by the time of the 1891 census? I could only hope fate had been kinder to these men than it had been to Alexander and his young widow, Eliza. (Perhaps some of them were your ancestors? Here are just some of their stories.)
I soon encounter my first problem tracing these individuals. Unlike the 1881 census, the 1891 England census on Ancestry isn’t searchable by occupation. Typing “sugar baker” in the keyword search gives me over 70,000 records and it is clear from the first few that ‘sugar’ is either someone’s surname or part of their address. So I decide to home in on several individuals from the 1881 list, men the same age as Alexander.
But just how representative was he of sugar bakers in 1881? Well, he was born in about 1853, so by 1881 he would have been 28 years old, married with a young family.
The average (median) age of the German sugar bakers in St George in the East at that time was 39 years, with the bulk of the workforce (76%) between the ages of 20 and 49. Their ages ranged from 17 to 82 years, the oldest being Fisek(?) HILKIN, a widower living with his daughter Elizabeth WENKLINA (also widowed) at 2 Severn St. I notice that Elizabeth was born in Whitechapel, which means Fisek lived here at least 48 years! I feel he deserves a mention now, because somehow I don’t expect to meet him again in 1891. ‘
Published in: Mitteilungsblatt, No. 110, Spring 2015, pp. 18-20. (Journal of the Anglo-German Family History Society)