All I wanted to know was Grandpa Morry’s birthday…

Richard Beach started researching his family history as part of his (never completed) dissertation at University. Thirty years later and realising that he will never be the subject of Who Do You Think You Are, he has done enough of his own research to put together a comprehensive, if sometimes irreverent, account of the various branches of his family and his search for them.

From seventeenth century Vienna to the East and West Ends of London via Poland, Prussia, Bavaria and Amsterdam, this book tells how the true stories which he found proved to be even stranger and more surprising than the family legends with which he grew up. Meet the brothel owners, pub landlords (and landladies), soldiers, thieves, community leaders and revolutionaries in the ancestry of the Jewish families that make up the author’s DNA.

These are stories which resonate today, in a world where migrants and minorities are part of our world more than ever. By understanding the complicated reality of migrant histories rather than the legends, we can understand not just ourselves but others too.

Across Europe

Stories from many of the key locations where Ashkenazi Jews have thrived over the past 400 years – from Bavaria and Vienna to Prussia, Poland, Lithuania (well, nearly), Belarus, and the ports from which the various branches of the family converged on London.

“Bubbe Maises”

A Yiddish phrase which literally translates as ‘grandma stories’: the family legends which got embellished and misremembered with each retelling. Some of them even turned out to be true(ish).

30+ Years of Research

Richard started looking into his family history at the end of the 1980s, just as the Iron Curtain was coming down and Eastern Europe became somewhere that a Western student might be able to visit. A (5-minute) visit to his grandfather’s birthplace in 1990 inspired him, and even before the internet made genealogy accessible, the hunt for his ancestors was underway.

Names and Dates

Like most amateur genealogists, the output you might expect is a family tree of names and dates. The online tree of all the family branches now has more than a thousand names in it, but what really matters are the stories – and the people – behind the facts. Ten Lies My Family Told Me tries to get to those stories, using the evidence and the historical realities in which these characters lived and worked.

Richard Beach is an amateur genealogist, a former geography teacher and currently works as a software consultant when he absolutely has to. Despite his parents’ pleadings, he never became an accountant. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Karen and three children. This is his first book.