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Jamel Elvin Bankz Born approx. 1905; I believe he was from East Germany

Replies: 7

Jamel Elvin Bankz Born approx. 1905; I believe he was from East Germany

Posted: 1169871978000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Bankz, Biehler, Marten
Anyone have any ideas on the surname BANKZ?

I am writing this letter because I have run out of options and ideas so this letter is written out of pure frustration and sadness. I have a surname that seems at least to me impossible to trace, I can not seem to find any information on it in the way of an origin. I believe the family name was spelt on phonetics here in Canada so I have resigned myself to the fact that it is not in its original form. My family name is BANKZ. I have a bit of a story for you so hopefully I can make it a good read. I am looking for the family of my great grandfather; his name was Jamel Elvin Bankz born approx 1905.

His father was listed as Jacob Bankz and his mother was Elsie Marten

The earliest document that I have managed to locate on him is his marriage document, he was married 1927 in Alberta, Canada to Miriam Catherine Price. They had 12 children I believe, one of which was my maternal grandfather Elmer (Buddy) Richard Bankz he was the eldest.

In 1947 the children were torn apart and split up due to the untimely passing of their mom (Miriam), the youngest at the time was 2. Some of the children were placed in homes, some in catholic orphanages and the two youngest were adopted out. I have managed to locate all of my grandfather’s siblings except for one, the second eldest.

All have passed away including my grandfather who died when I was 11.

I have obtained all birth and death records for them and have even found some of their children who I guess are my second cousins and my mom’s first cousins. From that point alone it has been a rewarding search but has turned up little in the way of family information. As it turned out one of my grandfather’s sisters spent the last 31 years of her life searching for the family. I was privileged enough to be able to go through the information she had compiled but most of it was information based on assumptions.

There is no one left for me to talk to about my family history and I am not sure were else to turn. I have posted on countless websites, had numerous paid searches done and have literally written thousands of letters.

I ordered a macro search on the last name and the results came back saying the family originated in West Prussia. I don’t know how much credence one can put into those but I thought I would try it at any rate hoping it would turn up something.

The most I know about the family is that my great grandfather’s origin was stated as German on the legal documents I have. I have had a wonderful man who is a German Genealogist working with me but it seems impossible without a place of origin to really even start to look. He believes the family came from East Germany, perhaps from around the Danzig area. He bases this on a photo I have come into the possession of that I believe was of Jamel (my great grandfather), his brother and their parents along with the information I have given him. I am still trying to locate someone that maybe able to give me a definite identification of the people.

The photo contains plants in the foreground, I wrote almost two hundred botanists looking for identification, perhaps hoping that the plants had their own story to tell. I received an amazing response and the plants were identified almost unanimously as a basil plant and a mustard plant, it was further suggested that it was most likely a kitchen garden. I know that basil is not an uncommon plant but who would grow mustard in a kitchen garden? I am not sure what I can do with the information but it was interesting at any rate.

My (assumed) great grandfather in the picture has tattoos maybe military but I have had little success in identifying them. I have posted it on many websites and even managed to get it in as the feature article in a genealogy magazine. I have been in contact with MANY wonderful people through JewGen and so many have provided a lot of insight but nothing in the way of concrete information. I am told that the names Jamel and Elvin are usual Jewish names but for me have proved to be almost as uncommon as the surname.

The war seemed at least by documents to give him a cause of concern but I am not entirely sure why. In 1936 he converted his family to Catholicism, was it for protection, or for aide perhaps? This remains an unanswered question. In 1939 he felt the need to change his first names to Ernie James and last name to Biehler and kept that name until the passing and burial of my g grandmother Miriam in 1947. I do not know what happened to him after that.

Records from social services in Alberta indicate that after the passing of their mother many things were tried in order to keep the children together including housekeepers and private placements, apparently my grandfather needed to find work and 3 months later the children were made wards of the court as Social Services said they could not locate the father and the children needed legal guardians.

My great grandfather Jamel was listed in 1940 as being a soldier in the Army and again in 1943 was listed with the R.C.A.F. as a cook. I am currently trying to obtain is military records but do not meet the criteria to receive them. I am unable to prove his death as I do not know what became of him and his change of name makes it difficult to prove him as Jamel Elvin Bankz. My latest letter was written over the Christmas holidays with a two page letter of explanation so I am praying they see my point and relinquish the information to me.

I have no personal knowledge of my family being Jewish but then again I don’t seem to have any personal knowledge of my family. LOL.

If you or someone you know could shed any light on any of this it would be most welcome!

Warmest Regards,


SubjectAuthorDate Posted
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lhodges222 1176428557000 
beautifulblue... 1191274475000 
Tracie MacPhe... 1191276992000 
saintlybabe27 1325030073000 
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