Liskeard School and Community College student Victoria Sichel has a new family!  In early July, during Liskeard School’s annual Challenge Week, the Year 9 student met nearly 600 new relatives for the first time. 

Victoria, who has lived in Liskeard all her life, never knew how big her family was until she discovered them through four days of intensive research into her family tree with Karen O’Livey, the English Faculty Teaching Assistant at Liskeard.  With access to billions of records on Ancestry and FindMyPast, Victoria travelled back through over five centuries, and across three continents to track the movements of her ancestors by comparing passenger lists with birth and marriage records.

One of the most intriguing people she discovered was her first-cousin, three-times removed: Sir Johannes Henricus Meiring Beck (1902-1974).  Victoria discovered that Johannes was an eminent surgeon from South Africa, who in 1910 became one of the eight senators representing the Cape Province in the first Union Parliament. He was the son of Laura Sichel, of one of eleven children of Victoria’s great-great-great grandfather, Gottfried August Sichel, who was born in Frankfurt in Germany on 28 December 1835, and moved to South Africa in the mid-19th Century.

What was particularly exciting for Victoria was when she saw pictures of Johannes in published memoirs, and read about his speeches in newspaper articles, which showed that her celebrated ancestor could be rather blunt to the journalists of the day!

In order to further her investigations and triple-check evidence, Victoria cross-checked a huge range of census and parish records and electoral rolls during the day.  During the evenings she interviewed her living relatives, and even visited the graveyard at St Paul’s, Upton Cross to explore burial details which were not available online.  However, one of the oldest burial sources online was that of Victoria’s 6x great-grandfather, Joseph Salomon Sichel, a Jewish man also from Frankfurt, who died in 1798.

In total Victoria has tracked down 536 documents relevant to her research and meticulously recorded them in her online family tree.  Up until this summer, Victoria thought all her family was from Cornwall and from Sussex.  She has been amazed to find how international her ancestry is, and how well-travelled some members have been.  She hopes to “meet” even more of her extended family in the near future… albeit not face-to-face!


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Head Teacher: Mr Alex Lingard

Liskeard School & Community College
PL14 3EA

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Tel: +44(0)1579 342344

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