The Hoffmanns of Belfast

Unlike the ancestors of many protestants in what is now Northern Ireland, the Hoffmanns came from modern-day Germany and not Scotland. Friedrich Hoffmann (about 1862-1933) married Louisa Berger (1865-1952) in about 1887. The Bergers can be traced for several further generations back in Freinsheim in the Pfalz area of Bavaria, an area with a long history of conflict and unrest. It is probable that Friedrich came from the same area.

Army conscription was a regular event. The Bavarian Constitution of 1808 decreed universal conscription, although wealthier people could get away by paying for a longer-serving locum tenens.  The system was reformed in 1868.  Persons who had attended 6 years of middle school could served as one year volunteers. (Ref – Handbuch der Bayerischen Geschichte).

Religious persecution was also widespread. The mass emigration of Palatines to America in the early nineteenth century was a direct consequence. Friedrich and Louisa, as members of the English reformed church, were doubtless not exempt. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why in about 1887-8 and soon after the birth of their first child in Germany they emigrated to Great Britain, going first to London and then to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Why Belfast?  It was known to be a strongly Protestant area. There may have been other reasons.

Friedrich HoffmannFriedrich, later known as Frederick, was a coiffeur (hairdresser). People like him were much in demand in those days, making wigs as well as performing miracles of hairdressing for the upper classes.

it was said that Friedrich worked In Berlin, Paris and Geneva before going to London where he worked for the famous hairdressing establishment Dore & Carle, then in Belfast, initially with Ranagans. In London he “… dressed the hair of King George V and Queen Mary when they were Prince of Wales and Princess of Tek” according to a newspaper clipping.  Friedrich (Frederick) set up his own business soon after in Belfast, as a master coiffeur, ” … and soon built up such extensive clientele that in 1908 he had to move to .. larger premises…” So he must have done well – the family had two servants by 1901.

DSCN0752 copyFour more children were born in Belfast between 1889 and 1895. The youngest was unfortunately stillborn and not mentioned in the family history until I discovered him/her listed for the Hoffmann family grave in Dundonald Cemetery, Belfast.

The Belfast Street Directory for 1902 has “F. Hoffman (sp), Court Hairdresser and Wigmaker” at 13a Castle Place, an address in the very centre of Belfast, as well as giving their residential address at Lismore, Rosetta Park.  Rosetta Park was off the Ravenhill Road in East Belfast and was a good residential area.

HoffmansAd, enlarged copy.jpg

According to Mr. TG Orr, a former owner of the business still known as Hoffman’s, it was bought by a Mrs A. Doyle (no date recorded) and later by his father Mr. T. Orr, who had started work in Hoffman’s in 1922 aged 14 as a trainee wig maker and hairdresser.  Mr Orr Senior said the business was well known to Belfast children as there used to be a large carved wooden horse in the window. The plate glass window with its Belfast coat of arms is still in Mr TG Orr’s possession. Curiously, the name of the business was almost always spelled with one N in advertisements yet Frederick signed his name with two Ns.


The Belfast Directory for 1928 listed “Lt. Hoffmann, Court Hairdresser, 47 High Street”. The business was still in the center of the city – Castle Place runs directly into High Street. By then the family residence was at Lymington, Old Cavehill Road. Again, this was a good area but in the northern suburbs. The Directory for 1936 repeated the same details.

In 1970 the business was listed as Hoffmann’s, Wigmakers & Ladies’ Hairdressers, 98 High Street. By 2005 the establishment had become Hoffmann Hairpiece and Wig Retailers and the address was 17 Park Avenue Holywood Co. Down B778.9LS.

Some of the above Directory information was provided by Alan McMillan of the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland.  He went on to tell me that “…. in Belfast in that period there was another German hairdresser, called Rottger, with a large and successful business for ladies and gentlemen.  The premises had a striking black and silver art deco frontage. My grandmother went there …  I understand that Mr. Rottger, and some other people of German origin, were interned during the First War – probably quite unnecessarily.”  Alan also pointed out that there was a great vogue for all things German nearly up to the Great War – one had to remember that in those days the German connections of the Royal Family were strong.  Not only had Queen Victoria married a German prince, but her eldest daughter then married the Crown Prince of Germany.

The four children of Frederick and Louisa went separate ways.

1. The younger Frederick  (abt 1887-1948) initially followed his father in the family hairdressing business. In 1916 he went to the USA, possibly to visit his younger brother Charles who had been there since 1912.

His parents and sister visited him there in May 1920. His address at that time was “Shipping Board, Cleveland”. His parents gave their birthplaces as “Cootah, Saxony” (Cotta, Dresden?) on the immigration record. This is  confusing as family history gives them as coming from Bavaria; and various records have proved that Louisa came from Freinsheim, Pfalz.  And then in the 1920 US Census Frederick said both his parents and himself were born in Alsace-Lorraine. The confusion may have been due to the shifting boundaries occurring in Germany at that time, plus the political situation where some parts of Imperial Germany were more ‘acceptable’ than others.

On  10th October 1917, in the Lakewood M.E. church, Frederick aged 31, born Germany, Occupation Draftsman, married teacher Maude Estelle Jones, age 26, born in Lucas, Ohio to John A Jones and Elizabeth Switzer.

The US 1920 Census showed them residing  in Cuyahoga, Ohio with Frederick then aged 33 born Alsace-Lorraine (he stated his mother and father were also born there). By the time of the 1930 Census they were residing in Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine with two children – Frederick J Hoffman aged 7  b 1923, Ohio and Marcia M Hoffman aged 2  b 1928 in Connecticut.

The 1940 Census presented a Frederick Hoffmann (TWO n’s!) 54 b. Germany, Naturalized, Assistant marine engineer, in NavyYard, Indxxxxx (could not read). This Census gave lots of information – they lived in a rented house, Frederick had completed 2nd year college, was drafted,  was earning $US2699 in previous year with no other income. His wife Maude E 49  b. Ohio was “not working but receives some income from sources other than salary”. The children were with them:  Frederick Jn.18 b.Ohio and Marcia M. 12 b Connecticut.

The children of Frederick and Maude: Frederick Jay Hoffman (the second N had been dropped) and his parents  visited Belfast when he was aged 4, travelling on the “Cameron”. The family arrived back in New York on 8 March 1927. Frederick Jay does not appear in the list of US Servicemen. His US Social Security number was issued in Georgia and he died in Portland, Oregon in November 1973. Curiously, ‘The Oregonian’ of Nov 7th said that ‘the remains will be forwarded to Morgan City, Louisiana for service and interment’.

On 29 May 1948 1948 Marcia Maude married Armand Arthur Gauthier who was born in Massachusetts . A notice in the Ohio Plain Dealer of Saturday 20 June 1948 said:


Mr and Mrs Armand A Gauthier, who were married on Saturday May 29 in the Detroit Avenue Methodist church, have returned from their wedding trip and are now residing at 1494 Warren road N.W. (Ohio?). Mrs.Gauthier is the former Miss Marcia Maude Hoffman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Hoffman, 1494 Warren Road N.W. Mr. Gauthier is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Hall, 1215 Warren Road N.W. Mr. Gauthier served with the United States Army in the African and Pacific theaters for over four years.

In 1959 the Gauthiers were living at 034 Collingswood Drive, Corpus Christi Texas. Armand was a Plant assigner. In 1960 according to the same Directory they had moved to 4329 Gertie St., Corpus Christie. Armand’s occupation was now Driver. They had two daughters, Janice Allene born 17 Feb 1953 in Nieces Texas and Joye Anise born 26 Dec 1957 in Nieces Texas. (So far I have been unable to trace these girls.If anyone reading this knows  of them please get in touch!)

2. William Hoffmann (1889-1955)  followed in his father’s footsteps and was also a hairdresser, or rather a “hair specialist”.  On 16 March 1912 he married Margaret Louisa (Daisy) Darragh in the Belfast Registry office.  Daisy was the daughter of prosperous newspaper manager William Darragh and Margaret Louisa Birch.

Bill H with parents, crop

Photo: William, Daisy and their son Bill taken about  1920.

Daisy came from a large family and there are many descendants scattered all over the world today, including Samuel Darragh McGredy IV of rose-growing fame.  It is believed the Darraghs originally came from Scotland but had been in Belfast for several generations. Margaret Louisa’s mother Margaret C Kendall came from Coleraine, Derry.

Dorothie Daisy and Yvonne in 1950

The photo above shows Daisy and her daughter Yvonne in 1950, with (left) Daisy’s sister Dorothie.

William and Daisy had two children, William Frederick (Bill) (1914-1953) and Yvonne 1916-after 1975). Bill’s story is told in a separate article. Yvonne never married (another photo below). She spent much of her later life looking after her mother Daisy in London. She did however make one trip to Canada where she visited her Darragh relatives. Her story is very similar to that other Aunt Louisa.

yvonne 1935

3. Charles Hoffmann (1862-after 1958) was a dentist.

Charles went to USA  on the “Baltic”, departing from Liverpool and  arriving on 21 Sept 1912 aged 20. His nationality was given as British but his “race or people” as Irish. The immigration record is very comprehensive. His final destination was Cleveland, Ohio; he had in his possession at least $50, and curiously he was going to join his Uncle H. Borash (sp?) at 1264 Gill Ave Lakewood, Ohio. He declared that he was neither a polygamist nor an anarchist, was of good mental health, was 5 ft 11.5 inches, complexion fair, hair brown, eyes grey. Uncle Borash’s identity is uncertain but possibly he was Charles’ mother’s brother Gustave Adolph Berger from Freinsheim.

In late 1918 when aged 27 he was (still?) in USA with his brother Frederick. It was there that he married Adelaide “Pearl” Melville (b. Cleveland Ohio 1891) on 31 Dec., the ceremony apparently being repeated in London early the following year. His occupation was given as ‘Operator’ in the US. it is not known where and when he obtained dental qualifications. Although he was practising in 1924, he was not in the British medical register for that year or 1926. He was however in the British 1940 and 1943 registers (but not yet confirmed it was the correct Charles Hoffman).

As he practiced in Leeds it is likely his dental qualifications were obtained in England rather than Dublin. Charles and Pearl lived at 70 Ash Road, Headingley, Leeds and his practice was at 6 Park Square, Leeds, in 1927. However, they were apparently residing at 6 Compton Road, Southgate, Middlesex at the time of Pearl’s death in 1953.  Possibly that was her parents’ home.

Charles was declared Bankrupt in 1926 (No. 76 of 1926). The notice was in the London Gazette of 26 Jan 1927. His surname was spelled minus the second N and he was said to be a Dental Surgeon.  Petition filed 20 Nov 1926; Order dated 19 Jan 1927.  Another notice appeared in the London Gazette of 25 Sept 1928, giving the Trustee as Harry Clifford Bowling, 24 Lower Bond St., Leeds, Official Receiver in Bankruptcy.  Date of Release was 20 Sept 1928.

There was a notice in the London Gazette of 14 Nov 1958, referring to the same No. of Matter – 76 of 1926.  Last Day for Receiving Proofs 1st Dec 1958.  Name of Trustee and Address given as John Lewis Williams, 3rd Floor, Pearl Chambers, East Parade, Leeds 1, Official Receiver.  The Official Receiver’s office cannot tell me any more, they no longer hold the records.

Charles’ death cannot be found. Pearl died in Southgate, London on 10 October 1953 – the same year her husband’s nephew William Frederick Hoffmann was drowned and possibly (not confirmed) her brother in law William Hoffmann, a coiffeur.

There is a photograph taken at William Frederick (Bill) Hoffmann’s funeral which may possibly include Charles:

Funeral2 closeup_2

From the formal placement of the mourners it is possible that two of the three men left of centre, next to the older woman (their mother Daisy) are Frederick and Charles. Just right of centre is Joy Hoffmann with her father Syd Attrill behind her, and Frederick and Charles’ father William Hoffmann who died later the same year. Far right is most likely Bill’s sister Yvonne.

4. Louisa Fredericka Hoffmann (1893-1953) never married.  Bill’s wife Joy Hoffmann  told me there was a ‘maiden aunt’ whose name she could not recall, who was very good to her husband Bill when he was younger.

Resided at 40 Old Cavehill Rd., Belfast. Her parents lived at No. 7. When her father died in 1933 her mother moved in with her. Louisa’s mother died in 1952 and Louisa herself the following year. A story very similar to her niece Yvonne.