Q. I recently came upon your website and am writing in the hope that you may be able to solve a long standing family history problem I have.
Basically William Fodor’s wife came to New Zealand c1879/80 and I am her G grandson. No one at present alive in NZ nor any records left give any indication of where she or William came from or their background. What is known from family sources, if this is the correct word for it, is as follows:
-William was the Comptroller of the French ‘Court” in exile. He is reputed to have met the Empress upon her arrival in Dover and offered her Camden Place then owned by Mr Nathaniel Strode for whom he worked as his “Steward”. It is assumed that he spent much of the 2 weeks the Empress was in Dover at Dover or Chislehurst and became “Comptroller” (unpaid we understand) upon the Empress’s arrival at Chislehurst possibly continuing to act for Mr Strode in order to safeguard Mr Stode’s property which was rented for £500 per year.
One month later William was killed in a carriage accident and his wife Georgina was badly injured. He was buried in Chislehurst, his wife continued to reside in Lower Camden and I can only assume that Georgina continued an association with the Empress until departing for New Zealand. I am unsure if this was before or after the Empress had left Chislehurst I have found from directories that she seems to have left Lower Camden about 1878/9. I have part of the local newspaper account of the accident at Eltham and a record of his death.
William’s father was supposed to be Matthew Fodor. This account refers to him as a Russian gentleman but this to me may not be correct. Could he have been French or Austrian ?? One son, George Ferdinand Fodor, who came to New Zealand – my g father said in the 1870 English census and his marriage certificate in NZ that he was born in “Russia” No record of Georgina can be found – her father was supposed to be George De La Hoyde – physician, and an earlier marriage to a George Menzies from which there was a daughter who came to NZ. I have searched for a George De La Hoyde and a few days ago found that there is an entry in the 1856 Irish Medical Register a Geo DELAHOYDE Physician Dublin. This I have yet to check further and hope that the Wellcome Foundation Medical History Foundation may be able to follow up for me. I have a copy of William and Georgina’s marriage document – they were married in St Andrew Holborn London Middlesex on 30 March 1864
William was then described as an Artist living as was Georgina in High Holborn and William’s father Matthew Foder ( note spelt with an E but this may be a mistake) and having the Rank or Profession of “Gentleman”. Georgina Fodor settled in Dunedin the opposite side of the world, “the end of the world”, a small town populated largely by Scots and a few English at that time and without the social activities which it was said she had been accustomed to. Why she chose Dunedin is an absolute mystery. She insisted upon being called “Madam Fodor” and she brought with her George F Fodor who became an artist ( my direct relative ) born Russia c 1860,
Helen / Helene Gertrude Fodor born Middlesex 1868 and Emily Gertrude Menzies the daughter from the first marriage. Left in England, although NZ family tradition suggests Europe, was Constantine Fodor, about whom nothing is known. If it is possible to locate William’s will there may be an indication of his background and finances etc for it is possible that the family may not have left England until the “Boys” were 21 years of age and able to inherit from their father. Georgina lived in NZ until 1900 (Bn c1823) and must have had reasonable sum of money as she appears to have arrived as a NON – assisted immigrant so no direct record of her arrival , and in NZ she had no visible source of income. I seem to remember that about 1895 a book was published in Chislehurst which recorded headstones in cemeteries in the district. I have a photo of what I understand was William’s grave but understand that the inscription has worn to illegibility. If my memory is correct and there is a record if inscriptions would it be possible to email me a copy please.
Finally I wonder if part of my answers may be with Mr Nathaniel Strode. How William came to be “Steward to Mr Strode, of Camden House” ( Kent Express & Ashford News report of William’s death) may give some understanding. Strode received Fr 900,000 from Napoleon III civil list. The Fodor’s appear to have been fluent in French, appear to have been on the fringe of the Russian Court, may have been employed by Strode for some time looking after property in Russia and France, or could Fodor have been the minor Austrian diplomat who was supposed to have taken jewellery of the Empress through a Princess and placed in the Bank of England where he was for some time employed according to one author of a book on the Empress. Strode was trusted by the Napoleon household for he was trustee for Piccadilly property the income of which went to Napoleon II and was used for his political advancement. Why did he employ Fodor ? What background did he or his wife have which was acceptable not only to him but also the Emperor and Empress especially ?
These questions might be the key to the question who were William Fodor and Georgina De La Hoyde / Menzies / Fodor. Did their social standing have something to do with a family tie to M Fodor the opera singer of Paris,London, Naples and St Petersburg for whom Rossini changed arias, and the Fodor conductor / composer in St Petersburg and the Fodor family of musicians,composer and artist in S E Holland and through this extended family a good series of social contacts for Strode? So many questions but few answers. I am sorry to have taken so much of your time. In NZ it is difficult to obtain much information although the internet is a blessing although limited. Should you be able to assist me with ANY further information or leads I would be very grateful. The Centre for Kentish Studies has been helpful but as things appear to me now should I go back to them it should be with more definite leads on where information might be found. – Robert Brown , Auckland, New Zealand
A. I regret that we have had no joy as yet in unearthing any more than you have already uncovered in your full and interesting question.