In February 2000 after my adopted parents had both died, I decided to try and found out about my natural parents. With the help of the internet and by putting my birth surname of Tolliss into google. Another Tolliss was selling his car at the time, so I contacted him with a carefully worded email. This distant cousin told me I had a 1st cousin who lived in Australia and he contacted him on my behalf. Hence I saw the first pictures of my mother. There was no father’s name on the birth certificate and as no-one in the family knew about me, there was little chance of finding out about him. However the information from these 2 people, who welcomed this stranger into their family, fed my desire to find out more about my new family.

The Tolliss name can be spelt with one S or two according to whomever was recording the event at the time. The family in the UK has included occupations ranging from Farm Labourers to Doctors. Where I have the most information is in the 19th century. The Tolliss family inhabited the East London area. Two generations worked in the Silk Industry and Brushmaking . It was in the mid 19th century, when part of the Tolliss family moved from London to Birmingham and diversified into different occupations. I believe I have found more members of the family in Norfolk, spelt with one S. The appearance of Rodwell as a first name occurs in 1749 in New Buckenham.

My Grandfather Frederick Tolliss was a Grocer. He moved to Brighton from London where he met his wife Florence Guy. They had three children (Lilian, Eric and Guy) and emigrated to Durban, South Africa. My Grandfather remained in Durban but my grandmother did not find the South African way of life suited her so came back to England with the 3 children. In 1913 Guy, known as Jack, returned to South Africa for health reasons with his aunt Emma Guy. My Grandmother with Lilian and Eric, who was studying to be an architect, stayed in London. Eric when he finished his training joined his father and brother back in Durban. Lilian (my mother) became an actress, stage name Zetta Morenta. Her greatest claim to fame was acting as a double for Gracie Fields in 3 of her films; Sing as you Go 1934, Look Up and Laugh 1935 and Queen of Hearts 1936. She also appeared on the stage in London as “Ermyntrude” in The Perfect Woman in 1948. Some photos of Lilian in the Gracie Fields films and stage production of The Perfect Woman appear in the gallery. I have also found online Zetta’s name mentioned as part of variety acts at the Alhambra, Leicester Sq and the Coliseum Theatre through the years 1925-1930

My Great Grandfather James Rodwell Tolliss was a traveller, trading in the silk industry. His wife Louisa Sophia Clark was a fourth generation descendant of Lewis Berger the paint manufacturer. Lewis was the subject of a colourful ‘biography’ written by Jeffrey Farnol in the 1920s called a “Portrait of a Gentleman in Colours”. It tells of Lewis’s move to London in 1760 from Frankfurt and his endeavour in making the colour Prussian Blue a marketable commodity. Originally named Louis Steigenberger he simplified his name to Lewis Berger in about 1770. He married Elizabeth Alger circa 1768. A more detailed biography was called “A Century and a Half of Berger”, written by Lewis Berger’s Gt Gt Grandson Thomas Brereton Berger. A photo of Richmond house that Thomas lived in is in the gallery.

Circa 1780 Lewis & Elizabeth moved from the Shadwell/Ratcliff area of London to nearby Homerton. There they found a house and he built his factory. He made 12 dry colour pigments by 1790, increasing them by a further 7. Also selling black lead, sulphur, sealing wax and mustard. In 1785 they opened offices at Well Court in Cheapside. It is believed the Doulton factory in Lambeth also purchased some of his paints for decorating their pottery.

Link to Berger Paint employees reunion page
Thanks to John Cain for sending me the above information.

Link to Bergerpaints website www.bergerpaints.com

Lewis Berger appeared at the Old Bailey as a victim of theft on 3 occasions, below are the links to the relevant pages.1. RICHARD SHARPLIN, THOMAS RICE, theft: simple grand larceny, 03/06/1778. 2. FIDELY MILLARD, ELEANOR SANDERSON, theft: burglary, receiving stolen goods, 13/09/1780. 3. SAMUEL JACKSON, theft: burglary, 11 May 1796.

The family tree contains all the names that I know of with the Berger connection. Also some pictures of the Berger family and the houses etc are in the gallery. Also in the gallery there are pictures of the extended Berger family. Plus documents associated with the Berger business.

I have tried to find out more on the Guy side of the family, that being my Grandmother’s maiden name.

I met a 2nd cousin on that side who has furnished me with new photos of my mother, plus some of my grandmother, her siblings and her parents and their extended family. He also met my mother in the 1930s (she had 2 whippets) and again backstage in London in 1948, when she was appearing in The Perfect Woman at the Haymarket theatre.

I have also met a very distant cousin with the Guy surname. Our connection goes back 10 generations.

In 2005, I extended the Clark family. Henry Clark (Gt Gt Gt Grandfather) who married firstly Louisa Berger, who died soon after the birth of her second son, married secondly Mary Stewart and had 11 more children.

I went to Newnham, Kent and found Henry Clark’s grave. I have met with another distant cousin from Henry Clark’s second marriage.

I have worked on the Stokes side of the family that married into the Pamphilon and Guenigault family, making new contacts with both Pamphilon and Guenigault members. There is a photo of Adolphus Stokes grave in the gallery. I have also had a great amount of information supplied by the Sharp side of the Berger family. My research into siblings marriages has extended the tree far and wide with interesting coincidences. I have found links to my adopted side Blott and Brimson tree in a number of cases.

In 2009 I flew to Australia to meet my first cousin and his wife. I went back in 2015 and saw them again. They have been pleased that I have contacted them and added information about our family. I also met and stayed with more distant cousins on the Tolliss side.

In 2019 myself and my children and grandson all had our DNA analysed on Ancestry.com. Other members of the Tolliss and Guy family have shown up, some more closely related than others. In 2020 a first cousin appeared as a match who was not related to any of my Guy or Tolliss relations. This I felt meant that she was related to my natural father who was not listed on my birth certificate. I contacted her but she was not interested as to how we may be linked. So I started my own research starting with her name and others that were also linked to her that had visible trees. These people also showed as being distantly related to myself. I have not published my findings as it may cause embarrassment to this side of the family. I believe I may have half siblings from a marriage of my father.

It has been a rewarding and pleasurable experience that all the new family members I have met are friendly and helpful. A big thank you to all the family, near and extended that have helped the tree to grow.