Welcome to Balean.net - Balean Family Name

The origins of the name, Balean, are uncertain; the spelling varies and is interchangeable from time to time.  In our branch that has its recent roots in England, the spelling was originally Balian until it was changed by the patriarch of the current family, Hermann Balian (1st, 1830-1900), who changed it to Baléanne to make it more French, and who then, when he went to England, changed it again to Baléan.  Later the accent was dropped. The family may have had its roots in the Crusades as some members of the family believe.  It is thought that the family origins were probably French and it is certainly true that the known history of these Baleans begins with Joseph Balian in Cologne. Very little is known about him or his wife, Gertrude Rungs. Joseph's son  was a farmer in the north of France at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and he  moved the family back to Cologne to escape the French Revolution.  Unfortunately most of the Balian family records were destroyed in the bombing of Cologne in WW2, but much written and anecdotal history survives.  Some members of the family have been interested in making a connection to the Crusades through a certain Balian of Ibelin, a Frenchman of some note whose family  returned to France from the Crusades via Cyprus and Crete.  In his case the name Balian was a forename and it was only later that it became a surname.  There are still many Balians in France and Germany to this day, however the likelihood of a connection to Ibelin is at best tenuous and unproven.

There are alternative theories.  One is that the name is Armenian in origin because of the …ian suffix, which is common to the Armenian people.  There are also Baleans in Romania with connections to the ancient royalty of that country, however the Romanian connection is unlikely since the name change in our case was only made in the nineteenth century.  

The Balean name is of course only half the story.  In the female lines of the family tree we find French, German, English, Scottish and Welsh names.  Each addition to the gene pool both dilutes and enhances the bloodline, and it is this blending of genes that creates the characteristics of each branch and generation. Thus the story of the Balean family must be given in context not only of the Balean side of the tree, but also in terms of the families that have married into the line.

JOSEPH BALIAN is the first direct line Balean ancestor that we know of, but there are no dates for him although he would have to have been born in the early part of the eighteenth century. The only thing we know of him is that he married GERTRUDE RUNGS of whom, again, there are no details. We would be very interested in any further information about this early part of the family.  We don’t know whether Joseph or Gertrude had any siblings. It is probable that Joseph lived and died in Cologne. His son, Guillaume appears to have been a farmer in northern France at some time, but we know that both he and his father were born in Cologne, which was at that time a canton of France.

GUILLAUME BALIAN was born in 1772. He married MARGUERITE EFGEN and they had a son, Etienne.  The family was French and had a small farm in the north of France.  They left their home when the revolution broke out in 1790 and brought their baby, Etienne, back to Cologne where Guillaume worked as a wool-carder.  Marguerite had a brother, Teodor Efgen, who worked as a washer man in Cologne.

ETIENNE BALIAN was born in 1806.  He married KATERINE SCHMIDT, who as a child was hidden in a hayloft in her home village of Eupen, on the German/Belgian border, to escape as Napoleon’s army passed on the way to the front in Russia.  There is no birth date for Katerine, but she died in 1843.  Etienne became a mathematical master in the Reale Schule. He was a Roman Catholic and his wife was a Lutheran.  Their sons, Johann, Wilhelm and Hermann were brought up in their mother’s religion and their daughter, Mathilde, in their father’s.  Etienne died in 1883 at the age of 77.

JOHANN BALIAN, son of Etienne and Katerine, was born in Cologne but there are no dates.  He died of pneumonia during the war between Germany and Denmark, when Germany annexed Schleswig Holstein.

MATHILDE BALIAN married and had one daughter.  Her married name was Ehrenberg.

HERMANN (BALIAN, BALÉANNE, BALÉAN) BALEAN was born in Alsace, West Germany, on 16th June 1830.  He was the youngest member of the family.  His father died when he was three years old and his mother died when he was thirteen.  He was brought up in an orphanage by Cannon Doublemann of Cologne and was a choir boy at St. Martins Kirche, Cologne (which was near the suspension bridge and was blown up in WW2).  He later attended Bonn University, where he was a contemporary of Karl Marx.  After leaving university he went to France where he was a professor of languages at Nancy and also taught at the Sorbonne.  He stayed in France for about ten years.  He spent a couple of years in England teaching before returning to France, but returned to England at the start of the Franco-Prussian war in Alsace-Lorraine.  He taught at the Thanet Collegiate School for a while before moving to Brighton and setting up as a private tutor in French and German, he also taught for a while at Brighton Grammar School in Northcliffe Road.  He played the flute and the violin and, in his bachelor days, the piano. He was very fond of children, dogs and birds.  He loved apples and remembered his mother giving him a pfennig to buy an apple turnover when he was a little boy in Cologne.  He very rarely spoke of his family, but when he had a blackcurrant pie he used to say it reminded him of his grandmother.  Many foreign beggars used to go to his house in Brighton.  SARAH HARRISON was one of Hermann’s students and they were married in St Nicholas’ Church in Brighton on 26th July 1870.  They had six children, Alice, Hilda, Hermann, Thekla, Oswald and Alan. They lived at 21 Clifton Road, and later 15 Alexandra Villas in Brighton.  Hermann died on 28th January 1900 at the age of 69 and is buried at Pyecombe Village Church just outside Brighton, where he knew the vicar. There is a memorial cross to him and other family members in the churchyard there.

WILHELM BALIAN Wilhelm was the twin brother of Hermann and therefore his date of birth would be also 16th June 1830.  It is not known whether he was also brought up in the orphanage in Cologne with his brother.  He was a journalist and knew Karl Marx through the university at Bonn.  He ran a leftist newspaper in Breslau, but as he had revolutionary tendencies it was suppressed by the authorities.  He committed suicide, allegedly because he was depressed by the closure of his newspaper.

ALICE MASTERS BALEAN was the eldest child of Hermann and Sarah, born on 17th July 1871.  She was baptised on 12th August 1871 at Brighthelmston.  She studied music at the Cologne Conservatoire and became a music teacher.  She also wrote poetry, some of which was published in ‘Queen’ magazine.  She never married and she died on 15th January 1923 at the age of 51.  She is buried with her parents at Pyecombe.

HILDA HERMINA BALEAN was born on 21st June 1873.  She was a school governess and like her sister she never married.  She was a brilliant linguist.  She was involved in the humanitarian efforts to bring help to suffering civilians in Germany at the end of WW2.  Having lived in Cologne for a time as a young woman, she deeply regretted the demise of a city, a people and a heritage she had loved.  She was a keeper of much of the family history and a lot of what we know comes from her records. She died in Brighton in 1953 at the age of 79.

HERMANN BALEAN, son of Hermann and Sarah Balean, was born on 13th March 1875 at Brighton.  He was a highly motivated student and paid his way through medical school with scholarships and prizes taking first the Price entrance scholarship in science and later a scholarship in anatomy and biology.  He also took the senior Letheby scholarship and the Hutchinson prize.  He trained at the London Hospital at the end of the nineteenth century, graduating in 1901. He took his M.D. in 1903 and B.S. in 1905, and he obtained the F.R.C.S. in 1908.  He married ISOBEL TERRELL at St. Peter’s Church in Bayswater in 1908 and then took a post in China, later moving to Hong Kong.  His friend and colleague Dr A. H. Graves described him thus: “Balean was a man of sterling integrity whose lovableness and simplicity made him a delightful companion.  Despite his wealth of scientific knowledge, he always placed himself on the learner’s stool and assumed someone else knew more than himself.  This was no pose, but a natural humility of mind.  He loved teaching and gave much of his scanty leisure to preparing demonstrations for his anatomy students at the University of Hong Kong, where he was on the externe teaching staff.  He was a good artist and conversations rarely ended without a sketch on the back of an envelope to illustrate a point.  His large practice left him little time for recreation, and indeed, he was so absorbed in his work that I doubt if he consciously desired relaxation.  He would often come into the Bacteriological Institute and bring tissues for section or other materials for an opinion, or drop in to see if I had anything interesting to show him.  An enthusiastic microscopist, he did all the clinical microscopy he could find time for on his own patients.  Among his surgical colleagues his reputation as an operator stood high…” From his obituary in the Lancet in 1945
Herman and Isobel had five children, all of whom were born in China and sent home to England for schooling.  Every so often their parents would return to England for a holiday and on one occasion the family went to the Isle of Wight where Hermann had enjoyed a bachelor holiday in his youth that he had obviously enjoyed.  Apparently the attention to detail which made him such a good doctor also flowed into his private life and there is an anecdote about a punctilious habit concerning his socks, for it seems that he would number them to ensure even wear! 
When war broke out Hermann and Isobel were interned in a Japanese internment camp, Camp Stanley, in Hong Kong.  Of this Dr Graves continues “…In common with all of us, he lost everything in Hong Kong, and at his age his outlook was not bright for a serene old age.  In internment he worked hard and never spared himself, although he was badly undernourished and really not fit for what he undertook, but he could not be persuaded to do less.”  Hermann died of malnutrition and anaemia, in Stanley Internment Camp, in January 1945, just before the end of the war, perhaps the 19th or 30th.  He was buried at Stanley but is mentioned on the grave at Pyecombe which is "In Loving Memory Of".  As a footnote; recently discovered correspondence between Isabel and Hilda indicates that Hermann was suffering from cancer before he was captured by the Japanese.  This condition, untreated, was almost certainly a contributor to his death in Camp Stanley and in fact it is remarkable that he lasted as long as he did in the circumstances.

THEKLA WINIFRED BALEAN was born on 19th December1876 at Brighton.  She was a mathematician and a drawing instructress and she went out to China and taught drawing there.  She was somewhat eccentric by all accounts.  She used to die a coloured streak in her hair, which in her day would have been considered very radical!  She was a teacher, a bit of a blue-stocking, and never married.  She died in 1952.

OSWALD BALEAN was born on 6th April 1879 in Brighton.  He went to Ceylon and bought a tea plantation, the Imbooloittia Tea Plantation near Kandy.  Apparently he would ride round the estate on a large white horse and was quite an imposing figure with his bald head and grand bearing.  He married NORA MILLICENT AMES on 18th April 1912 and they had two sons, Henry (Hal) Hamilton Balean and Peter Balean.  Unfortunately Oswald died on 1st March1928 as the result of anaesthetic during a minor operation, at the age of 48.  He was buried at Kandy although he is mentioned as "In Loving Memory Of" on the Balean grave at Pyecombe.  The tea estates were sold to the Rockefeller Institute of America for a considerable sum.  Nora and the children, who were still only teenagers, returned to England and settled in Purley.  Hal became an engineer in the Royal Navy and was posted to HMS Fiji with responsibility for communications.  His ship was sunk off Crete on Empire Day and, although most of the crew survived, the story is that Hal went back to try to persuade the Captain to leave.  The Captain went down with his ship and tragically Hal was also killed.  During the war Peter  was a Squadron Leader in the RAF, but  he was taken off operational duties after his brother was killed.  He resigned his commission soon after the war.  Nora Balean died in 1948 and her son Peter died in 1996.

ALAN BALEAN was born on 23rd August1881 at Brighton.  He became a bank clerk and in the 1901 census, at the age of nineteen, we find him lodging with a Mrs Nicholls at Mile End Road in London.  Information has come to light that some time between 1901 and 1903 he met a Norwegian girl, JOHANNA BRATLAND, who was employed as a maid.  Alan fell in love with the girl and against the wishes of his family they were married in about 1903/4.  The couple then lived in Bergen in Norway with Johanna’s mother and it was here that their first child, Alan Johan, was born. In May 1904 Alan was working for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and was posted to Hamburg.  Under the rules of engagement at the bank he was not permitted to be married and it is not clear how Alan got around this regulation. Alan and Johanna had three children; Alan Johan, born 22nd June 1904, Norma, born 29th October 1907 and Jack, born 28th July 1909.  Alan also had a daughter by Constance Neubronner who he met while posted to Singapore.  Their daughter, Constance Ena Louisa Balean, was born on 31st December 1907. Constance tragically died on 7th February 1908 from post-natal complications.  She was only 20 years of age. Alan eventually became chief cashier with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.  He died of tuberculosis on 3rd August 1921 at the age of 39 and is buried at Pyecombe.  Of his children, we know that the two boys migrated to Canada.  It is believed that Alan Johan Balean may have married and had children. Jack Balean is believed to have been shot while trying to cross the border illegally between Canada and USA.  Norma Balean became a much loved and renowned opera singer in her homeland and in particular in her hometown of Bergen.  The child, Constance Ena Balean, known as Ena, was raised by her Balean relatives and eventually married Hugo Burkhardt and had two children of her own. We would be interested in any information about any of the descendents of Alan Balean.

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