Saturday, September 09, 2006

Vivien Leigh: Case Solved?   posted by DavidB @ 9/09/2006 02:31:00 AM

In my last piece on Vivien Leigh (a few entries below) I suggested that the key to the mystery of her ancestry might be the odd name Yackjee: the family name of her mother and maternal grandfather.

In comments on my post there were some genealogy links, and in one of these I noticed the variant spelling Yackchee. That led me to this entry for a wedding in Bengal in 1911:

COOK - YACKCHEE, March 22nd 1911, at St Thomas Church Middleton R W., by the Rev Fr Van-de-Murgal S.J., Henry Mitton Cook, of Mitcham, Surrey, England to Ellen Maude, youngest daughter of J.P. Yakchee, late Registrar, Board of Revenue, L.P. 32 Theatre Road, Calcutta.

But I noticed that in this entry the name was also spelled Yakchee, so I Googled on that spelling and immediately got numerous results.

The key discovery is that there is a town in Afghanistan called Dah Yakchee Khana . So if a man from Dah Yakchee Khana moved to Bengal at some time in the early 19th century (at which time Britain had a quasi-imperial role in Afghanistan, with disastrous results), he and his descendants might well use the name Yakchee in some form - the spelling of Afghan and Indian names in the Latin alphabet would of course be variable. This would explain the connection of the name Yackjee with Bengal and its extreme rarity even there.

So the exotic element in Vivien's ancestry may not be Indian, or Armenian, but Afghan. Though of course between the original migration from Afghanistan and the birth of her mother's father, Michael John Yackjee, the Yackjee line may have mixed with other elements.

Added: Well, I gave it my best shot. The Afghan connection is not conclusive, but until anyone comes up with a better explanation for the origins of the name Yackjee/Yackje/Yackchee/Yakchee/Yakchi... I will stick to this hypothesis.

Of course, the name of the town Dah Yakchee Khana itself presumably means something in an Afghan language (Pushtu?) The word khana means 'house' in Hindi, and probably something similar in cognate languages, so I wondered if Dah Yakchee Khana means something like 'the home of Yakchee' - in which case Yakchee might be a common Afghan name. But it is not on this list.