The estate of Gloria Medicks and the search for her family

Lisa Hill, West Indies Research Manager and Training Consultant at Anglia Research Services, explains how The Gazette was an invaluable tool in uncovering the family history of a deceased person with no known next of kin.

Magnifying glass looking at papers

The estate of Gloria Medicks

Gloria Medicks died intestate and with no known next of kin. Subsequently, her estate was claimed by the Government Legal Department. This is the point at which Anglia Research Services becomes involved. Gloria Medicks was born in Kenya but died in Worthing. Trying to find family for her with little more than a date and place of birth was challenging.

Pre-independence Civil Registration records for territories of the British Empire vary considerably in terms of accuracy, accessibility and preservation. I knew simply working through the birth, marriage and death records would not be enough. I had to use different resources, and The Gazette, both the London and Kenya editions, proved an invaluable tool.

From Eastern Europe to East Africa

To find Gloria’s family, I started with a different question: how did this Jewish family end up in Nairobi and what traces did they leave behind? I found Gloria, and her parents, Alexander and Edna Medicks, together on a passenger list travelling from Mombasa to London. With her parents’ names, I was able to identify her paternal grandparents; Gloria’s paternal grandfather was Simon Medicks (originally Szymsia Mardyks).

When I began, I knew nothing of the Uganda Scheme proposed by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain in 1903. Its purpose was to create a homeland for Jews in East Africa. Whilst the proposal to establish an autonomous Jewish state in East Africa was ultimately withdrawn by the British government, it attracted the attention of Simon Medicks.

Simon was born in Bora, Poland in 1878, and became a British citizen in Kenya in 1926. Border changes between Poland and Russia mean that Simon’s son, Alexander, gives his own place of birth as Bora, Russia in 1903. Simon had another son, Zacharia Medicks, known as Charles, who was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1904. By 1913, twenty Jewish families had moved to Kenya.

Life in Nairobi

Simon Medicks set up The Machine Metals in Nairobi in 1904. His company flourished, and eventually his brother Abraham Medicks would join him. Simon established the Theatre Royal in Nairobi in 1912. During World War I, Simon lent the building to the British Army, and it was used as a recruiting hall. Notably, other theatres refused admission to Africans, but the Theatre Royal had an open policy.

During World War II, the theatre was lent free of charge to the military and was briefly called the Garrison Theatre. In 1961 when the lease of the theatre came to end, the family decided not to renew it and sold the theatre to Ted Clifton who changed its name to Cameo Theatre. The Theatre Royal is notable not only for allowing Africans as well as Europeans but also for being the first cinema in Nairobi. Business aspects of the Theatre Royal can be traced in The Gazette from the granting (Kenya Gazette Vol XIX No 532) and renewal of its liquor licences (Kenya Gazette Vol XXVII No 1042) to the eventual bankruptcy of its operator (Kenya Gazette Vol LXII No 38). 

Business thrived for Simon in Nairobi but sadly his direct line died out in only two generations. His wife, Gertrude Medicks, died in 1937 in Bayswater, London. Simon survived her by seven years, dying in 1944 in Nairobi, and not spared the horrors of World War II.

During the war, Alexander served in the Army Services Corps in North Africa and his promotion to second Lieutenant is noted in The Gazette (Gazette issue 36491). Alexander also outlived his wife, Edna. Her probate notice is found in The Kenya Gazette, giving her date of death 25 July 1968 (Kenya Gazette Vol LXX No 44). Although both Alexander and Edna passed away in Nairobi, Alexander’s will received its grant of probate in England and his probate notice is in The Kenya Gazette (Kenya Gazette Vol LXXVII No 6). After Alexander’s death in 1975, Gloria returned to England permanently where she died unmarried and childless.

Charles Medicks also outlived his wife, Hilda. The probate notice of Hilda’s estate in The Gazette gives her date of death as 22 November 1954 (Gazette issue 40562). Charles and Hilda had no children. Charles died in Nairobi in 1965. It is notable that probate was required for both Edna and Hilda even though they were survived by their husbands. This suggests that they each held assets in their own names.

Simon had one daughter, Fannie, whom I’m told wished to marry but Simon objected to her suitor, and ultimately, she died childless and unmarried like Gloria.

Simon’s descendants have not persisted beyond Gloria, but his legacy can be found in other things. Simon was one of the founding members of the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation, and in 1921 he donated Rupees 1200 for work on the synagogue. In 1935, Simon was President of the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation. The Nairobi synagogue is in its 120th year. The Theatre Royal may have changed owners and its name, but the building is still there on Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi where it is currently home to a casino.

How to search The Gazette

The easiest way to start a search on The Gazette is to head to the All notices section of the website. Notices in The Gazette can be searched for in several ways:

While conducting a search, you can amend or clear your search options at any point, or if you want to start from scratch, click the 'clear all' button. You can sort results by oldest or latest, and select the number of results you want to view.

All notices search in The Gazette

It should be noted, however, that notice type, notice code and location searches should only be used if you are searching for notices that were published from 1998 onwards. This is because data from 1998 onwards was created from extensible markup language (XML) allowing all filters to be used to search and refine results from this data.

You can also refine your search using the following sections:

  • Awards and accreditations - for all awards, state awards and military decorations and medals, including the monarch's New Year and Birthday Honours recipients
  • Insolvency - for all personal and corporate insolvency notices
  • Wills and probate - for all deceased estates and unclaimed estates notices
  • Companies - for all companies registered at Companies House

However, for data before 1998, and for data that doesn't exist in XML format (such as supplements), we have used existing scanned images of documents and our own information extraction tools. This means only certain filters can be used to search this data, such as text searchdate and edition in the All notices section. If you are looking for notices before 1998, or notices that may have appeared in a supplement, use the textsearch and keep the 'Show all' box under 'Notice type' ticked.

Show all in Gazette notices

About the author

Lisa Hill is the West Indies Research Manager at Anglia Research Services. She specialises in tracing heirs and untangling complex family histories for legal purposes.

See also

How to search The Gazette

From records to reality: Indian soldiers in WW2

D-Day and The Gazette - 80th anniversary

What are the intestacy rules in England and Wales?


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Publication date

8 July 2024

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.