Robert Elgar Datlen


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The Datlen Migrations
Report by Shaun Griffiths - Adapted from “The Datlen Family Tree” (first edition) by Andy R Datlen
Originated 2004  Last reviewed October 2008


UKSouth AfricaZimbabweAustraliaNew ZealandCanadaUSACyprus

The Datlen’s never seem to stay in one place for long. This report details the movements of the family from when they first appeared in Kent, England, their gradual movements into neighbouring counties and their migrations to other countries that has dispersed the family name all over the world.

The Datlen family can be traced back to the beginning of the 18th century when Johannes Dieltein came to Kent, England from abroard as an immigrant. After living in Chatham for several years he took his family to Dover where they settled. Johannes remained in Dover until his death in 1847.

Johannes’ sons Adam and Robert also stayed in Dover for most of their lives as did most of their children. However, recent research suggests that Johannes’ son Joseph moved to London where he raised his own family, under the surname of Dietlen.

The 1881 census gives us a good idea of how the Datlen family has started to disperse to neighbouring counties. In London we find Joseph Dietlin and his wife Ellen. Their son, Joseph John Dietlen, is living in Lambeth with his wife and five children. Adam’s son George Frederick Datlen can be found living in Reading, Berkshire and another son, John moved further away to Devizes, in the county of Wiltshire. An Elizabeth Datlen can be found in Hampshire, while Caroline Datlin, a widow can be found living in Bristol, Gloucestershire.

1881 Name Distribution map

One Datlen who is missing from the 1881 census and thus far appears to be the first to have set sail to another country is Robert Datlen’s daughter Emma. She spent some years in France and Russia working as Governess for the children of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich Romanov until the 1917 revolution forced her return to Dover. (Note: Emma may have been found in the 1881 census but is yet to be found in the 1891 census).

It was the third generation of Datlens that first cast their eyes beyond Dover’s white cliffs and left England for good. In the case of George Audrey Datlen from the Adam branch, it was circumstance that found him bound for South Africa around 1900 to serve as a cook during the Boer War. He remained there and set up a restaurant on Cape Town pier.

George had five children whose descendants can be found in the Pengelly family living in Harare, the Newman family, and Charles Eric Datlen’s family. One of Charles’ sons, Paul Marlowe Datlen, is a drama professor at Natal University in Pietermaritzburg, and another, Charles Peter Datlen, recently moved to Florida and lives today in Fort Lauderdale.

George was followed by his brother Albert Marlow Datlen and his wife Muriel. They sailed on the Dunluce Castle in November 1908. Their grandson today lives in Scottburgh, Natal.

William Evan Datlen describes his passage to South Africa in his memoirs. He was 21 years old when he made the 22 day trip costing 19 pounds. He sailed on the Grantully Castle in 1920 and stayed with his Uncle George and Aunt Kit for a year or so before finding a place of his own.

The first record of a Datlen travelling to the United States is a Lotta Datlin, a servant aged 21 from Sweden. The record dates from about 1891 and is of poor quality. It is unlikely that the surname is correct.

Isabella Datlen, from the Robert branch and daughter of Robert Elgar Datlen was 27 years old when she sailed to New York alone on board the SS Umbria on 23 December 1906. She is described as being 5’2” with dark complexion and with brown hair and brown eyes. Her passage was paid for by someone with the name King which presumably was her future husband Louis King.

Other Datlen’s appear on the records of the New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957 due to them being among the crew, employed as stewards, deck hands or cabin waiters. Isabella’s brother Frederick Datlen had a long and notable career from the age of 20 until the last record of him in 1934 working as a night steward aged 63!

The first migration of Datlen’s to Australia was undertaken by Walter James Datlen, from the Robert branch of the tree. He stayed first in Gilbraltar where his first son, Walter Frank was born. Then in 1921 he sailed with Walter and his wife Ruth from London to Adelaide aboard the Osterley. They had two more children, one of whom, Ralph Allan, the “Motorcycle Man”, is still living today in Myponga.  A Grandson of Walter James, Martyn Datlen, son of Walter Frank Datlen, Lives in Garden Island Sands in Tasmania.

William Evan Datlen’s brothers, George and Reginald sailed to South Africa in 1926. George returned to England but Reginald Walter Datlen settled in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. William joined his brother in Gwelo, Rhodesia relocating his family from Cape Town in about 1950. They both had two girls, so the Datlen name has died out in that part of Africa. One of William’s daughters, Joan Ellen, has since migrated back to the UK.

Yet another brother, Peter emmigrated to New Zealand in 1951. He had two children, Helen and William. Helen Russell Datlen married Vickers Graham Carter in Ashburton, 1981 and created the Datlen-Carter line. William Ross Datlen lives in Ashburton with his Indonesian wife, Srita Nsinguh, and their three children.

Andrew Russell Datlen, the author of “The Datlen Family Tree” book was born in Botley, Hampshire but emmigrated with his wife Barbara to Canada in 1965. They stayed for a few years in Newfoundland, then Ottawa and finally Toronto. During this time they had three children, James, Steven and John.

After twenty one years in Canada, Andy got fed up with the cold, and moved with his second wife Nancy Luz Miņo, of Ecuadorian-American origin, to the San-Francisco Bay area in California. They had two children, Christine Emily Datlen-Miņo and Matthew Eric Datlen-Miņo.

Some time during the 1980’s, Tessa Datlen, daughter of George Frederick Datlen and Miriam Smyth, moved to South Africa with her husband Kenneth Lewis. They stayed for a few years before moving to Cyprus in around 1995.  Coincidentally, Sarah Burton, daughter of Patricia Barbara Datlen of Totton, Hampshire, moved to Cyprus with her husband, Jonathon Ross at about the same time.

World Map 2

0) Dover, England - Johannes Dietlein (from unknown country @1800)
1) South Africa - George Audrey Datlen (from England 1900); Albert Marlow Datlen (from England 1908); Tessa & Ken Smyth (from England @1985)
2) New York - Isabella Datlen (from England 1906)
3) Australia - Walter James Datlen (from England @1921)
4) Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe - Reginald Walter Datlen (from England 1926); William Evan Datlen (from South Africa @1950)
5) New Zealand - Peter Datlen (from England 1951)
6) Tasmania - Martyn Datlen (from Australia)
7) Canada - Andy Russell Datlen (from England 1965)
8) California, USA - Andy Russell Datlen (from Canada @1986)
9) Florida - Charles Peter Datlen (from South Africa)
10) Cyprus - Tessa & Ken Smyth (from South Africa @1995); Sarah & Jonathon Ross (from England @1995)


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Last reviewed:  June 2010