Jermy: The Hungarian Connection

by Stewart Valdar

(Used with the permission of the author)

The Norman family of Jermy have been in East Anglia for probably 800 years. Their origin seems clear. Francis Blomefield pointed out that Jermyn was the parent of Jermy and the Scandinavian personal name, as Walter Rye stated, occurs in Denmark as Jermün.

The Heralds in their Norfolk Visitations accepted that the knightly family of Jermy were substantial in the thirteenth century. Sir John Jenny was married to Margery daughter and co-heir of Roger Bygott, Earl of Norfolk and Earl Marshal of England. But was Scandinavia-Normandy- East Anglia the only route of this once powerful family?

Over many years I have noted references to the Hungarian name Jarmay - which is a fairly frequent spelling of the Jermy family name in England - and wondered if there was any connection, and what it could possibly be.

In particular, I spotted the 1944 death notice of Sir John Jarmay, KBE, FCS, FIC, who died at Hatfield, Herts. on August 22nd that year. I learned that he was a chemist and inventor of Hungarian origins, who had lived for many years at Malpas, Cheshire. His wife, formerly Charlotte Elizabeth, daughter of a surgeon, Mr. George Wyman, had died in 1938. Sir John's given name was Gustav, after his father who lived at Northwich, Cheshire for many years.

Sir John's son Istvan (equivalent to John in English), a gentleman of independent means, of Bulkeley Hall, Bulkeley, Chester, died 13 June,1946. His wife Hilda Leslie Burnett had died nearly 14 years earlier. Their children, Constance Theodora Hitford Jarmay and John Leslie Jarmay are dead. The latter died in 1948 and his sister in 1957. The line seems, therefore, to have petered out and the origin of the family remains a matter of speculation.

National newspaper libraries, to which as a journalist I have had access, record other Hungarian Jarmays. In June 1947 U.K. papers published a Hungarian spy charge against Britain. He was named as Miklos Jarmay, police officer and former bodyguard of Bela Kovacs, secretary- general of the Smallholders' Party. Jarmay said he had worked for two British officers and supplied them with documents on the Budapest police organisation.

In another spectacular story in May 1958 Dr. Zsigmond Jarmay, former chairman of the revolutionary committee of the Budapest Lawyers' Association, was reported to be on trial in camera charged with supporting the 1956 revolt. He and another leading member of the Hungarian bar were said to have attempted to restore a counter-revolutionary regime. Jarmay was sentenced to three years imprisonment and his colleague to two years.

Do the Hungarian Jarmays bear a family name corrupted from Jermy, as do some families in England? Does the name Jermy occur in Hungary and if so can any link be established between the Jarmays and Jermys, as in this country?

The question first came to my attention five years ago when my friend the botanist Clive Jermy told me that at an international conference of scientists in Budapest he had been introduced to a noted Hungarian entomologist Dr. Tibor Jermy. In Hungarian the name is pronounced Yarmi. Was this another branch of the family that had travelled south into northern Europe and finally established itself in Hungary?

I found Dr. Tibor Jermy's name in the Budapest phone book (in the City of London Business Library) and wrote to him. A fortnight later he replied expressing great interest in the Jermy family both in Britain and Hungary.

He wrote: "My family lived for more than 200 years in the north of Hungary in the town of Késmárk (now Czechoslovakia, Kezmarok). My father Sándor Jermy, 1870-1949, found out that the name Jermi (originally it was written as that) first appeared in the registers of the Lutheran Church in Késmárk on January 29 1726 when Michael Jermi (born 1697) married Eva Kolbenheuer.

"An unwritten tradition of the family was that the ancestors immigrated to Késmárk from the north central part of Hungary during the counter reformation of the 17th. Century since they were already Lutherans at the time and Késmárk was a stronghold of Protestantism.

"Considering that the Jermys lived for so many centuries in north Europe one could speculate that one of them participated in the more or less international army which expelled the Turks from Hungary, and then remained there."

I have spent some 25 years researching the history of the Jermys and Dr. Tibor Jermy is the only member of an established Jermy family that I have found in Europe.

The origin of the Jermys of Hungary may not remain in doubt for long for in his last letter to me Dr. Jermy wrote, after reading my outline of the East Anglian Jermys: "I found the details of the (Jermy) history fascinating. It made me more interested in the history of my own family branch so I have decided to make further investigations on its origin. I shall inform you."

Dr. Jermy has, however, already tackled the question I raised earlier: are the Hungarian Jarmays and Jermys related? He told me, firstly that in the Budapest telephone directory alone, one may find Jármi (1), Jármys (2), Jármais (4) and Jármays (8), all unknown to him. He says that there are noble branches of the Jármy family and they may have originated from a small village in eastern Hungary named Jármi.

Dr. Jermy tells me that Jermy or Jermi in Hungary is pronounced yarmi (Oxford Dictionary symbols), while Jármi or Jármy = yarmi and Jármai or Jármay = yarmoi. He concludes: "Thus it can be taken for granted that the latter names, at least in central Europe, have nothing to do with Jermy."

It may be that I can contribute to Dr. Jermy's history of the Hungarian branch of the family for when I contacted him I also wrote to his brother Sandor (who unfortunately had died before I found his name in the directory) and a lady, Lászlóné Jermy. Many months later I had a reply from her sister-in-law Edith Pose, nee Jermy, then living in Berlin. Her grandfather would relate a splendid Jermy hero in the good doctor's family history.

She wrote. "My grandfather was a colonel in the Hungarian army and took part in the uprising against Austria and particularly the House of Hapsburg in 1843. He received a personal letter of appreciation from Lajos Kossuth, the leader of the war of independance and several decorations, which my father showed me when I was a child. Those things, unfortunately, perished during the second world war.

"In my father's life, too was an incident worth mentioning. As a young man he prevented a serious train accident. He reported a persistent creaking noise on the train that proved to be caused from two broken wheels. This was in countryside full of dangerous slopes, tunnels and bridges. Every newspaper reported the event and praised my father for his action. I still have the clipping."

Ref: Valdar, S. 1981. Jermy: The Hungarian Connection. Norfolk Ancestor. v2. pp 93-95