Find a new job and a home. Settle in to a new community, acquire new possessions and learn a new language.

These things were not always mere middle-class lifestyle choices. They are just some of the obstacles migrants face when they leave their homes to establish a new life.

And a new project wants to hear from the large number of Barnet residents who may have a story or two to tell about the problems and pitfalls they or their families faced when they came to England.

Eddie Silverman, 82, is part of the third generation of a Jewish migrant family from Russia. Curiously he does not share the same name as a whole line of his father's relatives, due to a bureaucratic mix-up.

He said: "It was my grandfather who came over from Russia, together with his wife and his brother. Our family name is Silverman, but his brother's family name is listed as Solomons, which is some wonderful misunderstanding in some registry office.

"It was around 1880, and they couldn't speak a word of English, so I think someone somewhere made a bit of a mistake with their names."

Mr Silverman, 82 is very good-humoured about the obvious mix-up. He now lives in Holders Hill Road, in Hendon, with his 77-year-old wife, Rhoda. But he grew up in the East End of London, the main initial destination for Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe.

More than two million Jews fled Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1914, in an attempt to leave economic hardship and religious persecution behind and forge a new life. The majority headed for the United States, but thousands came to Britain, where they could join an established Jewish community.

The first port of call for immigrants arriving in London was the Jews' Temporary Shelter in Leman Street, Aldgate, east London.

"I am not quite sure where my father was born," Mr Silverman said. "But I was born in the centre, at Mile End Gate. My father's father was a cobbler, selling shoes, but his brother ended up setting up a factory and making shoes.

"My father was a taxi driver. He worked every day, waiting in the rank from noon until around 5pm or 6pm. All the taxi drivers would be sitting in the cafe and wait for each new cab to move up on the rank. When I didn't have school, I would wait with them, and they would give me the comics, or sweets left in cabs.

"All of them had nicknames," he remembered. "One of my uncles had a limp, and he was called Sammy Sideways'. So the caller, who told them when each cab moved up the rank, would call him like that, 'Sammy, Sammy Sideways.' Another uncle was called Highways'. And my father, Connie Silverman, was called Always', because he was always there."

The Silvermans left the East End when Eddie was 12, because a doctor recommended a move to the country for his mother's health.

In those days, Palmers Green was far away enough to constitute a countryside retreat, but Mr Silverman wanted to live closer to the city centre and moved to Hendon when he married. Eddie was the first person in his family to get further education, training as a mechanical engineer at Enfield College.

Now, though, he said a number of people who attend Jewish Care's Michael Sobell Community Centre in Limes Avenue, Golders Green, still have memories of the Jewish way of life outside of the borough. And a number of their memories link up.

He said: "My grandfather had three sons and four daughters and one of them married a fellow called Louis Levy who ran a taxicab garage in King's Cross. It was a very significant taxi service in those days and a lot of people remember him and his son, Wally. There are many people here in Sobell who remember them and the taxi rank."

Michael Sobell Community Centre has been working with a national project called Moving Here, which charts and records the migration of Jewish, South Asian, Irish and Caribbean communities to England over the past 200 years.

Funded by Lottery money, the project has sought to let immigrants tell their own stories of what it is like to uproot and forge a new existence in a new country. And the web site has hundreds of contributed items from people who wanted to share how their family got here, what difficulties they faced, and the memories they have.

Helen Wood, project manager of Moving Here, said: "The memories people share seem to have personal resonances and seem to have sparked off quite a lot of memories in other people. And it is interesting the range of stories you get. There is no one Jewish memory, for example."

Moving Here started as a project to digitise photographs, maps, documents and facts and figures from archives, museums and libraries with the lead partner, the National Archive.

"But those figures don't tell the whole story," said Miss Wood. "So we asked people to send in their stories. It is about telling an alternative history. But then we decided to work with all four communities with the idea that we use the contributions in the community in some way. Maybe it could help counter things like anti-Semitism and racism."

Contributors at the Michael Sobell centre are sharing their stories in the Jewish history group on a Monday evening, as well as in an exhibition at the centre, which opened on Monday.

Community centres representing the participating ethnic groups are putting on similar events across London and all over the country.

And although this is the only exhibition in Barnet, the other ethnic groups are also well represented. According to the Office of National Statistics, 3.4 per cent of the borough is made up of first generation Irish people (with many others of Irish descent), while 12.3 per cent is Asian and 1.3 per cent is Caribbean. The Jewish group makes up 14.8 per cent of the population.

In Camden, the London Irish Centre is also involved in the Moving Here project. And John Twoomey, co-ordinator of the centre, explained how Barnet had ended up with an Irish population of nearly three times the national average.

He said: "The move to Barnet would have been the consequence of the sheer volume of the Irish immigration postwar, when they would have flocked to the conurbations in the certainty of being able to find work. Cricklewood and Brent Cross, where the majority live now in Barnet, is reasonably close to the existing settlements in Kilburn and Neasden.

"Initially, from the 1850s onwards, the population patterns followed the railways, because the Irish were working on them, but there were tens and tens of thousands of them after the war, and the neighbourhood just expanded."

The Moving Here web site gives another explanation for the move to Barnet, by both Jewish and Irish people. In general, the borough has not been the first stop for migrants to London, but rather has been the destination of choice by those who have already settled in.

It says a number of Irish migrants moved to the suburbs as a sign of status, or economic success. They moved, it says, to show that not all Irish people were navvies and chambermaids.

Equally, for Jewish families, the web site says a move to the suburbs was a step up the ladder, an opportunity for their children to be better educated than their forefathers, who had to struggle to make a living.

In short, Barnet was a haven for families the leafy suburban sanctuary so many see it as today. But it was also a status symbol, a signal as much to themselves as to anyone else, that the immigrants had made a success of their lives.

For more details about the Moving Here project, see the web site at or call 020 8876 3444.