Showing posts with label Ellis Island. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ellis Island. Show all posts

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Max Birk Arrived 111 Years Ago Today

My great uncle Max (Motel) Birk (1891?-1953) arrived at New York City aboard the SS Ryndam exactly 111 years ago, on July 9, 1906. Born in Kovno, Max was one of four brothers and two sisters who came to America.

I just found Max in the passenger manifest, arriving at the Port of New York from Rotterdam via the S.S. Ryndam. It took a bit of creative searching because the transcription showed his surname as "Brik" rather than "Birk." But knowing the date and name of ship was a big help! Also, Soundex is our friend. If possible, try Soundex searching (note the "620" on the naturalization index card above--the Soundex code for the category that "Birk" fits).

Max told authorities that he was 16 (his math was off), he was a butcher (not an occupation he pursued in America), and he had $1.50 in his pocket.

Most important: Max was being met by his brother "I. Burk" (my grandpa Isaac), c/o "M. Mahler" (my great-grandpa Meyer Mahler).

Max arrived only one month after his brother Isaac married Henrietta Mahler on June 10, 1906. Sounds like Isaac Burk and his bride didn't yet have their own place and remained with her father for a little while after the wedding--along with Max, possibly.
Years later, Max's naturalization papers from Chicago listed two witnesses, including a "Moses Kite." This was intriguing, because one of my DNA matches on is a member of the Kite family. Could this be a clue to a cousin connection?

I checked with this gentleman, who told me that Moses Kite worked at city hall in an administrative capacity and was probably a witness because he was on the spot, not because he was a cousin.

Welcome, great uncle Max.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

110 Years Ago Today, Great-Grandpa Farkas Became a US Citizen

Moritz Farkas (1857-1936), my maternal great-grandpa, was born in Botpalad, Hungary. He arrived alone at Ellis Island on August 8, 1899, seeking to escape debts after hail destroyed his crops, and make a fresh start in NYC for his growing family. Great-grandma followed him a year later, temporarily leaving her children in Hungary with their Kunstler grandma.

Although it was great-grandpa's fond wish to have a more rural life (by farming in the Midwest rather than living in the concrete canyons of New York City), great-grandma Lena Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) knew she had daughters to marry off. She insisted they live near a ready pool of suitable suitors in the big city. So they stayed put in NYC, moving from Manhattan to the Bronx, which was then a suburban-type area.

Great-grandpa took the oath of US citizenship on June 21, 1906 and his naturalization was filed on June 22, 1906. His witness was Sam Weiss, a real estate dealer. The Weiss name is intertwined with the Farkas and Schwartz families of my mother's family tree, as well as with the names of other cousins like Weiman and Roth, but whether Sam was a relative or an in-law or a colleague, I don't yet know.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Which Immigrant Ancestors Saw the Statue of Liberty?

Recently I completed a 14-page "memory booklet" outlining the family histories of Henrietta Mahler (1881-1954) and Isaac Burk (1882-1943), my paternal grandparents.

I tried to get a sense of what it was like to be an immigrant arriving in steerage, getting my first glimpse of the city I hoped would have streets paved with gold.

Henrietta and her younger siblings were children when they arrived at New York's Castle Garden in late 1886, just around the time the Statue of Liberty was dedicated (on October 28, 1886).

However, Henrietta's father, Meyer Mahler, arrived in 1885, so his ship didn't pass Lady Liberty on the way to New York Harbor. Still, living in New York and awaiting his family's arrival, he would have been aware of the statue's purpose and the hoopla surrounding its dedication. Ken Burns has a wonderful timeline of the statue's history and the progress leading up to the dedication by President Grover Cleveland.

Henrietta's future husband, Isaac Burk, came to North America by way of Canada, and took a train south to the Vermont border, so he didn't see the Statue of Liberty on his incoming trip.

Both of my maternal grandparents arrived in the 20th century, which means their voyages ended with the Statue of Liberty in full view (and they were processed through Ellis Island, not Castle Garden). Minnie Farkas (1886-1964) sailed into New York Harbor in 1901, two years before Emma Lazarus's now-famous poem was inscribed on the base. Similarly, her future husband Theodore Schwartz (1887-1965) arrived in 1902, the year before the poem was put on the base. In later years, did they ever take a ferry to the statue to get a closer look?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Revisiting the Farkas Cousins' Visit to Ellis Island, 1996

My sister, my hubby, and I joined several cousins for a visit to Ellis Island in October 1996. It was a day to remember!

(You can see the Twin Towers behind us here and at far left in the photo below.)

Moritz Farkas, my great-grandpa, arrived at Ellis Island in May 1899. His wife Leni Kunstler Farkas arrived at Ellis Island in November 1900.

Moritz and Leni's children, born in Hungary where the family originated, arrived in two waves: The first (including my grandma Hermina Farkas) landed at Ellis Island in November 1901; the second landed in April 1903.

After touring the main building of Ellis Island, we cousins walked the grounds and found the names of our ancestors on the immigrants' wall.

Thanks to Cousin Betty, who spent 25+ years researching the Farkas family, we know a lot about this branch of the family tree.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ellis Island Photos

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The NY Public Library has digital collections of photos of old New York and much more for people like me, who are climbing their family tree.

About 10 years ago my sister and I went with several cousins to Ellis Island and looked for the names of our ancestors who had come to America through its gates. What a moving visit! And what a great opportunity to tell family stories. Afterward, Cousin Ron guided us to his favorite Chinatown restaurant. It was a day to remember, even as the research continues.