Friday, June 17, 2022

One Signature Changed My View of an Immigrant Ancestor

A single signature on a document I purchased this week has changed my view of the immigrant experience of one of my Schwartz ancestors. 

My grandpa Theodore Schwartz was from a large family in Ungvar, Hungary, a region that later was in Czechoslovakia and is now in Ukraine. 

Some documents from this region are available for free from and Family, while others documents are available (some free, some at a fee) from the Sub-Carpathia Genealogy website

Grandpa's sister married a Winkler 

A quick recap: Last week, I bought a document from the Sub-Carpathia site that showed me the correct birth year of a 1c1r, Albert Bela "Voytech" Winkler (1912-1993). He was the son of Grandpa's oldest sister Rezi Schwartz and her husband, Moritz Winkler. Very sorry to say, Rezi was killed in the Holocaust--I found her son Albert's Yad Vashem testimony about her death, which led me to do more research. 

Following up on Albert, the birth document I purchased last week gave me sufficient clues to research his refugee status during World War II, find the passenger list showing his arrival, and locate his US naturalization papers. 

Connecting Winkler to Price

When Albert Winkler sailed into New York City in 1948, the passenger list showed a contact in New York City: Price, 182 E. 19th Street, in Brooklyn, New York (see excerpt here). New names I don't know.

Using the 1950 US Census, I discovered who was living at that Brooklyn address. It was Eugene Price, born in Czechoslovakia, and his wife Louise, also born in Czechoslovakia, with their 18-year-old daughter Edith Price, born in Belgium. 

Next, I opened my wallet and paid for another document from Sub-Carpathia, based on what I could see in a transcribed excerpt. The document was about the marriage of Leni Winklerova and Eugene Preisz in August of 1929. I suspected Louise Price's maiden name might be Leni Winkler, and her husband Eugene Price had been Eugene Preisz.

One document with so much significance

Once I received the document, I found the parents' names and the dates match what I already know. This proves the link between the Winkler and Price families, with Leni married to Eugene. 

The document is significant for two more reasons. One, I've found yet another branch of my family tree that survived the Holocaust, emotional in itself. Two, the document revealed a surprise witness to the marriage, a name I never expected to see.

As shown at the top, one of the two witnesses on the marriage document was Samuel Schwartz of New York in "Amerika." Maybe this was my grandpa's brother Samuel Schwartz (1883-1954), who left Hungary in 1904 to come to New York City? 

I compared the signature from the 1929 marriage document with Samuel Schwartz's signature on his own marriage document from 1909. They are nearly identical! My great uncle Samuel was at the wedding in Ungvar in 1929.

Changing my view 

Up till now, I envisioned all of my Schwartz ancestors making a one-way, one-time trip to America, seeking better economic opportunity. This was not a "birds of passage" family, with men leaving home to make money and sailing back to the homeland periodically. My Schwartz ancestors who left Ungvar settled permanently in America, became US citizens, and raised families.

My Grandpa (Theodore Schwartz, 1887-1965) ran a small grocery store in the Bronx, New York. There was little money to spare; everyone in the household worked hard to send two of the three children to college. Based on family documents and cousin recollections, it's highly unlikely Grandpa ever returned to his birthplace. He never again saw his parents or the siblings who stayed behind. His immigrant experience was a one-time trip, one-way to America.

Then I think about Grandpa's older brother, Samuel Schwartz. He also ran a small grocery store in Queens, New York, also put a son through college, became a citizen. Samuel definitely was not a bird of passage.

Yet his signature proves that he did, indeed, visit his hometown of Ungvar. (I've also found his passenger list for the return voyage.)

As a result, I now realize his immigration experience was different from that of my Grandpa. Before this, I never dreamed any Schwartz immigrant ancestors would be able to return to Ungvar after they left. Clearly, Samuel would have seen his mother, siblings, and nieces/nephews at this family wedding in 1929. A joyous reunion, I'm sure.

I'm continuing to trace the Price/Preisz family and also to try to match photo dates to these new documents! More soon.


  1. What a wonderful discovery and beautiful documents. Sometimes our immigrant families did go back for a visit.

  2. This was so unexpected. An American immigrant went back to attend a family marriage! Incredible new leads to a new branch.