Turning to my Aunt Emily as the family historian, I had asked her when her parents/my grandparents had immigrated to America. She responded that my grandmother had come in 1911 while my grandfather came in 1912. She further stated that my grandmother had gone from Ellis Island to Rye, New York, to become a domestic.
A few years later, my father passed away. I decided to create a heritage scrapbook about his life; I felt that it would be great grief therapy. Where to begin his story? Why, with his parents, of course! I headed for the Ellis Island records to look for Anna Mroz in 1912. When coming across her records, I read and studied the ship’s manifest very carefully. Yes, Anna was from Galicia. Yes, Anna was born about 1892. Yes, she was meeting her brother-in-law to go to Connecticut. (So far, the facts checked off with what I knew.) The document showed that she had purchased the ticket herself and had $9 in her pocket. She traveled with other young women from her village aboard the S.S. George Washington from Bremen, Germany. On the double spread scrapbook pages dedicated to Anna, I created a beautiful display of pictures of Ellis Island and her story. I patted myself on the back for my great detective work and storytelling abilities.
As I advanced in my researching skills, I found Anna in the 1920 Census…remember my story about that search? One of the questions was, “Year of immigration to the United States.” Right there in Anna’s row of answers was the year 1906. What?! Who reported that? Is that right? My Aunt Emily said… After regaining my thinking processes, once again I headed to the Ellis Island records. There she was…Anna Mroz on the 1906 records. She claimed to be 16 years old when she was actually 14. She had come with other girls from her village. She would be meeting her brother Jan. She had boarded the S.S. Georgia in Trieste, Italy. She had little money, but had at least the $25 that was required to make the journey. Her parents were deceased as recorded on the manifest. Was this really my babcia (Polish for grandmother)? How did this little teenager get from a tiny village in Poland to the seaport of Trieste? How did that feel to walk away from her family to the big unknown of America? Our immigrant ancestors must have been made of strong mettle.
As time went by, I was able to obtain a copy of my babcia’s naturalization papers. Applicants were asked to supply the name of the ship, departure point, and date of arrival in New York. Her answers complemented the information that I had found. Success…Anna did immigrate in 1906. The Case of the Baffling Babcia had been solved!
Oh, those beautiful scrapbook pages…they are waiting to be corrected.
Genealogical lessons learned: family stories need to be verified with documents…be prepared for some errors and surprises.