Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reading a Passenger Manifest: Is it a Match?

Above is a clipping from the October 28, 1891 passenger manifest for the TSS New Amsterdam, taken from Ancestry.com

The question I asked myself back in 2007 when I first discovered it was: Is this my great great grandmother, Anna (Perlik) Feinstein, her mother-in-law, and her several children.

In the below table I show the information I had for each family member from Family Records(FR): name, approximate birth year - and the matching information from the Passenger Manifest (PM). In no cases do I have birth records from their ancestral Russian village.

(For the passenger manifest, I'm using the spelling of names as indexed, even where I'm pretty certain it's wrong.)

FR: Name FR: Birth Year PM: Name PM: Birth Year
Anna 1868 Mechame 1866
Gitel 1840 Gitel 1856
Harry 1884 Hersch 1885
Herman 1886 Chaim 1887
Ben 1888 Berl 1890
Pearl 1890 Pirl 1891
??????? ??????? Jette 1873

1) Anna: Anna's Hebrew name was Nechama.  It means, 'comfort,' and was often Americanized to Channa or Anna.

I didn't know her Hebrew name when I first found the Passenger Manifest, as I hadn't yet visited her tombstone.  But I asked someone familiar with possible Hebrew names, and they suggested Nechama, which turned out to be correct.

2) Gitel: The name matches, the birth year is a complete mismatch.  But do I discard the record because of that?  I don't think so.  Could she have lied about her age? Could a 51 year old woman pass for 35?   There are stories of families getting the necessary immigration papers through less than direct methods where the information on the records might not always match exactly.

3) Harry's Hebrew name was Zvi, which means 'Deer.'  The Yiddish variant is, 'Hirsch.' 'Harry' was a common Americanization of Zvi/Hirsch.

4) 'Herman' is a common Americanization of the Hebrew name, Chaim, meaning, 'life.'  There are no documents with my great grandfather's Hebrew name on it, however, he does appear in the 1900 census as "Hyman" which shows the progression from Chaim to Herman as a name.

5) The Hebrew name 'Berel/Beryl', meaning either a gemstone, or 'bear,' was often Americanized to 'Ben.'  I have no documents, however, with Ben's Hebrew name.

6) Perl is also a Hebrew name, and means 'Fruit.'  'Pearl' would have been an obvious choice for an American name.

Anna's husband, Selig, made the journey alone in 1890.  It makes sense his wife, mother, and children would make the trip not long after.  And 1891 is recorded as their year of immigration on the 1910 census. (The 1900, 1920 and 1930 census say 1890 for everyone.)

The coincidence of names, and close approximations of most of the birth years, makes this a very likely match.  However, there is certainly the possibility that there was another family out there with similar names and birth years.  I think the number of matches lowers the odds.  I wish the passenger manifest said they were headed to St. Louis.  Unfortunately, it says New York.  However, the destination on Selig's Passenger Manifest was also New York, and I haven't found evidence the Feinstein family was in St. Louis until 1892.  It's possible they weren't.

There is also the issue of Jette (or, more likely, Yetta) Feinstein.  I have no record of any relative who would have been traveling with them with that name.  I've tried to research the name, and haven't been able to find out what happened to this person.

Feinstein was not my ancestors' original surname.  Selig immigrated under his original name of Selig Dudelsack.  He changed his surname to Feinstein soon after arrival in the US.  The reasons aren't clear, and the family had been told the traditional story of his name being changed at Ellis Island (or in Selig's case, Castle Garden.)  It's actually possible that it was Selig's wife and mother who adopted the Feinstein surname in their immigration process. It's conceivable they may have been 'traveling with' Yetta Feinstein, but weren't actually related to her.


Anonymous said...

I'm impressed with your sleuthing.

MerRhosyn said...

Have you visited the gravestones of any of the children - perhaps Gitel or Ben? Does Gitel, for example, appear in the death registries and/or certs? If so, what year is given for her DOB?

John said...

Gitel's tombstone says she was born in 1831, but the 1900 census says she was born in 1840, and her death record gives her age in years, months, and days, and that translates to 1846.

The "Family Record" birth years in the post in all other cases reference their death records or their tombstones. I refer to them as "family records" since it is usually some family member who provides the information on those documents.

I have all death certificates except Pearl's, though I have seen her tombstone. I have seen all tombstones, except Ben, who was cremated. There may be some records at the crematorium, but I haven't yet investigated.

MerRhosyn said...

It's a shame they did not leave from Hamburg, because the second passenger list would have been helpful for cross-comparison.

My Schultz ancestors emigrated from Poland to St. Louis in 1896 (Hamburg to NYC, SS Scandia). On the passenger lists, Avraham is "45" and Shifra is "40." Since I have Shifra's birth registration and their marriage papers, I know they were actually "59" and "56" at the time. This is about on par with your inconsistencies re: Gitel's age.

As with your entry, the permutation of children (with unique names and ages) has been helpful in many regards. The Schultz family was previously Sosnowa and possibly Wyrobnik before that.