26 November 2007

Exploring: Ancestry's passport database

Exploring the new Ancestry databases produced useful information from both the U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 and the Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000.

Here's my passport application experience, while my excursion into land ownership records will be in a separate posting.

The passport application database confirmed a story about my great-grandmother's brother who went to England to retrieve his wife and son (who had arrived there from Lithuania) in 1924. I couldn't find them in the arrivals database, but here was Riva Bank's baby brother Haskell clear as day. No picture unfortunately, although the guy next to him - Antonio Cardella - had one.

According to Uncle Haskell's application for a first-time passport, he was born January 13, 1887 in Russia (Poland) - although we knew it was near Kaunas/Kovno, Lithuania - and that he was the son of Charles Bank (real name: Tzalel), that he sailed from Libau and arrived in New York on January 13, 1913.

He lived in Brooklyn, NY (where there were other Bank relatives) for 11 years, while his family was in Lithuania, living in, we believe, a town near Kaunas/Kovna called Petriniskey (destroyed during World War II). His wife Trina Leah, son Zalman and a daughter (who died during the first world war years) had expected to join him earlier but the war separated them.

We're not yet sure how Trina Leah (also a Bank, the daughter of Tzalel's brother Gedaliah) and Zalman got to the UK or where they were waiting, but Haskell, a US citizen (Brooklyn, March 22, 1923) was required to go there to bring them home.

Things moved rather quickly as his application was dated October 14, 1924, and he stated he was leaving very soon (October 18) on the Cunard Line for the purpose of "bringing my family to the USA."

His World War II draft registration claimed he was born in 1889 in Breslau; Trina Leah had become Tanya. In the 1930 census, he claims his age as 40 (born in 1890), his wife was Tiny and they had two sons, Selman (known as Zalman), then 18, and Solomon, 3 (more confusion as the names are the same). More searching in the immigration records revealed US citizen Maskill (transcribed in error - it certainly looks like Haskill to me) and his wife Traina Bank (admitted, but in hospital) arrived in New York on the Republic (January 26, 1925) from Southampton, England.

Zalman or Selman is missing. I didn't have enough time to go through all the manifest pages to see if he might have been written up on another page, as sometimes happened.

Determined to find more, I went to Steve Morse's website and used the Gold Form for Passenger Arrivals. I plugged in "sounds-like" Chatzkel (a better "Yiddish" spelling than the modernized Haskell) with only the initial B in surname field, and a 1911-1914 arrival search.

Up popped Chatzkell Blank, 26, born 1887, arriving in New York on the Carmania on January 8, 1913, going to his Ginsburg brother-in-law and sister (my great-grandmother's sister), parents of my cousin Jake) in Montclair, New Jersey. His wife Trina Blank was in Novo Alexandrovski.

As with any new bits of data, there are more questions. He arrived in 1913 and didn't become a citizen until 1923. Why? How did Trina Leah and Zalman get to England? How does the town of Alexandrofski figure into the family? Why is the name listed as Blank (wrong) not Bank (right) on the actual passenger manifest? Where is Zalman - not yet 12 years old - at the time?

Eventually, more information will be uncovered.

I'm sure of that.

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