As I’ve related earlier, my great-grandfather came to the U.S. from Latvia in 1884 with his mother and siblings. A few years ago, before I’d found his diary, I was trying to find out more about him; I began searching the Internet for passenger lists that might show their arrival. What I found (on Ancestry.com) had enough confusing inaccuracies to cast doubt on its relevance, so I saved a copy but relinquished the search for the nonce.
However, last week I revisited the issue, armed with further data gleaned from the diary in the last year or two. The facts I had to start with:
David and family supposedly arrived in NYC (Castle Garden) in late summer 1884 from Hamburg via Glasgow.
Included on the boat were David (about 21), Leah (his mother, about 35), Herman (about 19), Jennie (about 13), and Rose and Margaret (younger; their birth dates unknown).
The diary seems to indicate that his sister Freda (who would have been about 12) apparently emigrated later, in 1912 with her grandmother.
I started my new search on CastleGarden.org (the facility pre-dating Ellis Island, which I had not known about several years ago). Quickly I found this transliteration of a passenger list, apparently of a Blumenfeld family (one of relative parental age), arriving Sep. 10, 1884. They are shown as Russian by birth (Latvia not being a country at that point), and traveling from Hamburg via Glasgow.
Aradil, male, 14, farmer
Cheim, male 19, laborer
David, male 21, laborer
Leham, male 40, laborer
Maup, female 5, child
Rachel, female 11, child
Sewiche, female 16, laborer
Their ship is named the Devonia.
Despite the numerous encouraging coincidences, several irksome questions struck me:
Obviously the names except for David’s are pre-Americanized. They are handwritten rather badly (left-handed, I believe) on the passenger list, so these transcriptions from Castle Garden are dubious, to say nothing of the roll-taker’s ear for names and his spelling capabilities.
That said, it makes phonetic sense to Americanize Cheim to Herman, Rachel to Rose, Maup (which I read as Marya on the original) to Margaret, and Leham to Lena.
Aside from the slight age discrepancy, if Leham were Lena, why is she labeled Male?
Who is “Aradil”? A cousin? Why isn’t this person mentioned in the diary?
Anyway, I sent this circumstantial evidence to my cousin, who immediately hopped into the fray and discovered a second passenger list online, this one for a steamer named the Prague, sailing from Hamburg to Glasgow, August 24, 1884, with a Captain Mackenzie at the helm. The handwriting was clear and flourished, and listed the following, all from the Blumenfelds’ home town of Tuckum:
Leha, female 40
David, male 21
Chaim, male 19
Simche, female 16
Fradel, female 14
Rachel, female 11
Margola, female 5
The family’s ending destination is listed as New York. David’s and Chaim’s occupations are accurately listed as tailor. This is all pretty irrefutable. So now I had several revelations:
their original names
birthdates for the youngest siblings
Fradel (Freda) came over with the family in 1884
Leha (Leah) was several years older than I’d thought
the record from the Devonia is indeed theirs
and the story as David told it in his novelized diary was accurate
Arguably the biggest revelation was, always go for a second opinion. Whoever created that New York passenger list was unfamiliar with Hebrew names and spelling, and had dreadful handwriting to boot. He also seemed to have a bit of problem with determining gender, or perhaps with simply filling out the correct box on a form!
Unable to stop, I did a bit of further research on the two ships.
Devonia (pictured at the top of this post) was a 4,270-ton ship, built by Barrow Shipbuilding Co. in 1877 for the Anchor Line. Her length was 400ft x beam 42ft, straight stem, one funnel, three masts (rigged for sail), iron construction, single screw and a speed of 13 knots. There was passenger accommodation for 200-1st, 100-2nd and 800-3rd class. Her last voyage on this service commenced 19th Oct. 1893. After this, she made an occasional voyage for Barrow Steamship Co., but was mostly laid up until July 1899 when she went to Hamburg for scrapping.
A ticket like the ones David and his family would have as passengers on the Devonia
The Prague was a 1077-ton ship, built by Barclay, Curle & Co., Glasgow, in 1872 for the Leith, Hull & Hamburg Steam Packet Company. It was sold in 1916 to D. Pavlatos & Co., Piraeus, Greece, and renamed the Lefkosia. On May 11th, 1917, on a voyage from Valencia to St. Louis (Rhone) with a cargo of sulfuric acid, she was scuttled by the German submarine U-34, six miles from Cape Tortosa. There were no casualties.