Thursday, April 15, 2021


The ship's manifest.  The document that tells you when your ancestor arrived in the 'new world'.  I have part of a manifest from 1923 which I chose because it is typed and you can mostly read it.  Earlier ones are hand-written and can be quite a challenge to decipher.

Page 1

Well, I didn't say YOU would be able to read it, lol.

The top line tells us that the Aquitania sailed from Cherbourg on the 21st April, 1923 and arrived on April 27. Name, age, sex, marital status, occupation, ability to read, write and in what language, the country of which they are a subject, i.e. Nationality, their race, their last permanent address, the closest relative in the country they left, and their final destination.  Believe me when I say you will love reading typed reports rather than the handwritten ones.

Page 2
Do you have a ticket to your final destination and who paid for it. Do you have $50 and if less or more how much?  Have you ever been in the United States before and if so where and when. Are you going to join a relative or friend and if so, who are they and what is their address?  Do you intend to return to your home country, how long to you plan to say, do you intend to become a citizen.  Ever in prison, a polygamist, an anarchist; state hair and eye color and where you were born.  A couple of the headings I cannot even read due to the quality of the picture.

But it can be very confusing.  If all you have is a name, you could be stuck.  Knowing the name of the nearest relative back home is very helpful.  If Joe Smith says his wife Jane Doe is back home but you know that your Joe Smith was married to Shirley Jones, then he is the wrong guy.  Even if the age and place of birth looks right.  That is because the pool of names they used seemed to be very limited.  I have lots of documents in what Ancestry calls the 'shoebox'.  They might eventually fit in my tree, I just haven't figured it out yet.  Try as I might, I have yet to figure out how former Detroit Tiger baseball player Reno Bertoia fits in the tree.  I know what side of the family he is on, but that is about it.  Except that his mother was a caterer and my mother worked for her off and on and I sold his sister her wedding dress when I was in college and working in a bridal salon, which is all totally useless.

There are manifest records for Ellis Island, Canadian ports, the Hamburg Line...  If you are looking to discover when and how someone crossed the ocean, it is a good place to start.  And, oftentimes they did not travel alone.  So, there will be other members of their family or neighborhood traveling with them, usually to find work.  

Sometimes, you have someone arrive and disappear.  When my grandfather came from Polish Russia to stay with his cousin in Detroit, he came with the cousin's sister.  Try as I might, I have yet to find any documentation to tell me what happened to her after arrival.  Tis a mystery.

You can go to the Ellis Island site and search the manifests on file.  I tried to search for someone on the Canadian site but they first asked me what ship they were on.  Now how could I possibly know that???

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Labor of Love and Labor Intensive

You've decided to create a family tree.  Do you have any idea how much time it will take?

I started my tree way back around 2000.  I found a few documents online and added my grandfather's names to the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island.  But, I was working full-time.  I had other things to do besides sit at my computer.  My labor of love would have to wait.

And that is truly what it is - a Labor of Love.  My curiosity about how my family came to be in America.  Not all of my relatives are here.  Many still remain in Italy and present-day Poland.  Others are spread all over the world - Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, England, France and who knows where else.  Some Italian relatives moved to Germany in the late 1800's and I have no idea if they ever left.

But like volunteering - for which I received a local award years ago - it is the pleasure we derive from our efforts with no remuneration.  

I started this in earnest about seven years ago.  Even after retirement in 2008 I was still active with Legislative issues in our state and then I was volunteering at the local hospital in the pastry kitchen.  Then one day I was sitting home babysitting Charlie, who turned seven yesterday, I found I had plenty of time while he was napping.  And I got to do some serious work.

And I have loved every minute of it.  The wonderful folks I have met online, even those I am not related to who just have questions.  The discoveries I have made and the sleuthing I get to do to try to fit all the pieces together.  I've started keeping track of addresses and if folks are the same age living in the same house, I've starting assuming they are siblings.  And if I am wrong, who cares.  

It is a hobby.  A labor of love.  And I hope the family I leave behind appreciates the time I put into this.  Because someday they may have questions about their ancestors, and I will have provided some answers.  Way more answers than I had when I started this.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Koochiching - Ojibway word meaning "neighbor lake and river".

My mother was born in International Falls, Minnesota.  The family had originally settled in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada, where I still have lots of cousins.  There is a border crossing there that leads to International Falls, 1 mile away.  

International Falls is the county seat of Koochiching, Minnesota.  Okay, I am stretching it here but the only other K I had was my Kozimor family from Galicia.

At least it appears they have a decent border crossing station here.  I have made two trips around Lake Superior and on one of the entrances to America when traveling to St. Louis county which is just to the east of Koochiching, there was a mailbox where you filled out a form and left it.  I doubt that situation still exists.

And while I have made the two exhausting, but beautiful trips around the lake and have visited both areas in Minnesota and Wisconsin, I never got to International Falls.

There is nothing like living in a sparsely populated (13,300) area.  The county's website even has the prisoners online. 

For those of you who may have been fans of Rocky and Bullwinkle (I have now gotten Charlie interested as new episodes are on Amazon), Frostbite Falls is based on International Falls.