Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Passenger Lists...

... and following up on family stories.

In my husband's family there is a story about his paternal grandmother, known to her grandchildren as Bubbie Lena, feeling homesick and wanting to return home after immigrating to America. After having followed her husband Joseph Handler to America, she returned home to Hungary with her two oldest children for a visit with her family. They ultimately returned to America with her daughter contracting polio on the return trip. She survived the bout with polio, but had a limp for the rest of her life.

To verify the story, I looked for the passenger lists.

The Oceanic from Ancestry.com. Passenger Ships and Images [database on-line].
First, I found the passenger list for Josef Händler. Josef arrived in New York City on the ship Oceanic on April 14, 1910. It had sailed from Southampton, England on April 6, 1910.

The image of the passenger list is below. For any of these images, you should be able to view a larger image by clicking on them.

Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Year: 1910, Microfilm: T715_1453, Page: 82, Line: 14, record for Josef Handler
Josef Händler was 26 years old (born about 1884) with an occupation of baker. My father-in-law remembers hearing that his father was not a baker, but a delivery man for a bakery. The next marks indicate that, yes, he could read and write and that his nationality is Hungary. The next column is headed "Race or People" and he is listed as "Hebrew." The following columns are "Last Permanent Residence" in which he is listed with a country of Hungary and a town that I originally thought was Jeok. (Jeok is also how it is transcribed by ancestry.com.) The following column is how I know this is "my" Josef Handler: the name and address of nearest relative in country whence alien came is wife Lina Handler, in "Jeok."  The last column indicates that his final destination is New York.

Another thing to know about passenger lists, at least at this time (1910's) is that there is a second page. The information on the second page of Josef's passenger list record shows that he arrived with $15 in his pocket and that he had not been in the U.S. before. The next column notes that he is going to join a cousin, Morris Levin (?) in New York. Another task will be to try to find this cousin!

Page 2 of Josef Handler's passenger list record
This also indicates that he was 5'9" tall, white (complexion), with brown hair and brown eyes.

All the way to the right notes that his birthplace is Ilok, Hungary, reproduced at the right. You can see why I thought for years that it read Jeok!

Then, after playing around with variations on his wife's name, which I knew as Lena, I found that Karolin Händler and son followed Josef the following year. They arrived on May 25, 1911, on the ship Pannonia, after having left Fiume (a port in Hungary, now known as Rijeka, Croatia) on May 6, 1911.

Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Database online. Year: 1911. Microfilm: T715_1684, Page: 56, Lines: 25-28, Record for Karolin, Arpad, Regina, Rosa Händler
Wow - this was great! Not only did I find that Lina was Karolin, but she came to America with her mother-in-law, Roza Händler, and sister-in-law, Regina Händler (Josef's mother and sister). Her son, named Arpad, was born 11 months earlier (about June 1910) according to this passenger list. (I have other records that show a different birth date, in January 1910, but that's another story.) Note that if this date is correct, Josef arrived in America two months before his son was born!

Roza is 55 years old, a widowed laborer, is not able to read or write, and is listed with the nationality of Hungary. Regina is 20, single, and a dressmaker. The next column is headed "Race or People" and they are listed as "Magyar" (a.k.a. Hungarian). Their last permanent residence was Ilok, Hungary and the family member still living there is Roza's daughter and Regina's sister. I have trouble reading this name: Helle's fulifue? Please let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions as to what this name is.

Karolin is 21, married, and a housewife. She can read and write. For a long time, I didn't know what the town of her last permanent residence was. (See below for how I finally deciphered it.) Her father (and Arpad's grandfather), Samuel Holländer, is the family member still in Hungary.

Page 2 of Roza, Regina, Karolina and Arpad Handler's passenger list record
The second page of this passenger list record shows that it is Josef Händler who paid for his mother, his sister, his wife, and his son to come to America, and he is living at 3312 Orange Avenue in Cleveland.

Page 2 of Roza, Regina, Karolina and Arpad Handler's passenger list record
Both Roza and Regina Händler are 5'3" tall with a dark complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. They were both born in Ilok (Hungary). Again, take a look at that place name. Now that I know it's Ilok, I can see it, but at first look, I might think it's Flok. Karolina is 4'11" tall, with brown hair and black eyes, and she and her infant son are listed as having been born in Bonyhád. (Continue reading to see how I finally deciphered Bonyhád.)

Although I had known for a long time about the story of Lena returning to Hungary with her two children for a visit and then coming back to America, I only just recently decided I really should follow up on the story of Lena, her son, Arthur (Arpad), and daughter, Margaret.

The Noordam from Ancestry.com. Passenger Ships and Images [database on-line].
I found them arriving in New York on January 30, 1916, on the Noordam, which had left Rotterdam, Netherlands on January 11, 1916.

Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Database online. Year: 1916. Microfilm: T715_2450, Page: 58, Lines: 1-2, Record for Lina, Arpad and Margaret Hendler
Lina is a 24-year-old housewife who is able to read and write. (Arpad, age 4, and Margareth, age 1, are also able to read and write? Okay, so someone was too lazy to note these things correctly.) Note that Lina and Arpad are citizens of Hungary, and Margareth is a citizen of the U.S.A. (According to my records, she would have been about 17 months old.) They are all of the Magyar race and, interestingly, list their permanent residence, not in Ohio, where her husband and the children's father lives, but in Bonyhád, Hungary. (Since the handwriting on this passenger list is somewhat neater than the previous lists, I now see that Bonyhád is what Karolin Handler listed as her and her father's residence in the previous passenger list.) Her father (and the children's grandfather), Samuel Holländer, is who Lina considers her nearest relative, and he is listed as living in Bonyhád, Tolna, Hungary.

Page 2 of Lina, Arpad, and Margareth Hendler's passenger list record
The next page of the passenger list shows that their final destination is to be with her husband and the children's father in a community (can't quite read it) near Cleveland, Ohio. Lina had $8 in her pocket and tickets to her destination. The interesting thing to note is that their health is good, so if Margaret did contract polio, it was either when they were in Hungary or it was not evident until after they disembarked and were on their way to Ohio. Now Lina's height here, at 5'7" is less likely to be accurate (remember it was 4'11" on the previous passenger list) as my husband remembers that his grandmother was rather short.

Page 2 of Lina, Arpad, and Margareth Hendler's passenger list record

Again, another confirmation that Lina was born in Bonyhád; Arpad was born in Illok (different spelling here); and Margareth was born in Cleveland. Eventually, by the 1919 naturalization of Josef Handler,  Arpad's name was changed to Arthur and Margareth to Margaret.

My husband and I did some searching online and found a webpage from the Jewish Virtual Library about Bonyhád, as well as a book, Bonyhád: a destroyed community: the Jews of Bonyhád, Hungary, by Leslie Blau (1994), which we have ordered and look forward to reading. (I used WorldCat to look for a local library for the book, and luckily found one not too far from my home, where I looked at it and determined that it would be useful to own.)

Thank you to Philip at Blood and Frogs, whose posting about figuring out what the real name of a town is prompted me to write out this story. I'm excited to have figured out Bonyhád myself, and I wonder if I will ever find out how Josef Händler, born in Ilok, met and married Lina Holländer, who lived 85 miles (137 km) away in Bonyhád.

Tuesday's Tip is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community’s resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.


  1. Wow, you've learned so much from these records!

  2. Glad I inspired your post Elizabeth. It's a great post and I found it very interesting.

    One point of interest you didn't mention was that Joseph was listed as speaking Slovak and Lina as speaking Magyar, and the native language of their son was listed as Slovak which would probably indicate that he was born in Ilok (where they spoke Slovak) and not Bonyhád (where they spoke Magyar). It's not a perfect way to determine that kind of information, but if you have other evidence that kind of information can help confirm it.

    1. Ilok (or Ujlaki) in Hungarian, was in the Serbian speaking part of the former Hungarian Kingdom,now it is located in Croatia. People mostly spoke Coation and Serbian, so how come Joseph (Jozsef) spoke Slovak? Probably he was born in the northern part of Hungary, where most of the population did speak Slovak, which points the oorogon of the Handler family to Felvidek (highlands or oberland).


    2. Since this post, another researcher from Ilok has provided me with additional information about the Handlers. See Adolf Handler's Death Record. I appreciate the additional information!

  3. Thank you Philip for your comment. Based on what I can see, it does look like Joseph spoke Slovak and Lina spoke Magyar and their eldest son spoke Slovak, though as a toddler, he was possibly multi-lingual until after he was in the U.S. for good after 1916.