After five years of fruitless searching, I finally found the ship manifest for my grandfather and his parents. I had critical help. Someone else actually did it. The method used may be useful to others.
A marine historian, Allan Jordan, had posted a detailed reply on the JewishGen Discussion Group Digest helping someone find information and volunteered to help others.
I sent him a description of my problem and a scanned copy of the Hamburg ship list for the North Sea steamer Lincoln, which sailed via Rotterdam between Hamburg and Grimsby. (Grimsby is on the east coast of Britain. Passengers connected with Liverpool by rail.) The Lincoln belonged to the British Great Central Railway and was used as a shuttle on the Grimsby to Hamburg route and later on the Grimsby to Rotterdam/Antwerp routes.
|After five years of fruitless searching, I finally found the ship manifest for my grandfather and his parents.|
According to the Hamburg Emigration Index, my family left Hamburg on January 23, 1891, for Liverpool aboard the Lincoln via Rotterdam. After arriving at Grimsby, passengers like my family would transfer to Liverpool by train to board trans-Atlantic steamers for New York City. One ticket often was sufficient for the entire journey—ships and trains.
Listed were Schlome and Goldie (my great-grand-parents) and six Epstein children: Chana, Dvore, Shmuel and Chashe (Henrietta) plus two others of whom no one in the family had ever heard—Ruben and Mose. Moreover, on the Hamburg list, Ruben and Mose were exactly the same age as Dvore and Shmuel. As of 2007, I had not identified any Ruben or Mose Epstein nor found my family’s Europe-to-New York City manifest.
Here’s how Jordan did it. He searched the Ancestry.com Hamburg indirect immigration lists and found the list that showed them leaving Hamburg, the same list that I had sent to him. A few years ago, Ancestry added to its online database all the manifests of ships that sailed to New York dating back to 1857. Ellis Island records go back only to 1892. Jordan wrote down names and birth dates exactly as Ancestry listed them.* Then he searched for Epsteins arriving in 1891 in New York, but found nothing. Of course, I had tried that strategy many times before. (I had heard that some 1891 New York ship manifests were lost in an Ellis Island fire some years later. I pursued that dead end for a couple of years to see if alternative documents still exist. They all do; nothing ever was lost.)
No Schlome Epstein looked right, so Jordan speculated, “I bet they got the surname wrong.” He also gave up on Rotterdam, because he was not convinced that the family had not taken the North Sea steamer Lincoln all the way to England. He looked again at the Epstein names in the Ancestry Hamburg list and observed that one first name in the database is written as Note, not Mose. Note seemed an unusual first name to him. In fact, Note or Nuta is a perfectly correct Jewish name. In my Denker family, I have a Denker first cousin called Norman whose Hebrew name is Nuta. Then Jordan searched the Ancestry.com online database again using
- Liverpool-to-New York.
- Note as a first name
- Arrival in 1891
- No last name
- Age 10
And there they are!! All of them, but with a Note, not a Mose. All the first names and some ages, with the exception of Note, are slightly different. Handwriting! Serendipity?
Interestingly, the family name is Shaten, not Epstein—clear as day—the entire family. They sailed from Liverpool to New York City, arriving February 9, 1891, on a ship called the City of Chicago. I had been searching Epsteins and all the variations of their name, but I only looked for those first names I knew must be correct—not a Note, but a Mose or a Moshe.
Why the name Shaten? I think that my grandparent’s older sister, Sarah Epstein, who later married Harry Shaften, may have purchased the tickets for her family in the U.S. or perhaps Harry did. Shaten is Shaften misspelled or illegibly written on the tickets. The manifest entry does look like Shaten. I assume that the tickets were written with the name Shaften (or Shaten), and my Epsteins simply used them that way. We still don’t know who Ruben and Note were.
The lesson is that in situations such as this one, researchers need to open their minds, try to bring a fresh eye to the problem, speculate a bit and perhaps play a few wild hunches.
* On Ancestry.com, Shaten names on the City of Chicago manifest are Chaim, Chasch, Dwan, Golda, Note, Rubin, Schlowa and Schunel, compared to the Hamburg Lincoln manifest Epstein names: Chane, Chasche, Dvore, Golde, Note, Ruben, Schlome and Schmul.
Stephen Denker and his wife are collaboratively researching their family histories. In 2007, they spent two weeks in Havana, Cuba, doing research, visiting where his family lived in the 1920s, their underwear factory, updating the United Hebrew Congregation Jewish Cemetery of Havana records onsite, and photographing the 1,600 gravestones. Denker lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.