When you start a family history project you have this dream of finding the very moment when your ancestor first set foot in America. In practice, this can be extremely frustrating. There are all kinds of indexes and databases, from ancestry.com to ellisisland.com, to help you sort through the millions of immigrants who came to this country. Some people must have luck with them. But for me it has not been easy.
In an earlier post, I wrote about my grandfather Alex Kowal’s trip from Ukraine through Canada to the United States. The records for that journey were hiding in plain sight on ancestry.com, but it was only when I obtained a copy of his 1940 petition for naturalization that my fruitless searching came to an end.
Similarly, I could not find my grandmother Katarzyna Bosakowska’s records even though I was pretty sure she came through Ellis Island in April 1912. I could find more than a dozen of her siblings and cousins, but not her.
My grandmother never did become a naturalized citizen, but I recently learned that she probably had to register under the Alien Registration Act of 1940. To find out whether she did, I paid $20 for a record search on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. After they reported back that there was indeed an Alien Registration Form for my grandmother, I ordered that for another $20 fee.
It took a couple of months to get it, but Katarzyna’s Alien Registration Form, dated September 6, 1940, provided the information I was looking for.
Katarzyna wrote that she arrived in the U.S. on April 28, 1912 on the SS Kaiser Auguste Victoria. That wasn’t quite right, but it was close. She actually arrived on April 26, 1912 on the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, named after the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
On her Alien Registration Form, my grandmother also stated that she was a citizen or subject of Austria, the country of her birth. That was rather poignant because, in 1940, there no longer was an independent country of Austria. It had been absorbed into Nazi Germany in the 1938 Anschluss. After the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1919, her hometown of Zalozce became part of the newly reconstituted Poland. But in 1940 Poland was gone too. After the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and the Nazi invasion of Poland, Zalozce became part of the Soviet Union. (I can only imagine how frightening this all must have been for my grandmother’s friends and relatives still remaining in Zalozce.)
So what was Katarzyna’s citizenship status in 1940? Was she a citizen of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union? Was she stateless?
Anyway, back to my grandmother’s journey to America, here are two pages from the passenger manifest for the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria (click the images to enlarge). My grandmother is listed as Katarzyna Bosalowska on line 15.
And here is my grandmother on the list of aliens detained until a friend or relative could come to get them (click to enlarge). She is listed on line 84.
I’ll write more about my grandmother’s trip in an upcoming piece about the second wave of Bosakowskis to come to America, following up a post on my grandmother’s cousins who came to New York between 1905-10.