I have been working on my family tree for almost 40 years. I started
with oral histories, strained my eyes with FHC microfilms, worked with
the early DOS based genealogy forums, and made huge leaps and bounds
with the help of JewishGen, its affiliated SIG groups, and Steve Morse's
search engines. With a lot of luck, my family tree now numbers in the
thousands but I cannot break through one brick wall that has fenced me
in >from the start. I hope that someone can suggest a reasonable
strategy to break through this wall to find information about one family
branch's immigration and their history in their country of origin.
My maternal great-grandfather was known in the US as Nathan Abrams.
Census and naturalization documents under that name show his year of
immigration as 1889 and port of arrival as New York. Three of his
children, Louis, Harry and Annie followed him to the US in the next 5-6
years, according to census records and naturalization documents. Louis'
and Harry's ports of arrival are also shown in these documents as New
York. Nathan's wife, Sarah Rivka, also immigrated but she is not shown
on the 1900 or 1910 census records and she died in 1913.
So far, so good. Now the wall. Nathan Abrams' shem kodesh was
Yitzhak Natan. His name on his marriage ketuba was Nossen Nota. It is
reasonable to assume that Abrams was an Americanization of an original
name of Abramovich and there is good evidence of that. Nathan had one
daughter who married in Latvia, before coming to the US, and her
father-in-law wrote in his memoirs that her maiden name was Abramovich.
I found a record of immigration through Castle Garden for Notel
Abramovich, which I believe to be Nathan's. I cannot find any record of
immigration for any of the three children or his wife. It's not like
one record got lost or was illegible. It's not that somebody misread or
mis-transliterated a record. These were four different people who
arrived at different times.
I searched all the eastern ports of arrival and Canadian crossings for
the relevant years, using variations of Abrams and Abramovich, without
success. It's possible that I didn't use the correct given name.
Louis' shem kodesh was Arye Zvi; his common name was Leb Hirsh. Harry's
shem kodesh was Yehoshua Zeev and his common name was Asher Velvel. I
tried some of these variations without success.
Here is another twist. Nathan had a third son -- my maternal
grandfather, Avraham Ber. According to family history, my grandfather
took or bought the surname of Peker (or Pieker) to avoid conscription in
the Russian army. I have a copy of his marriage announcement, published
in a Lithuanian newspaper, in which Nathan is referred to as Yitzhak
Natan Peker. JewishGen also lists a Lithuanian marriage record for
Avraham Peker which gives the name of his father as Itzik Peker. I have
always assumed that the use of Peker name by Avraham's father was
necessary to maintain the draft evasion charade but I don't know if
Nathan ever used the name of Peker. Nathan was in the US using the name
of Abrams for eight years before Avraham's marriage. Yizkor book
citations show my grandfather Avraham's name to be Peker and the ship's
manifests for my mother and her siblings show their name to be Peker.
Each of Nathan's children had a shem kodesh and a common name. When
they got their emigration documents, they could have used the presumably
original name of Abramovich or their father's new name of Abrams. I
don't know what name his wife might have used or how the name of Peker
might fit in. Their naturalization documents say they arrived through
the port of New York and they may have followed some or all of Nathan's
path of NY to Boston, then through New Hampshire and Vermont to upstate
New York. They may also have arrived at some other port but I also
checked those. What I do know is that whatever combinations and
permutations of names I have tried, I can't find any immigration
information on any of these four people. There is voluminous US based
information about them under the name of Abrams. What more can I do to
find information about them in Latvia and/or Lithuania?