JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Manifest residence and sex change #general


Lorne Hanick
 

Phyllis Kramer wrote:

Yes, I have twice seen this exact change of gender on pairs of manifests.
My speculation is that immigrants dressed the young girls as boys, in the
hope of keeping them safer on the long crossing.
I have never seen photographs of or heard stories to suggest that such
speculation might be true. It is highly unlikely that pre-1900 young girls
would not be wearing skirts, even for a long journey on the high seas.

I have seen this phenomenon in the manifests many times in regard to a specific
case, which everyone should note. The explanation depends on the age of the
child. If it involves a pre-3 year old boy there is an exact explanation: Boys
did not receive their first haircut (upshearing in Yiddish) until they were
three years old. They looked like girls to the immigration officers. So much so
that the officers did not think they even needed to ask the sex of the child.
Sometimes it was corrected at the next leg of the journey or the receiving port.
Sometimes it was corrected months or years later when officials compared
manifests to other documents. Very often it was never corrected.

The custom of not cutting the hair of a boy until he was three years old in
former times was wide-spread and not reserved for the Orthodox. It was as
natural and as customary as the bris and the Bar Mitzvah. The upshearing had
great symbolic and kabbalist significance. Our ancestors >from Europe were
culturally superstitious people, even among those who had or had begun to shed
formal legal observance of Judaism. The pressure to observe this custom >from
the advice of more traditional spouses or extended family was strong. My
paternal grandfather never stepped foot in a shul unless he was invited to a
Bar Mitzvah or wedding. Yet we have a formal pre-upshearing portrait of my
late father with flowing hair down to his shoulders on both sides. I have no
doubt that many of you have such pictures as well.

Lorne Hanick, Toronto

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