What happened to my great, great grandfather after he landed at Ellis Island? #usa #lithuania #canada


Hi everyone –


Over the last 10 years I have been researching my father's family, together with other family members.  We have successfully tracked down all the descendants of my great, great grandfather and their spouses – both living and deceased – and have located the graves of (almost) all the deceased.  However, we have yet to discover what happened to my great, great grandfather and where he is buried.  Here we hit a classic 'brick wall' and would appreciate any help we can get to track him down.


Here are the facts we know about him:

1.      His name is Nissen Sagan, son of Wulf, from the town of Veliuona (Velon) in the Kaunas (Kovno) area of Lithuania.

2.      He left the port of Hamburg, Germany, on February 25, 1894 aboard the ship S.S. Scandia bound for NYC, with his declared destination being Montreal, Canada.

3.      He traveled with his son, Wulf Goldberg (my great grandfather) and his granddaughter Gittel (Esther Bella) Goldberg (my great aunt, and Wulf's daughter), and they all landed at Ellis Island on March 21, 1894. All the above is well documented both in the Ellis Island and Hamburg port documents.

4.      Wulf and Esther Bella both arrived in Montreal shortly thereafter, where they made their new home.  Esther Bella was married 5 years later in Montreal, raised her family there and both she and her father Wulf are buried in Montreal cemeteries.

5.      Nissen's other 2 children, Sarah and Moses, had already settled in Montreal (together with their respective families) during the six years prior to his arrival at Ellis Island.

6.      However, we couldn't find any documentation of what happened to Nissen Sagan after he landed at Ellis Island – a complete 'brick wall'.  We found absolutely no evidence of him ever being in Montreal – both living or deceased.  We scoured all cemeteries in the Montreal area at the time and enlisted the help of the JGS of Montreal as well – absolutely nothing. We also checked Jewish cemeteries on the way from NYC to Montreal (upper NY state).

7.      We know that he had passed away by June 1895 at the latest, since a grandson of his (Moses' son) was born that month in Montreal and named after him. 

So….what happened to him?

I can think of only 2 possibilities – assuming he never made it to Montreal:

(a)   He died shortly after his arrival in NYC – the most likely scenario being he was quarantined for whatever reason.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find any on-line information of those who died in quarantine at that time.

(b)   He returned to Europe.  He had left his wife and daughter-in-law (Wulf's wife) behind together with some other grandchildren (Wulf's children).  However, all – except his wife – arrived in Montreal (via Boston) in December 1894. We have no evidence of his wife ever having traveled from Europe to North America.  However, it makes no sense to us that he would travel all the way to NYC/Montreal and then return almost immediately to Europe since it is obvious that his entire family planned to resettle in Canada.

Can anyone help us solve this mystery?


Steve Goldberg

Jerusalem, Israel (formerly from Montreal)


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