Ellis Island Searches: Relax Assumptions #general
Barbara Mannlein <bsmannlein@...>
Joel, your search techniques should be included in a primer on how to do
The "rats ate the missing pages" ranks up there with the myth that the
"name was changed at Ellis Island," and the dog ate my homework" .
Unfortunately, proof that they are not true will be "Sean Ferguson [schon
vergessen]" to excerpt a phrase >from an old Ellis Island joke.
Barbara S. Mannlein
Joel Weintraub <jweintraub@...>
I get JewishGen on Digest, and have deleted a recent message where the
researcher, not finding a family on a ship manifest, proposed that rats had
eaten the "missing" manifest pages on the dock. A little like the dog ate
my homework. The JewishGen archive index does not yet show this recent
query....so I'll respond to the sender through this forum. We just had a
case of a "missing" Manifest person who was found by relaxing assumptions.
Let me suggest a possible solution to the latest mystery....and the
assumptions that needed to be relaxed.
My notes (which I hope are accurate >from the original posting and on which
my search was based) indicated that Pearl (mother), Lillian, Abe, and Morris
Pitler were said to be on the Mauretania arriving New York May 12, 1922 and
traveling with friends (?) named Cheskis. A search of the manifest showed
no Pitler family, nor did a typical Ellis Island name search reveal them.
The researcher did not show us the evidence on which this particular ship
was picked.... and I, like probably others here, went through that manifest
looking for the Pitlers without success as did the original poster. I also
looked for people on the Mauretania with similar names, with no luck. But I
didn't believe that in the 1920s there would be missing manifests. For one
thing, as a zoologist, I didn't see any characteristic rat tracks or
nibblings or "stains" on the manifest pages of the Mauretania. So I kept
trying.... 3 or 4 separate attempts.
OK....the next positive step was to find Pearl Pitler on the 1930 US Census
where I found her husband Samuel, Pearl (age 43), Lillian (age 19), Abe (age
18), and Morris (age 17) in Chicago. The Census says that Pearl and
children came in 1921. Hmmmmm....the 1922 Mauretania "fact" may not be
such a fact at all. The 1930 Census is close enough to the entry time to
elevate the confidence that the Census information just might be correct.
OK...back to Steve Morse's One Step index. I had tried various combinations
of Pitler and searched on first name Abe only. No luck. Now to understand
the next step, you should know that I'm a birder.... been doing it for over
50 years. Bird watchers get real good at recognizing patterns, and
identifying birds by silhouette, probability, seasonality, posture, etc and
less on specific field marks. I humbly suggest if you want to be better
genealogists you should take up birding.... and I know of a number of
birders that are very good genealogists.
I reasoned that the way to find the family is to find the pattern.... a
family where there are 3 children, oldest is a female, and ages about (if in
1921) 10, 9, 8. So I asked the Morse site for any person age 6 through 12
with last name starting with Pit coming to the US in 1921 to 1922 to produce
a reasonable number of hits. I think I got about 50....and jumping off the
page were 3 children...female age 9, male age 8, and male age 6. Their
names were Golda, Morum, and Mojshe Pitter... which don't look like Lillian,
Abe and Morris...well maybe Morris is close.... but I'll go with patterns
(like silhouettes), until the facts absolutely exclude possibilities. So,
looking at the text manifest on the Ellis Island site for these children, I
saw the mother was one Berla Pitter coming on the SS Carmania on November 1,
1921 and age 38. A little older than I expected (43 - 9 is 34). Hmmmmm,
that's still not a problem.... close enough for government and genealogy
work.... so I looked next on the manifest and found that Berla (perhaps
rhymes with Perla?) left a brother in Europe names Jehuda Czeskis. She was
going to Chicago to her husband, Sam "Potlar." On page 218 of the manifest
images on Ellis Island for the Carmania we find that the family was
detained, and husband Sam "Pitlar" of Chicago picked them up.
Just as good birders are right over 99% of the time on identifying birds by
patterns (rather than field marks), my feeling, and I could be wrong, is
that the Pitler "rat" explanation is going to have to be used for another
Ellis Island mystery. Or perhaps that explains why I can't find my own
great grandfather's manifest after years of trying?