Searching Hamburg lists for family groups #records

Alan Reische

Good morning - I have combed through a large number of databases to determine which shtetl my family emigrated from without success. I've conducted  wild card searches both for likely surnames and  given names; checked NYC manifests for the date of arrival; have checked Findagrave; and examined non-US databases for likely family shtetls using the American surnames. I am coming to the conclusion that the surname was changed during or prior to their arrival in NYC, resulting in a brick wall.

I do know the approximate dates of birth for the four family members who emigrated, presumably as a group, and the apparent date of arrival in NYC. Taking the data I do have, and assuming they embarked from Hamburg as a group, is there a way to conduct a search in the Hamburg emigration database for the four family members, using only their dates of birth and a small range of departure dates, without  surnames?  (I'd extrapolate the date of embarkation from the date of arrival in NYC.)

As for given names - I have the Anglicized given names, and for the parents, I have the Hebrew names from their gravestones.

What I'm hoping to do is to locate a family group with appropriate birth data for each member, but doing so without surnames. Doing it with surnames has proven to be a dead end (or a rabbit hole, if you will). Certainly, the matrix at Ancestry doesn't seem to permit such a search.

If I've overlooked the obvious, my apologies. I look forward to any suggestions.

Alan Reische

Sherri Bobish


Have you found any naturalization papers for this family? 

What are the names (as you know them) of the original immigrants?


Sherri Bobish

Phil Karlin

I had a similar situation. Searching had come up empty. I decided that the only way to find them was to scan (as in look quickly) at every arrival manifest image. I had the month and year, it wouldn't be too bad. I started at the end of the month and mercifully found them on the 26th. My four Yaffe's showed up as four Preiskel's. The confirmation was the unindexed note that their final destination was New Haven, with Esther's brother named.
They were in the Hamburg manifest too. But without the New Haven clue, I wouldn't have recognized them.

I don't know if that helped. I will tell you that you'll be incredibly satisfied when you find them :)

Phil Karlin

R Jaffer

Hi Alan,

You didn't mention searching for obituaries using the immigrants' names. It is possible that one of the parents had siblings or other relatives living in the US under their original names. Those relatives might be mentioned in your family's obituaries or your relatives in theirs.

You should also search the US component of JewishGen records. Your relatives might show up giving a clue. One part of the US search are records from the Seeking Kin database from the Boston Jewish Advocate.  For fifty years various agencies tried connecting Europeans with their American relatives by putting ads into multiple Jewish newspapers. Many did not know in what state their relatives lived, so the same ad was published in various states. Some of those ads give both the names used in the "old country" as well as the new name. A search in the US JewishGen records will turn up an ad for a name in any position.

I encourage genealogical societies from other states to contribute ads published in their state's Jewish newspaper(s).

Good luck,
Roberta Jaffer

Robert Hanna

What evidence do you have that they all emigrated at the same time.  My family did not.  On my paternal side, my grandmother and her sister (the oldest two) came first, their father came a year later with the next oldest daughter, and their mother came the next year with the youngest two children.  On my maternal side, my grandfather came first, then my grandmother came a year later.  My paternal grandfather followed his brother several years later.  He then went back and returned a year later.

Robert Hanna


On Fri, Aug 28, 2020 at 09:39 AM, Alan Reische wrote:
Are you certain that they embarked from Hamburg?  Family Search 's Wiki includes links to databases for Bremen, for example.  ( ) Part of my own family departed from Cherbourg.  

Another thing to consider is that it was common for many immigrants to sail to England first.  My grandfather, for example, sailed from Liverpool. What port he left from to get to Liverpool is anyone's guess.  The passenger record I found for him is a U.S. document, but it occurs to me just now that his passage may also have been noted in English passenger records as well (going to follow up on that as soon as I log off!).  I have encountered instances for other people in which they appeared in English passenger records but not in U.S. records.
Erika Gottfried
Teaneck, New Jersey


My story the same. The family arrived in 1856 in NY departing from Hamburg. Both manifests found after months of searching on a family unit of parents and 4 children. Found using ages and many variations of given names. The surname in what was then Kosmin, Krotoszyn County (kreis), Greater Poland Voivodeship, Poland was LEVY or a variation of that. The family sailed out of Hamburg as LAPSAK and arrived in NYC as LAPSER. By the 1860 NYC census it was back to LEVI/LEVY.  The surname they sailed under is extremely rare. Back in the 1970s when I went on line to see if others had an idea why, no one knew. If anyone now has an idea, please share David Brener, Lancaster County, PA

Mashiach L. Bjorklund

Why Hamburg? It was just one of the many ports of embarkation to America. Don't forget the UK ports as well. Did any of your ancestors become US citizens? That paperwork will list where they came from, previous names used, and the ship they arrived on and the date they arrived.

Mashiach Bjorklund

Sally Bruckheimer

"Did any of your ancestors become US citizens? That paperwork will list where they came from, previous names used, and the ship they arrived on and the date they arrived."

Like many other blanket statements, this one is correct only sometimes. My family came early, and naturalization papers say So and So gives up his allegiance to the King of Fill_in_the_Blank. Nothing more.

I found a cousin's naturalization papers in 1906, and I was thrilled. First, I held the actual papers in my hands, and secondly because Jankiel, a Russian, was born in Marseilles (in the 1860s). His parents must have fled the rebellion / cholera / famine - and they went back. Mind you, you didn't automatically become French because you were born there; Americans think everywhere is like the US.

The ship's passenger lists also say next to nothing. In 1853, per the Baden Emigration Lists, my ggrandfather, David, left. In 1853, Mr. Bruckheimer arrived in NYC. But David had 3 brothers who could have come in 1853, earlier or later. No way to tell.

Sally Bruckheimer
Princeton, NJ

Alan Reische

Thanks Sally. The 2 citizenship petitions I located say simply ‘Austria’, which of course is useless. I do have the putative date of arrival, but going through the manifests for that date, there are only a few names, nothing relevant. (I need to expand the scope of arrival search, but that could take forever.)

Bremen records of course have been destroyed. I was hoping to find something in Hamburg, which has more detailed point of origin data; I assumed 8-10 days for direct passage, and working backwards from the June 15, 1879 arrival date, am examining the Hamburg departures for the period May 28, 1879-June 10, 1879.

As I said to someone else, my ancestors would have been candidates for CIA spooks, if the CIA existed then, that’s how good they were at covering their traces. 

Alan Reische
Manchester NH

Alan Reische

Phil, I did locate manifests for NYC arrivals but unfortunately, there is scant information for the date my grandfather provided in the citizenship application and nothing corresponds to the date of birth information I have.

Alan Reische.

Alan Reische


I had a putative date of arrival in NYC from the naturalization petition. After working backwards to that date, I found two manifests with virtually no passenger information. I’ve concluded either that the manifests are incomplete, or that my grandfather (from whose naturalization documents I obtained the arrival date) mistakenly or intentionally misstated the date on his petition.

But why would he have done so intentionally? The residency requirement in the late 1800s remained at 5 years, and his brother had been naturalized 9 years earlier. Would he have just relied on (erroneous)memory to recall specific date of arrival, or would documentation of arrival be required? If proof of arrival was required, then its likely there is one or more missing manifests. If the affidavit was simply called on to provide what he recalled, then its more likely he was just mistaken. I’d welcome other thoughts.

Alan Reische

There are manifests missing - at least from the on-line we sites. We had complete information for the arrival of my husband's grandfather in December 1899 - name of boat, date, etc.  We even have correspondence that he wrote from the boat.  We were unable to find anything on line.  A few years ago we personally went to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  After an approximately two hour search, my husband found the manifest in the library -  the entire page of Hamburg arrivals was never put on line.  We have sent it to Ancestry since then, but I don't think it was ever entered.
We still haven't found the arrival record for my husband's grandmother and father in 1900.  

I'm sure that if we are missing records, many other people are missing records as well.

Avivah R. Z. Pinski ,  near Philadelphia, USA

Alan Reische

Thanks  Avivah. The following may corroborate the point about the missing manifest. I include the details only to underscore how difficult it may be to ferret out family information once the older generation has gone.

 I finally went into the Hamburg passenger index through Familysearch, and looked for an 1879 departure to NY for a 5 year old boy born in 1874, and came up with the following for the Rinschek family departing on the Argo via Liverpool.

The demographic for Leib (Louis - born 1874, age 5 on departure) and Jakob (Joe - born 1868, age 8 at departure, close, not exact) work OK, as does the demo for Samuel (Simon - born 1845, age 34 on departure), but Jette is not a name that means anything and more important, the birth date (1849-1850) doesn't exactly correspond to our records. However, Miriam's gravestone says she was 80 at her death in 1927, which places her d/o/b at 1847, which isn't that far off, and as someone noted, most Jewish emigrants graduated from an entirely different calendar system, so its not surprising if this is inaccurate.

(Jette is Dutch or Nordic - hah! - but there is a Yiddish variant, Yutte, still not close to Miriam. Perhaps the shipping clerk  didn't get her name, and just assigned one arbitrarily.)

Unfortunately, there is no NYC manifest I could find for the Argo, or in fact for any arrival from Liverpool in 1879.  However, once the Rinschek family arrived in June of 1879, the name disappears. I can't find it in the 1892 state census or the city directory, or in any US census, which suggests the possibility that they simply abandoned the name once they arrived. Did they decide for some indecipherable reason to adopt a new name, and does the name suggest a point of geographic contact? And why abandon Samuel for Simon?

Unfortunately the town from which they emigrated - Schluzewa, Polen or perhaps Sluzewo -  is a long way away from Rzeszow and Przeclaw, where Miriam apparently lived. So, is it likely that Simon could have met Miriam at that distance, and if so, why her completely different given name at Hamburg?

I'm guessing this is a coincidence (unfortunately).

Alan Reische
Manchester NH

Sherri Bobish

Hi Alan,

The passenger directly above Samuel RINSCHEK is from the same town.  HIs name is Hirsch MENDELSOHN, age 17.

You may want to research HIrsch to see if he connects to your known family.

Perhaps the town on the RINSCHEK manifest is Strzyzow, which is 15 miles to Rzeszow, and 27 miles to Przeclaw.

Regards,  Sherri Bobish

Strzyżów, Poland

Alternate names: Strzyżów [Pol], Strizev [Yid], Strezow [Ger], Strizhev, Schizuv, Strisev, Strishuv, Strizhuv, Strizov