|Sonia Yaco on Visit to NARA II in College…|
|Tammy on Max Faust’s 1938 Address…|
|jerusha on Max Faust’s 1938 Address…|
|Annette (Tonia) Faus… on Max Faust’s 1938 Address…|
Genealogical Research Methods for the Faust-Rothen Family
As you may have guessed from my previous posts, my current focus on my ancestry is on immigration. I am probing further into the application process to discover what other documents may exist. Knowing that my grandfather had to make his visa application at the US consulate in Warsaw and that my great-grandfather had addressed his affidavit to the US Consulate in Warsaw to support the application, I looked into seeing if there any records surviving from there. I searched the National Archives website and found that consular records exist in Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State RG84. Under the heading of Records of Consular Posts 1790-1963 RG84.3, textual records include passport and visa documents and Poland is listed as a country with existing consular post records for the years 1874-1949. My hope was that immigration documents for the year 1938 were included in this record group.
In planning a visit to the National Archives for genealogical records, it is recommended to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) the archives about your research interest.
Dear NARA, I am researching passport and visa documents provided by the US consulate in Warsaw in 1938. In reviewing record group 84.3, Records of Consular Posts, it mentions passport and visa records, and a file for Poland. I wonder if you would have more detailed information as to whether there would exist visa and passport documents issued in Warsaw in this file or in other related files for the year 1938. I am trying to determine if a visit to NARA would be worthwhile in regards to this research. Thank you very much for your assistance.
In two days, I received a reply asking for my home address so as to better assist them. I did respond and in another two days, I received a response that my request was being assigned to a research consultant and that I would receive a response in 2-3 weeks. Six days later, the research consultant wrote an email with tips to help in my research. She stated that although RG 84 would be useful, most records from 1938 were destroyed in WW2. She recommended researching RG 59, the Records of the State Department. Specifically, the Central Decimal File 1930-1939 and the Visa Case Files 1914-1940. In addition, she suggested searching the volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States for citations in RG59 and RG84 that might help in my research. I did not have much time to look into her suggestions before I left and decided I would do what I can at the archives.
The research hours at NARA are 9am-5pm, Monday through Saturday but they do not pull records on Saturday. I only had one day to research. On the day of my visit, I forgot to check out the NARA Facebook page for daily changes in research hours. If I had checked it, I would have known that there was a 2 hour delay in opening. I was later told that was not uncommon. I sat in the parking lot till 11am. The registration office is on the first floor. To obtain the research card to gain access to the archives, I needed to complete a computerized orientation and enter in some personal information. I sat for a photo and finally obtained my very own National Archives Researcher card. The office personnel were kind and efficient.
The orientation described all the things that you could not take into the research rooms. Backpacks, bags, folders, pens, notebooks, etc. Any papers that I wanted to bring in for reference or for note taking had to be stamped by the NARA official and stapled together so as not to be left behind within documents. My laptop computer and a USB flash drive were allowed as are scanners and photography equipment. Everything else had to be locked up in locker in the basement. Quarters for the lockers can be obtained from a change machine in the cafe on the first floor. A separate elevator is used to go down to the basement prior to checking through the next set of guards who write down your card number in red or white folder, and open your laptop looking for stray papers. Next stop, second floor – textual records for the Department of State. It was already after 12 noon.
After signing in at the front desk on the second floor, I was shown to the research consultation room where 2 research consultants sitting by computers were available to assist. I announced I was a newbie and needed help and showed them a copy of the email I was sent by the archive. We started with RG84 and the consultant pulled a couple of binders off the shelves. One binder was a filing manual which described the meaning of codes used in the finding aids of documents. The other binder covered countries starting with the letter P including Poland, however, there were no records for Poland before 1940 in this binder. I ended up pulling another RG84 binder off the shelf that covered the years 1930-1939 and found listings for the US Consulate in Warsaw. Using the finding manual, I was able to narrow down on the files that might deal with immigration which happened to be labeled ‘Correspondence’. Although the years only covered up until 1933, I thought I would give it a try. I called for help to figure out how to complete a pull slip. You need to write your name, date, and researcher number. In addition to the document title, you also need to the write the record group, stack area, row, compartment, and shelf number. The last four numbers are obtained from the finding aid. I ended up requesting all volumes available in this group.
I next tackled the Central Decimal Files of RG59. Instructions at the front of the finding aid reinforced the directions provided by the research consultant. Using the decimal classification filing manual and the country numbers manual, I determined that the code corresponding to visa files from Poland seemed to be 860.111. 8**.111 corresponds to the subject code for visa and passport records while 60 for ** corresponds to the country code for Poland. The finding aid for the Central Decimal Files showed these records are available on microfilm M1197. Microfilms are stored on the fourth floor so I decided to wait until later to get up there if I had time. Instead, I pulled the Visa Files manual off the shelf. The Visa Files are an important section of the RG59 Department of State records with the decimal classification of 811.11. The finding manual is a bit easier to understand as the choices are not many. Three different stack numbering are provided depending on the year. All you need to record is the stack information containing the year of interest and the surname you are researching. I chose to look up ROTHEN and FAUST. One pull slip per each surname.
Now you have to realize that I was rushing to understand how to look up something in each of the areas in this complicated system of using finding aids and manuals to fill out a pull slip because during this period of confusion, they announced that there would be no 3:00 pull. That meant that there were only 2 pulls left in the day, at 1pm and at 2pm. It is important to note the pull times for the day as you research record locations. I also learned that it took up to an hour for your records to be pulled. So I was filling out pull slips up to the minute before 1pm to get them in only to find out that you can only submit a pull slip from one record group at a time which have to be verified by a research consultant. This meant that my RG59 pull slip went toward the 1pm pull and my RG84 slip went toward the 2pm pull time. Now its 1pm. Next stop, third floor – Cartography Department.
After leaving the elevator, I unknowingly walked right past the cartography department and into the CIA records department. With no one at the front desk to tell me I was in the wrong place, I wandered around and sat a computer to search for Rohatyn records. Empty screen – not surprising. Finally I walked out and found the cartography department. The single research consultant was not there so an assistant named Andy tried to kindly help me. He showed me the finding aids for RG373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which includes the GX prints of German aerial photographs. These finding aids labelled “Operation Dick Tracy”, named for the operation to survey and analyze these images during WW2, were of little help. Some finding aids were organized in such a way I could not understand them on my own, and others were organized by type of land structure being photographed. I found the finding aid for Russian targets which should have included Rohatyn but Rohatyn was not listed among the towns. In need of a starting point, I had Andy pull file GX1404 as I knew this file number for the Rohatyn aerial photos as I had acquired these a few years ago through a paid research agency. This required another pull slip to be filled out and submitted just in time for the 2pm pull. I did not mention that I had other records being pulled at the same time in another department thinking it might prohibit me from getting these photos.
Andy returned with 2 boxes of photos labelled GX1404, a large box of photos labelled Poland, and another box containing a ledger. One of the GX1404 boxes had the designation SD and contained 34 12″ by 12″ aerial images including the two for Rohatyn that I already had (GX1404-4 and GX1404-5). I assumed the other images were of the area around Rohatyn including other towns. I was excited to see so many images of the area. The other GX1404 box with the designation SK contained 8 images of the Rohatyn area but from a higher altitude. I was very excited to see these as I did not know these existed. In addition, this box also contained information about the images such as altitude and coordinates as well as a drawing of how the images lay out topographically. The box labelled Poland had a huge amount of photos that were too daunting to spend time looking through. The ledger seemed a list of the aerial photographic missions maintained by the German Intelligence.
I decided to use the available photo copier to scan photos onto my flash drive. To use the copier and pay for copies, I needed to register my research card and load money onto the card. So I was referred back down to the second floor where computers with the registration software are located behind the registration desk. First, register the card with personal information, research card number, ID, and password. Then, load money on the card with a credit card. That done, I returned to the third floor. With help from the librarians, we figured out how to scan a photo to a flash drive at the highest resolution (600 dpi x 600 dpi) in grayscale and TIF format with the largest copy area (11 5/8″ x 17″). After scanning several images, I realized that part of the image was being cut off because of the restrictive area of the copy machine. I had to redo all the scans but now with the image upside down so to cut off the information tab at the top of the photo while still scanning the whole image of the landscape. The whole scanning process took about 1 1/2 hours. During this process, I learned that the photographs were the actual photographs found by the allied forces. These were not images developed from negatives which I had originally assumed. I was surprised to be allowed to handle these precious images albeit with white gloves without a glaring eye over me.
The research consultant for the cartography department finally returned and I described my intent to create a list of towns in Galicia having aerial photographs in their department. Although there is no finding aid for images by region, there are microfilms which organize photographs by coordinates which can be accessed from a cabinet in a glass walled room in the department. I was already short on time at that point and chose to come back later to check those out as I had still had to pick up the records I previously ordered on the second floor. Its 4 pm. Next stop – back to the second floor.
At the pick up counter, I found my name in the folder for the two groups of records I ordered and signed my name. I presented my research card to an assistant and they retrieved the files that were pulled for me. They can only give me one record group at a time. In order to copy records and to even take photos of them with a smartphone, you need to ask permission from the copy desk. This counter of assistants on the far side of the floor checks restrictions on the files. If the records are not classified, you can make copies at the copy machines provided using your research card to pay for the copies, or you can request a pink card to place in a clear plastic envelope at your reading desk so that the staff knows that it is ok for you take images using your phone, camera, or scanner.
I retrieved the two visa file boxes first. These were sorted alphabetically by last name. The box containing the FAUST surname contained a few names that seemed familiar but nothing from my family. I took photos of all the top pages so I know what names do exist in their files and to remind myself that I had fully checked it. In the box containing the ROTHEN surname, there were only two files for that surname. I was completely surprised to find that one of those two files were documents of support for the immigration of my great-grandfather, Abraham Rothen, provided by his daughter, Bertha, who was already living in Scranton, PA.
I will write about these records in a future post. I used the copy machines to scan the records onto my flash drive. I returned the visa file boxes and retrieved about 8 large scrapbooks of the US Consulate of Warsaw records. Some of the books were still wrapped in plastic. As time was running out, I quickly pick up an unwrapped one and thumbed through it. It contained clippings from newspapers and letters from officials at home and abroad for more notable immigration issues. For example, there were documents related to charges against ‘alien smugglers’. I also saw newspaper clippings related to the deportation back to Poland for a criminal who served time in Sing-Sing. Of special interest to genealogists, there were also lists of immigrants’ names who were approved by the US Consulate and the date of their visa approval.
By the time it reached 4:45, I had only thumbed through two of these books. I returned the books and called it a day with the intent of one day returning to view the microfilms in the cartography department and those of RG59 in the microfilm department.
In my first blog, I discussed my interest in researching the visa file for the immigration of my grandfather, Max Faust, and his family. I was intrigued by the details (as seen above) of the visa information on the ship manifest stating that the Quota Immigrant Visas were issued by the US Consulate in Warsaw on August 16, 1938. I had sent a search request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Genealogy Program in order to determine if a visa file still exists in the national archives. I have still not heard back from them.
The Immigration Act of 1924 (aka Johnson-Reed Act) limited the annual number of immigrants admitted from any country. This act was a further reduction than had previously been made by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921. The Act set the quota to 2% of each nationality residing in the US at the time of the 1890 census. The annual quota for Poland was 5,982 for the years 1925 to 1929, and 6,524 for the years 1930 to 1939. Only 6,512 immigrants were admitted from Poland under the quota system from July 1, 1938 to June 30, 1939. Max, Miriam, Helen and Annette Faust held four of those coveted 6,512 quota immigration visas. I want to know how my grandfather was fortunate enough to obtain issued visas for his family one year before Germany invaded Poland. It must have been no easy task. On July 1, 1938, a conference was held in Evian-les-Bain, France to respond to the growing Jewish refugee situation in Europe. The conference was attended by representatives from 32 countries. While all countries all agreed that there was a crisis, most including the United States refused to accept more refugees. A current exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York entitled Against All Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees 1933-1941 explains the difficulty involved in immigrating from Europe in the late 1930s (Thank you Tammy Hepps for the letting me know about the exhibit). Successful immigrants had the backing of wealthy or well connected sponsors. Economic depression, rising anti-semitism, and xenophobia were reasons given in the exhibit for the lack of enthusiasm to raise quota limits for Jewish refugees seeking to leave Eastern Europe. The exhibit also conveys the extensive documentation required by both the immigrant and their sponsor. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) provided the following information sheet regarding the documents required for visa application.
This guide from HIAS states the a person wishing to immigrate to the United States must apply for an immigrant visa at the nearest American Consulate. In addition to the application, the applicant must also provide supporting documents from a relative in the United States who was willing to financially support the immigrant so that he is not a ‘public charge.’ The following documents were recommended by HIAS to increase the chances that an application would be looked on favorably.
1. A statement from an accountant indicating share in business, income, investments, assets, and liabilities.
2. A letter from an employer with terms and description of employment.
3. Proof of professional income from an accountant or income tax returns.
4. Bank statements or receipts if monetary help was sent to the applicant.
5. Letters from life insurance companies describing terms and amounts.
6. Letters from savings and commercial banks describing activity and balances.
7. Proof of ownership of stocks and bonds from broker.
8. Proof of ownership of real estate.
9. Personal income tax returns.
10. Full explanation of the relationship to applicant.
11. Letters of recommendation from prominent citizens or businessmen.
12. A letter from the sponsor summarizing reasons the applicant is wanted, and how the sponsor will provide a home and support for the applicant.
Lastly, the HIAS guide concludes that the sponsor providing the affidavit has to be a citizen of the United States and documents showing citizenship need to brought when the affidavit is notarized.
Abraham Rothen received his naturalization certificate on June 21, 1933 where he was living at 554 Smith Street in Dunmore, PA so he was well within eligibility to be the sponsor for Max Faust and his family by 1938. However, he was far from being a wealthy mogul nor was he politically connected to any governmental officials. What did it take for Abraham Rothen to increase the chances that Max Faust’s visa application would be be accepted?
I returned back to the goldmine which is my mother’s basement. In one of the boxes storing my grandfather’s papers, we found what turned out to be the affidavit of support submitted by my great-grandfather, Abraham Rothen, on behalf of my grandfather. This bound cache of documents follows the HIAS instructions almost to a tee. I thought it best to discuss the documents he provided to the US Consulate in Warsaw seen below chronologically.
I learned more about the sponsor and my great-grandfather, Abraham Rothen, than I did about Max Faust during my research into the visa file. The letters show that Abraham was well respected in the community. He had a strong moral character, timely fulfillment of his obligations, and honorable business dealings. The lengths he went to secure all these letters and provide documentation displays his persistence, determination, and devotion to his daughter’s family. He donated money and time to his synagogue, Temple Israel in Dunmore, PA. He was known to have a good voice and would substitute as a cantor at the temple from time to time. As a father, he was said to be distant, detached, and authoritarian. However, it seems that he may have showed his love for his family in different ways. The affidavit shows how proud he was of his son-in-law and he went above and beyond to strengthen the application in the eyes of the US Consulate as much as he could. On the back page of the portfolio, he wrote the birthdays of the family of his other daughter, Chaya, who were still in Poland and unfortunately, did not immigrate to America. The mention of these birthdays suggest that he might have also attempted to sponsor them as well. Holocaust survivor Rosette Halpern remembers seeing Chaya Rothen Beder in the Rohatyn Ghetto. She was crying and cursing that her family did not rise up to save her. It was too late. Chaya, her husband Samuel, and her two children, Jacob and Hersch, were killed in the Holocaust.
I woke up on Christmas morning and thanked G-d for creating Christmas so that I can have a day off. The holy day of Shabbat has lost its significance as I have worked on Saturdays for many years. Even the Sunday Sabbath for the rest of the staff has taken a back seat as Sunday has become one of our busiest (and most profitable) days of the week. But on this Christmas day, I ran down to my home office with the excitement of a child who could not wait to open the gifts under the tree. My gift was a book my mother had given to me 6 months ago if not a year, the size of my palm and wrapped in paper towel and placed in a ziplock bag for protection. I knew this was an old address book of my grandfather Max Faust, but was not sure how old until I finally opened it and flipped through the brittle pages. From dates and addresses written, it became apparent that this address book was from 1938, the year of my mother’s family immigration from Rohatyn to the United States. It listed friends and family who lived in America and those that remained in Rohatyn. As I carefully turned each page in order to scan and digitize the contents, the binding gave way. It took hours to scan over 60 pages of this address book. I note the surnames of family, FAUST, LOW, ROTHEN, BLITZ, STEIN, AND FUHRMAN. and also the names of friends, KLEINWAKS, SCHUMER, TEICHMAN, MARK, WEISS. There are also Polish names and Ukrainian names that I did not recognize. All the notes written in the address book by my grandfather about the people listed is in Polish. He had yet to master the English language. I have attempted to enter all the names and addresses listed in this book into a spreadsheet. However, his script is sometimes difficult to read. Since I don’t understand Polish, it is hard to make out the notes written. It does seem that my grandfather details connections between people, i.e. son, wife, husband, sister in law, etc. Connecting those in Rohatyn with those in the United States. Keeping related individuals on the same page. Directions on how to get to someone’s house. There were clippings stuffed in this book. One in Hebrew or Yiddish about the Rohatyner Society. I have uploaded the images here and the spreadsheet of names and addresses here.
From my first study of this book, 2 new facts instantly arose. My mother to this day still wonders when she moved from Dunmore, PA to Brooklyn as she was only small child. Written in the corner of a page 8 is the answer to that question as if my grandfather knew that we would be wondering that minor detail 75 years later. He wrote two inclusive dates followed simply by Dunmore. They arrived in Dunmore on October 22, 1938 (actually October 23) and moved to Brooklyn on May 5, 1941.
During our pre-Hannukah Hannukah party, my cousin asked for immigration information on her great-grandmother, Bertha Rothen, for her daughter’s school project. Bertha Rothen was my maternal grandmother’s eldest sister. It was easy to provide my cousin with images of ship manifests for Bertha Rothen and her soon to be husband, Louis Kornfeld. Bertha Rothen was the first in her family to immigrate to the US in 1920 at the age of 20 and soon her parents and most of her siblings followed. I was also able to provide my cousin with images of Bertha’s declaration of intention and petition for naturalization. All of these documents are available on ancestry.com and familysearch.org.
I found another webpage on the USCIS genealogy site that describes more details about the Visa file.
The Immigration Act of 1924 took effect on July 1, 1924. That law required all arriving non-citizens to present a visa when applying for admission to the United States. Immigrants requested visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad before their departure. The State Department only issued visa documents to approved immigrants and the Immigration Service only admitted immigrants arriving with a visa. In this way, visas allowed the Federal government to both select and limit the number of immigrants legally admitted for permanent residence.
Upon arrival, Immigrant Inspectors at the ports of entry collected “visa packets” from non-citizens and handled them in one of two ways:
Between July 1, 1924 and March 31, 1944, Visa Files served as immigrants’ official arrival records. The Immigration Service used its Visa Files on a daily basis for verification of lawful admission for naturalization and other purposes. Beginning April 1, 1944, all new visas were filed in Alien Files(“A-Files”) and the Visa Files series closed. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) retired the Visa Files series to storage in 1952.
The following paragraphs from the webpage describe the contents and value of the Visa file:
Visa Files are among the most valuable immigration records for genealogical research. The application form itself contains the immigrant’s complete name, date of birth, and place of birth, as well as the names of his/her parents. The form will also contain the immigrant’s address(es) for the five-year period prior to emigration. Of most value to many researchers is the photograph on the front of the visa packet.
Vital records required by the Immigration Act of 1924 are also attached to the visa application. In most cases, these include a certified copy of a birth certificate, health certificate, and police or “moral” certificate (the results of a record check done by the authorities in the immigrant’s country of origin). Some Visa Files also contain marriage certificates, military service records, affidavits of support, and/or correspondence. When the birth record is absent, there is usually an affidavit explaining the lack of official or church records and offering the testimony of an individual in a position to know the circumstances of the immigrant’s birth.
I find the information about previous addresses most interesting. From other documents and from my travels to Rohatyn, I have a fairly good idea on the recent addresses of Markus Faust in Rohatyn. However, it would be nice to see these addresses documented by my grandfather in this visa application. I suspect the addresses would be: