Genealogy by Alex

Genealogical Research Methods for the Faust-Rothen Family

Visit to NARA II in College Park

 (Image Source: )

National Archives in College Park, MD. Click on Image for Google Map.

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 ( 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.

I should have taken my glasses off.

I should have taken my glasses off.

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.

A pull slip after changes were made by the staff.

A pull slip after changes were made by the staff.

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.

Visa Pull Slip

Pull Slip for Visa Case Files containing the surname FAUST.

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.

German Ledger of Missions

German Ledger of Missions

RG373 Finding Aid

RG373 Finding Aid

GX1404 map

Layout and info for aerial photographs.

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.

Me holding aerial photograph

Me holding aerial photograph

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.

Page 1 of 12 pages in the visa file for Abraham Rothen

Page 1 of 12 pages in the visa file for Abraham Rothen

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.

2015-03-02 16.40.53 copy

Non-Immigrant Visas granted during week ending June 27, 1931.

2015-03-02 16.37.56 copy 2015-03-02 16.38.01 copy

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.


Affidavit of Support from Abraham Rothen

Faust Max SMa QIV

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.

HIAS Visa Information Guide

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.

Rothen Abraham Naturalization-sm

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.

June 19, 1936
Louis Kornfeld (Abraham Rothen’s son-in-law), agent for the Milwaukee Mechanics’ Insurance Company, writes a letter certifying that all merchandise within the store at 600 Smith Street is the property of Abraham Rothen.  Witnessed by John J. Butler.
January 19, 1938
JW Felth, cashier for The Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank of Dunmore, PA, writes two letters of recommendation for Abraham Rothen, one regarding his personal savings account and another for his commercial business account  Both state his good credit, positive balance, “responsibility and excellent reputation in this community.” Both letters notarized Feb 8, 1938 by John J. Butler.
January 31, 1938
WC Hessinger, secretary of the New Citizens Building and Loan Association, writes a letter of recommendation for Abraham Rothen stating his share position in the company.
February 2, 1938
Sidney Weiss, accountant, writes a letter regarding the assets and liabilities of Abraham Rothen.  Notarized the same day.
February 4, 1938
Max Lefkowitz, secretary-treasurer of the Franklin Beef Company, writes a wonderful letter of recommendation declaring Abraham Rothen as a person of excellent reputation, “high moral character, integrity, and responsibility, and therefore, … deserving of utmost confidence and consideration.”  Notarized on February 8, 1938 by John J. Butler.
February 5, 1938
Gerald F. Langan, president of the G.F. Langan Company, writes a letter of recommendation for Abraham Rothen.  Mr. Langan writes “Mr. Rothen is of excellent character and we consider him worthy of  full confidence and trust.  We consider that he is deserving of any favors that we can extend to him and hope that this letter will be of benefit to him.”  Notarized on February 7 by John J. Butler.
February 7, 1938
Milton Jurkowitz of the Boston Candy Company writes a letter of recommendation for Abraham Rothen also noting his good character and fine reputation.  Notarized the same day by John J. Butler.
February 7, 1938
Mr. Meade, cashier for the Cudahy Packing Company, writes a letter of recommendation for Abraham Rothen describing his ability to meet business obligations without fail.  Notarized on same day by John J. Butler.
February 7, 1938
W.A. Nester(sp?) of Swift and Company writes a letter of recommendation for Abraham Rothen stating Abraham as honest, trustworthy, and of high character.  Notarized on same day by John J. Butler.
February 7, 1938
Ike Harwitz, co-owner of the Harwitz-Solomon Company, writes a letter of recommendation for Abraham Rothen touting his good credit and excellent reputation in the community.
February 8, 1938
John J. Burke, Chief of the Bureau of Police for Dunmore, PA, writes letter of recommendation citing Abraham Rothen as a loyal and upstanding citizen.  Notarized the same day by John J. Butler.
February 10, 1938
JE Gross, manager of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, writes a letter of recommendation for Abraham Rothen describing the terms and premiums of his life insurance policies.
February 11, 1938:
Abraham Rothen writes an affidavit of support where he states the status of his citizenship and loyalty to America, describes his relationship to Max Faust proven with enclosed marriage certificate, announces Max’s moral character, and vows to financially support the Faust family with descriptions of enclosed documents of proof including his 1937 personal and business income tax return.  Sidney M. Weiss, accountant, and Charles Genys, a bank clerk, serve as witnesses to this affidavit.  Notarized on same day.
Rothen Abraham store 2

Abraham Rothen in Dunmore, PA possibly in front of his grocery store at 600 Smith Street.

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.

Other useful links:

Max Faust’s 1938 Address Book

Front of Max Faust's Address Book

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.

Page 8 of Max Faust's Address Book c1938.

Page 8 of Max Faust’s Address Book c1938. Dates of living in Dunmore in the upper right corner.

Another detail arose as I tried to confirm the address for Eli Moschel on page 9.  I have not researched the surname MOSCHEL in detail although I should as it is the farthest known surname of my mtDNA. Connected to a search for Eli Moschel on was a ship manifest for Rachel Moschel.  Rachel also appears on the same page as Eli in the address book.  As I looked closely at the ship manifest, I realized that Rachel arrived in NY on October 23, 1938 onboard the SS Batory.  So my mother’s family were not the only Rohatyners on that boat to the United States.  A distant relative, Rachel Moschel, was with them as well.  A few days later, I received some translations of the Polish written on the pages of this book.  A translation of the words under Rachel Moschel’s name was provided which read “on the journey”.  Makes sense.
Page 9 of Max Faust's Address Book c1938.

Page 9 of Max Faust’s Address Book c1938.

Ship manifest for Rachel Moschel page 2.

Ship manifest for Rachel Moschel page 1

Dotted throughout the address book are dates next to names.  You may have noticed the date of December 29, 1938 near Rachel’s name.  At first I was not sure what these meant.  Polish translations of words next to these dates included “done” or “answer to letter” as in the case of the date associated with Rachel Moschel.  It became apparent that my grandfather had written down dates when he sent letters or packages to the people listed in this address book.  I remember a story that my grandfather used to send care packages of products from his grocery store including U-Bet chocolate syrup to relatives as far as Israel.  This is the kind of story that was told by those relatives who remember receiving those packages and reflected the gracious character of my grandfather.
It is going to take me awhile to go through the names and addresses as I try to find new connections.  However, members of the Rohatyn Shtetl Research Group have already found connections to their own family in the pages of the book while others have found new clues in connecting people to their tree.
One member was excited to find her grandfather, Juda Hersch Weiss, written in the book along with an address, 6 Dr. Reich Street in Rohatyn.  Information she had not known previously and had always wondered.  It seems that Max sent Juda a letter on December 19, 1938.
Max Faust's Address Book page 6

Page 6 of Max Faust’s address book showing the address of Juda Hersch Weiss on the right hand side.

Discussion arose among members of the group as to the location of this street and possibly the actual location of the house in Rohatyn since all street names have long since been changed.   Several documents already in the possession of the RSRG were scrutinized.  These include a 1943 street map of Rohatyn, a 1944 aerial photograph of Rohatyn, and a list of streets with former and current names remembered by my great aunt, Rosette Faust Halpern.  Using all this information while referencing a Google map of Rohatyn plotted with tagged streets I had created, a good guess of Dr. Reich street was made. An arrow in the lower left hand annotated on a clip of the 1944 aerial photo overlays the street in question.  The Rynek is central in the photo.
Dr. Reich Street
So who is this Dr. Reich? Another discussion arose.  A few clicks on Google using a combination of keywords (Reich, street, ulica, Poland) revealed that this street was most likely named after Dr. Leon Reich.  You can read more about him on the German Wikipedia site but in short, he was a Polish journalist, politician, and leading Zionist.  Drohobych, the town of his birth, had renamed a street in honor of him after his death in 1929.
Max Faust recorded a lot of family information into this small book: names, addresses, phone numbers, relationships to others, dates of letters.  This attention to detail about family in addition to his written notes on our family history and his collection of family photographs reinforces my view of him as a family historian.  I now realize that my interest, or dare I say, obsession with genealogy may not have been a hobby of choice, but a hobby of genetics.  Its in my genes to be a genealogist. Destiny.

Lackawanna County, PA Wills and Marriage Licenses

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 and

Although I knew the date of Bertha and Louis’ marriage, I did not have a marriage certificate.  Upon landing in NY in 1920, she went to Dunmore, Pennsylvania to join her uncle where she worked and soon met her future spouse.  Louis and Bertha married in 1924 and raised their family in Scranton, PA.  I learned that marriage records are kept at the county where the marriage took place which was Lackawanna County.  After a bit of googling, I found that Lackawanna County had digitized marriage licenses from 1885 to present day!  It was exciting to find marriage records indexed, searchable by name, and linked to a pdf of the application for marriage license.  In addition, the site also has digitized images of wills and probate  and orphans court from 1878 to present day.
If you have relatives who lived in Lackawanna County, look for records at this site.
Below is the application for marriage license for Bertha Rothen and Louis Kornfeld filled out on June 20, 1924.  Bertha signs her name and includes the following information about herself.  She worked as a clerk, resided at 404 Prescott Avenue, had no previous marriages, and was 22 years old.  She also provided the following information about her parents.  Her father’s name was Abram from Poland and worked as a laborer.  Her mother’s name was Ida Furman from Poland and she worked as a housekeeper.  The wedding was officiated by Rev. William S. HORN on June 22, 1924 in Scranton, PA.  Bertha consents to the marriage by stating “no” to “Is applicant an imbecile, epileptic, of unsound mind or under guardianship as a person of unsound mind, or under the influence of any intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug.”  Bertha was far from.  She had a very sound mind even until her death at the age of 99!
Marriage License for Louis Kornfeld and Bertha Rothen

Marriage License for Louis Kornfeld and Bertha Rothen

Visa Files

     I have been using the little bit of free time I have to delve more into my own family history and retrace some of the steps I took many years ago.  I thought at the same time I would write about my methods and findings in some sort of blog.  Hopefully it will spark some discussion and possibly we may all learn something new.
     After recently reading about immigration files, I went back to look at the ship manifest of my mother, aunt, and grandparents which I had found on
Ship Manifest for Max Faust and family.

Ship Manifest for Max Faust and family. (page 1)

Ship Manifest for Max Faust and family.

Ship Manifest for Max Faust and family. (page 2)

     Lines 11-14: Markus (33), Maria (31), Helena (6), and Tonia (2) departed on October 12, 1938 from Gdynia onboard the SS Batory as third cabin passengers.  Markus, Helena, and Tonia were born in Rohatyn while Maria was born in the nearby town of Zalanow.  All were residing in Rohatyn prior in departure.  Tonia is my mother Annette.
     The less well known data in this ship manifest are the details about the visa.  They had a QIV (Quota Immigrant Visa) with progressive US Dept of State numbers issued by the US Consul in Warsaw on August 16, 1938.  Knowing nothing about this visa and the process, I searched and found an infofile on Jewishgen describing this visa.
     I sought to obtain a copy of their visa application. This lead me to the USCIS genealogy program where I can request to search for immigration files in their records.  They have:
Naturalization Certificate Files 1906-1956
Alien Registration Forms 1940 -1944
Visa Files 1924 – 1944
Registry Files 1929 – 1944
A Files 1944 – 1954
     It is a two step process.  You first need to make a request to search the indexes to get numbers to available files.  That cost is $20.  If there are listings in their indexes, then you need to make another request for records.  An additional cost for the actual records will be $35 i think.
     So here I go.  I just did the online order form or the index search and used a credit card for the $20.  Says it should take 90 days.
     It would be interesting to see how long the whole process took from acquiring the necessary documents, applying for the visa to getting on the boat and arriving at their destination.

I found another webpage on the USCIS genealogy site that describes more details about the Visa file.

This is an excerpt on the background of 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:

  1. Non-Immigrant (visitor) visas remained at the ports of entry; these temporary records were later destroyed. (Passenger lists and border port manifests remained the official record of non-immigrant admissions).
  2. Immigrant (i.e., permanent admission) visas went to the Central Office in Washington D.C. for filing. The Central Office stamped each with a unique Visa File number, and arranged the visas by date and port of arrival. Visas were indexed by name, date of birth, and place of birth. 

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:

1. 14 Herzl Street where my mother was born.(the Rothen home)
2. 16 Rynek where Markus lived after marriage and where my aunt was born.
3. 12 Slowackiego (the Faust home)
The Faust Home on 12 Slowackiego was not always the Faust home.  The home had actually belonged to David Faust’s in-laws, the Loew (Low) Family.  The house on 12 Slowackiego was at least partially destroyed during WW1 and I assume that members of the Loew family never really returned to Rohatyn after WW1 as they immigrated to the US soon after WW1.  Its a long story but eventually the Faust family was able to buy and rebuild the house at 12 Slowackiego in the 1930s.  By this time, Rosette tells that the next door neighbors had already rebuilt their home on part of the property.  Between WW1 and the 1930s, the Fausts had been living in rented apartments or homes with one being on Nowe Miasto Street.  I assume that prior to WW1, the Fausts would have lived on the property of house number 98 which according to the 1846 cadastral map, is just a few houses down from the St Maria Orthodox Church.