Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Start of the Search

I guess I'm the type of person that lives for the day and leans toward the future.  I hadn't spent much time looking back beyond my own life.  At times, however, I would wonder where I came from, how am I the product of the generations that came before me?  For the last several years, probably since the deaths of my father and mother, I have thought of beginning a quest to discover my roots.  It's ironic that I didn't ask the people who could help me the most while they were still alive.

My father never really talked about the past.  He was a quiet kind of guy and kept most things to himself.  I know he was born in Poland, Krakow he said, but other than that not much was ever told and I didn't ask.  It was the same for living in New York, serving in WWII and moving to California.  I just wasn't interested enough at the time and didn't ask.  Since my family lived in Los Angeles, California we were separated from the bulk of the Dershewitz family that lived in New York.  Growing up I had very little contact with the rest of the extended family.  Only rare trips back East (last one in 1960) and rare visitors out west brought us together.

I knew my father's family came through Ellis Island.  When the immigration records became available online I tried many times to find when the Dershewitz family started their life in America.  This search was fruitless until earlier this year.  I know names, especially foreign names, can get mis-spelled or changed in a variety of different ways.  My family name is the rule rather than an exception.  The Ellis Island records have been transcribed from the original immigration or ships manifests.  Key data was put in a database and indexed back to the actual manifest page/line the name was found on.  This way it's fairly easy to search in a variety of ways and finally get back to the original documentation. NOT!!  Only if your ancestors spoke English and had very well known names.  For those of us not so fortunate, any manner of errors could occur.  My ancestors did not speak English, the immigration official probably wrote/spelled what he heard.  If the immigration people had bad hand writing more errors could be introduced in the transcription.  Also, first names were likely to be the pre-Americanized  versions that were used in the country of origin.

Anyhow, after many attempts I finally made the breakthrough.  I found Solomon Dereszewitz, wife Gita, 7 children and a cousin all listed as a group starting on line 6 of page 0222.  They arrived in America April 20, 1921 aboard the ship Saxonia from Cherbourg, France.

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