I began with a letter to Ellis Island because I was interested in learning more about my father’s arrival in the U.S.  The respondent stated that no immigration records were maintained at Ellis Island.  I was referred to the National Archives and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), both in Washington DC.  That was in 1986.  At the time, I had little information about my father, but I completed the proper forms, as best I could, and submitted them to both agencies.

The National Archives is the custodian of ship’s passenger lists (manifests).  I hoped to obtain a copy of my father’s immigration record.  Twice, I submitted requests and twice the response was the same.

NO. We were unable to locate the record you requested. Records searched were ship passenger arrivals in NY 1902-1942

In genealogical research one learns to persevere.  My third attempt evoked a positive answer.  My father’s arrival record had been found!  Now this was getting exciting!  The following is my reply to the National Archives on the day the much-anticipated material arrived:

“In today’s mail I received the long awaited copy of the manifest you identified as the ship on which my father reached this country (see enclosed).  Imagine my surprise to find that you identified the wrong person and manifest. (The ship was the SS Gothland, which sailed from Antwerp 10/23/21 and arrived in New York 11/5/21/.)  List 33 line 19 is one MALKA Eisenberg, (from Lwow, not Telechan) an 8 year old child.  PLEASE search again and provide me with the correct information.  Thank you, Arthur Eisenberg:

In response I received the following hand written note:           

“Mr. Eisenberg
I have examined the passenger list of the SS Gothland and found no listing for Morris Eisenberg.  The only list we was for Malka Eisenberg, female.  Passenger arrival records in our custody are not complete.  Fire, dampness and other causes destroyed many records before the creating agencies transferred them to the National Archives.”

In the interim I had unearthed additional data about my father’s citizenship application from the (INS) Immigration &Naturalization Service.  Based on this new data I wrote the following letter:           

Dear Folks,                                     7/18/87
On 7/9/87 I wrote to you regarding the enclosed matter. The wrong person was identified.  Page 33, line 19 is one Malka Eisenberg, an 8-year-old female child.  My father (male) was 13 years old at the time of his arrival in the U.S.  I assumed then, that perhaps you gave me information on the wrong ship as well as the wrong person.  Just yesterday I received copies of my father’s Petition for Citizenship and Declaration of Intent.  Both documents confirm the fact that he did arrive on November 8, 1921 aboard the SS Gothland from Antwerp.  His name was Morris Eisenberg on his petition for Citizenship but his name upon entering the country was different.  The copy is not clear but it is one of the following variations:
                        (I) IZENBERG, MOWSZA the unclear letter in ( )
Please try some variations of the above name.  He came to this country with his grandparents (whom I believe had the same last name) and the three of them should appear on the manifest.  Please search again, this information is very important to me.  It should be easier now that both the date and ship have been confirmed. Thank you very much.
                                                            Sincerely, Arthur Eisenberg

Shortly thereafter the correct ship manifest arrived.  I had committed the beginner’s classic mistake as to the spelling of the family name.  I assumed that the way I spelled my family name was the same way it was spelled in Europe.  I was wrong.

There on List 41 #19 was MOWSZA AJZENBERG along with his grandfather #16 DOV BEREL AJZENBERG.  Both names were stamped ADMITTED.   Coincidentally, eight years old Malka Eisenberg, no known relation, was on the same ship.  The manifest in this instance is very helpful.  It was typed, not hand written and with few exceptions very clear and easy to read.  It provides the following description: DOV BEREL’S name is listed as BERKO AJZENBERG

Age: 73
Calling or Occupation:    None
Read:    Yes
What language: Hebrew
Write:  Yes
Nationality: Polish
Race or People:  Hebrew
Last permanent address:  Telechan Poland
Name & address of nearest  BR.  brother
Relative in country whence  ILWJ AJZENBERG

alien came:                                                            

Final destination:  Hartford, Connecticut
Passage paid by:      Self
Amount of money:  $30.00
Ever been in U.S. before: No
Whom going to join in U.S. Son, HERSCHEL EISENBERG
 151 Brook Street Hartford, CT
SPEC. EXAMINED (hand written across many spaces)
Height:    5’3”
Hair color:   Gray
Eyes:  BRN
Complexion: FR.
Marks of ID:  Senility (not clearly typed)
Cicatrice post operatoire
(Scar left by healed wound)
Place of Birth, Country:   Poland
City or Town:   Telechow

My father is listed as AJZENBERG, MOWSZA, grandson, with the following description:

Age:  9[1]
Calling or Occupation:  Child
Read:       No
What language:   None
Write:   No
Nationality:   Polish
Race or People:   Hebrew
Last permanent address: Telechan Poland
Nearest relative in U.S.:   Uncle
Final destination: Hartford, Connecticut
Ticket to destination:  No
Passage paid by:    Father[2]
Whom going to join in U.S.:  Uncle, 151 Brook St. S. Hartford, CT
Height:  5’[3]
Complexion:     FR.
Hair:   Black
Eyes:    Dk
Marks of ID:  None
Place of birth:  Russia Poland
City or Town:    Telechan

On that it manifest the name of his grandmother Elka Ajzenberg #17 and his aunt Leja #18 are crossed off.  A line was drawn through all the information about both of them.  What was that all about?  I had solved one mystery only to uncover another.  What happened to Elka and Leja?


The deleted material provided the following information:

Age:   63
Calling or Occupation: 

H wife

Read & write:   No
Height:    5’
Complexion:   FR.
Hair:   Black
Eyes: Dk
marks of ID:     Senility
Age:   19 (unclear)
Marital Status:  Single
Calling or Occupation:  H wife
Read & write:  No
Height:  5’
Complexion:   FR.
Hair:   Black
Eyes:   Dk
Marks of ID:     None

It was not until January 1992, five years later, that I found the answers to what happened to Elka and Leja.

Note: Everyone, save Dov Berel, is listed as exactly 5’ tall.
         Everyone, save Dov Berel, is listed as illiterate.

[1] By all other accounts he was 13 years old when he entered the US.  Perhaps a younger age meant a lower fare.  I’ve heard that there were 3 rates: full fare for adults, half rate for grown children, free for very young children.  

[2] By this time his father, Azriel was dead.

[3] Tall for 9 year old, not for 13 year old