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Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Spitting in a vial to find the past
(Page 3 of 4)
Howard Schwach

It is amazing to me that, in an age where we won’t let our kids play in the street or walk a couple of blocks to a store to get a soda, Kalman, whose name mysteriously changed to Charles at Ellis Island, came to New York City in August of 1893, at the age of 13 or 14, leading his younger brother, Jacob (12) and two younger sisters, Bertha (6) and Helen (8) from Kisvarda to Glasgow (Scotland) and from there on the ship State of California, to Ellis Island in New York Harbor, where they were met by Samuel.

Think about that for a moment; four kids: 14, 12, 8 and 6, travelling half way around the world alone, across half a continent and then on a month-long sea voyage, alone.

It boggles the mind, but it was common in those days.

Esther and the younger kids came a year later.

You find out all sorts of wondrous things when you start out to find out who came before you, to find out about your roots.

I started the search several years ago, doing it for my grandchildren, to answer all the questions for them that I would have liked to have answered when I was their age and never thought to ask until everyone who could answer those questions was either dead or demented.

Along the way, I became reacquainted with a number of cousins who I have not seen or spoken to in more than 50 years, some who live locally.

We met again after all these years because they too were searching for their roots. We found each other on genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com and JewishGen.com.

When I wondered why Samuel is not buried along with Esther and some of the other kids in a northern Queens Cemetery, I found out from a granddaughter of one of the other brothers that Samuel had died in a Manhattan hotel room in bed with another woman and therefore was barred from being buried with the rest of the family.

My cousin’s mother had told her that story a number of times.

I found out lots of other things as well.

I had met my father’s sisters, Gertrude and Thelma, many times and still have some contact with a first cousin who lives in East Rockaway.

What I did not know was that my grandfather, Charles, and his wife Annie, had a fourth child.

I found that out by searching on line through the New York Times database on Ancestry.com.

Howard Schwach


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