How The Past Connects To The Present

Below is a client’s fascinating story on how the past connects to the present.

Back in August, my cousin’s wife contacted me. Her mother and her aunt had been trying to replace their naturalization papers for years. They have also been trying to renew their driver’s licenses and get passports since the attacks on 9/11.

They were not able to write checks or travel anywhere, etc.  The problem has been the lack of documentation of their immigration from Latvia to the USA in 1949. Their names were missing from the ship’s manifest and courthouse clerks who she contacted told her they did not have a record of them, they were not listed at Ellis Island. It was like they didn’t exist.

It all started in 1940. The first Soviet occupation started after this immigrant’s marriage and when she was just 19 years old. It ended a month after her first child was born. With her mother-in-law and young family in tow, they were forced from Jelvaga, Latvia to Schneidemühl, Germany in 1944. The Schneidemühl Labour Office sent them to Landsberg, Germany. In December of 1944, they had their second daughter. It was so cold where they lived that the 6 weeks old lost all her fingernails and toenails.

In January of 1945, they fled Landsberg, approaching the front, towards Bamberg, Germany, and were sent by the labor office to work on a farm in Stucht, Germany, receiving food and an apartment. She and her husband worked there until June 18, 1945. That same month they went to Erlangen, Germany and she worked for an American family. That’s where their fortunes turned.

In 1946 she began work in a US Army Officer’s Mess as a waitress. Through the sponsorship of a Lutheran Church Council, they were able to make the trip to America where the Lutheran minister arranged for the grandfather’s employment in Illinois. All in all, they moved 27 times until reaching the United States. They arrived in New York in 1949.

My cousin contacted me for help. All they really asked me to do was to verify the ship the family was on and what port they arrived in. However, I was able to do so much more. I was able to locate 25 perfectly clear documents: scanned copies of the original immigration cards for her entire family, the amended ship manifest with their names on it, her grandparent’s work application, written notes about the camp in Germany they were in, and how they had to flee Latvia, even the list of items their suitcases when they arrived. One such picture is

My cousin-in-law’s mother has since received her naturalization record and we now have the information we need to help her aunt obtain a passport.

See my bio, profile, or website for more information on how I can help you connect your present to the past.

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