Sunday, February 21, 2010

Interesting Connections - Where My Research Takes Me

While I was trying to find more information about Patrick Bowen Collins who married a distance cousin, I came across a book, "To Wire the World: Perry M. Collins and the North Pacific Telegraph Expedition." It was written by John B. Dwyer in 2001. Fortunately, I found it in the Sunnyvale Library and checked it out to read.

Perry McDonough Collins had a dream of building a telegraph system that connected the United States with Europe via Alaska and Russia. The book tells the story of his efforts to make this dream come true. In 1860, he wrote a book entitled "A Voyage Down the Amoor: with A Land Journey through Siberia and Incidental Notices of Manchooria, Kamschatka and Japan." Although his book was focused on the eastern part of the Russian Empire, it made me think about my husband's ancestors who were from eastern Russia.

Less than 40 years later, my husband's family begins to arrive in the United States. One of the stories I heard from his family was how the name was changed at Ellis Island. Actually, the story is rather compelling. My mother-in-law believes the name was changed because of confusion due to a language barrier between the immigration official and his great grandmother when she arrived along with his grandfather, his great uncle and his great aunt.

My husband's family name is Kline. The family seemed to believe that my husband's great grandmother was confused when the official asked for a surname that he was asking about the children. She supposedly answered with a question, "Eine Kleine?" from which the official recorded the name as Kline.

Based on his great aunt's naturalization papers, it appears that the family name was Moffs. However, I could not find any Russian name of Moffs. When I saw a copy of her application, I realized that she was young enough that she may not have known how to spell her family name when she came to America with her mother and brothers. She spelled the name phonetically from her childhood memory.

Further research, revealed that the family did not come through Ellis Island but entered at the Port of Boston. I do not know why the family chose a surname of Kline, but the census records around Boston from around the time the family arrived in the US include Claine, Clain and Kline as a spelling of the surname. Looking at the various census images that included the family, I was able to pinpoint the time in which my husband's grandfather arrived with his mother, brother and sister.

I ultimately found the image of the ship manifest that had the names of my husband's great grandmother, his grandfather, his great uncle and his great aunt. The name on the manifest was Mowsz.

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