Saturday, May 16, 2015

What About Anna?

When it comes to researching people, it’s fairly safe to say there is not much undertaken in human endeavors that’s done in a vacuum. Whatever became of our mystery Theodore J. Puhalski—or his alternate identity, John T. McCann—I can safely say he didn’t go through it alone. Whether traveling to this country from Germany as a boy, or living with family in Brooklyn, or going to school or working or renting an apartment, he had someone else—someone we can trace—along with him.

That, at least, can be a comforting theory when confronted with the seemingly impossible disappearance of the ancestor one is researching. In practice, well, Theodore did seem to come from nowhere. And disappeared just as mysteriously.

Of course, now we know what became of Theodore Puhalski—or at least, we have an educated guess. He likely was one and the same as my paternal grandfather, John T. McCann.

But where did he come from? That’s the question that’s stumped me, now. Though he declared it on his naturalization papers, Theodore’s designated arrival in the United States in 1884—or any time close to that—yields no results. At least, there are none that can be found currently.

What about his family, though? That eight year old boy surely didn’t cross the Atlantic Ocean by himself. Wouldn’t his mom be present? Or his sister Rose?

I thought I’d switch to that tack and see if it yielded any results. First, I double checked that proposed arrival year against Rose’s and Anna’s own reports. The first I can find of them in New York—both as widows in the state census for 1915—showed Rose as a citizen living in the United States for thirty years, and Anna as an alien resident for that same period of time.

Let’s see…from the 1915 census, that thirty years brings us back to 1885. Not far from the 1884 date Theodore provided on his petition for citizenship in 1905.

Since we’ve stumbled upon the possibility that Anna’s surname might have actually been Kusharvska rather than the Kraus variants I’d found her under in census records, I first thought I’d search for passenger records using that surname.

No results. Oh, there were possibilities for Anna—but remember, it is unlikely that Anna did anything all by herself, either. She likely would have traveled with her daughter Rose and her son—at least we think he’s her son—Theodore. Keeping the family constellation in sight means not finding any results on searches through passenger records.

That doesn’t mean I necessarily have to give up the chase. Keep in mind: though we are spoiled with the instant accessibility of so many digitized records thanks to various systems available through the Internet, those results represent merely the tip of the records iceberg. Ninety percent (Stevens rough estimate) of those records remain submerged below the reachable surface. What that means is having to go to sites where the records I need are stored. Or waiting—just as I discovered when seeking Theodore so many years ago—until the right documents are digitized.

So, I send off my purchase request for Anna Kusharvska’s death certificate to see whether she is one and the same as the Anna Kraus who died in her daughter Rose’s Queens borough home that same night—the evening of September 21, 1928.

New York being what it is, I will likely have to wait four to six more weeks before that mystery is solved—maybe longer, if the twists found in her son’s story were merely the continuation of a family heritage of name changing. I may cut to the chase and give the Bronx cemetery a call to see whether that Anna was buried in the same family plot as Rose and her husband, George W. Kober.

Meanwhile, I may have another option open to me, in tracing the intact family constellation of Anna and her children, Rose and Theodore. It’s the program developed by computer guru Stephen P. Morse, known as the One Step Website. Where routine searches on genealogically-useful websites from to Ellis Island come up empty-handed, the One Step program is able to drill down beneath that surface to connect the dots on those hard-to-match family constellations like the one I'm seeking.

Perhaps, Anna and her children can be found that way.



  1. Sounds like you have A plan! I hope you are having a great weekend! :)

    1. Yes, other than banging my head against that genealogical brick wall, I am having a great weekend! Sometimes, those best-laid plans leave much to be desired.

  2. If the K in Kusharvska was really a P.... might it sound like Pulharska?

    1. You know, Iggy, I had thought that, myself. I'm glad you mentioned it. I was afraid it was too much like wishful thinking. Now, I can't wait to see what turns up in that certificate. It will be interesting...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...