Tracing Their Steps

by Laura

I’ve decided to rest a bit from working on my birth family tree and started working more on my adopted family tree; specifically, my Dad’s. His tree started off readily enough, and the documentation was right there in the databases (thank you, Cook County!). But my Dad’s family was a bit of a challenge after the initial birth-marriage-death stuff. His father, Leo(pold) had been born in Vienna, Austria during a time of great political upheaval. So…records are full of what looks like conflicting information. Here’s where history and old maps are very helpful.

Leo’s parents, Josef Luner and Anna Ohnnesorg had been born at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918). The Empire included what today is Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and the Ukraine. There were two capitals, the main one, Wien/Vienna and a second one, Budapest. Joseph had been born in “Bohemia”, the westernmost region of the Czech Republic nearest to Bavaria, which is now a part of Germany. Bohemia was a duchy of Great Moravia. Later, it was an independent principality and part of the Holy Roman Empire which eventually morphed into the Hapsburg Monarchy and the Austrian Empire. His wife Anna, my Dad’s Grandmother, had been born in Libovice, Czechoslovakia. Presumably, they traveled to Wien/Vienna and my Dad’s Father Leo was born there.

Josef emigrated first, in 1907 from Hamburg, Germany whilst Anna and her children stayed in Zurich, Switzerland. Between Vienna, Austria, and their departure from Rotterdam in 1908, they had traveled by way of Switzerland and my Dad’s Sister, Anna, was born there. I have the ship’s records for all of them as well as the Census for 1910, 1920 and 1930. Joseph arrived with $25.00 cash on him. He was a tailor and did custom work; Anna was a laundress and worked by the day.

The 1910 census records give their particulars as language spoken, Bohemian for the parents, English for Leo and his sister; places of birth Austrian/Moravian for Joseph; Austrian/Bohemian for Anna and the children. But by 1920, Leo and his sister, Anna, had changed:  Leo speaks Magyar and Anna speaks French. Her birthplace was also shown as Switzerland…which it was. Everyone else stayed the same. Interesting… Their names began to change as well.

So what drove Joseph and Anna from the Austrian Empire to Switzerland? As a custom tailor, presumably, he could take his skills and apply them anywhere. So that’s simple enough. He could work anywhere he could set up shop. Ultimately, why America? On Anna’s ship’s manifest, it mentions that she is coming to the States in the care of her Brother, the children, their Uncle…but it’s hard to read his name and address. So her Brother was already here. Was that what drove them across Europe in the early 1900s to Chicago? Another trail to follow. Was it the political climate in Europe? Was it the various revolutions and plethora of grievances that eventually found their expression in World War I?

More research. Which leads to more questions. Which will, inevitably, lead to more family…

I love this stuff.