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Our Immigrant Ancestors

Newly published archives at Ellis Island's American Family Immigration History Center provide exciting details of the GeorgeFamily's coming to America. Among the records, the millions of records, we can see entries on a ship's manifest of Rachel Garboushian, a young Armenian girl from Syria. Rachel was the matriarch of this family.

Manifest See an image of the actual Ship's Manifest: Page 1  Page 2, Lines 18-20.

First to come was Isaiah (read his story), arriving on the Titian from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he had learned the diamond trade. The date on the ship's manifest is 10-March, 1906. The immigration official recorded his name as Esias Geragasian, one of several spelling variations we see through out the records. Isaiah was 34-years-old and still single when he first saw these shores. Along with Isaiah were several members of the Ohanian family (Joao Ohanian, age 31, his wife Eunice, age 25, and his brother Leon, age 23). It was Mr. Ohanian who taught Isaiah the diamond trade and encouraged him to come to the US where Isaiah would apprentice in Boston before establishing his own diamond business in Philadelphia. More details may be available in the future, when the actual ship's manifest for the Titian is posted on the Ellis Island site. [Note: Manifest of Titian 10-March-1906]

(Five years later, on 4-October, 1911, there is a record of 40-year-old Isaiah George, now a married US citizen, returning to the United States from a business trip to Brazil aboard the Verdi sailing from Rio de Janeiro) [Note: Manifest of Verdi Page 1, Page 2]

Map of Syria Rachel George's trip to America probably started in the summer of 1909, beginning in the mountain village of Kassab (Kessab), an Armenian enclave in Northern Syria. We know that her marriage to Isaiah was arranged by their families. When it came time for Rachel to be wed, she travelled to America, accompanied on the trip by Isaiah's father, Gheragos, and sister Elizabeth. The two from Isaiah's family most likely set out by horseback from Antioch (now Antakya in modern Turkey) and travelled the 60 km (36 miles) to Kassab where they met Rachel. From there, they travelled the remaining 40 km (24 miles) down the mountains and to the city of Latakia which was the main seaport on the Mediterranean coast. At Latakia, they boarded a French ship, the Gallia sailing for New York, stopping along the way at the port of Marseilles, Bouches-du-Rhone, France.

The ship was built by Chantiers et Ateliers de la Gironde, Bordeaux, France, in 1883. It's size was 4211 gross tons; 386(bp) feet long; 41 feet wide. Powered by a compound engine, single screw, the Gallia also had three masts for sailing in favorable winds. The service speed 13 knots. The ship carried up to 1250 passengers ( 50 first class, 1200 third class ). It was rebuilt for Fabre Line, French flag, in 1900 and renamed Gallia, providing Mediterranean-New York service. The Gallia was scrapped in Italy in 1910.

Ships records show that the Gallia left Marseilles on 21-August, 1909, arriving in New York harbor on 9-September, 1909 after almost three weeks crossing the Atlantic.

You can magine the scene in the Great Hall at Ellis Island as this group of three small Armenians (Isaiah's father was tallest at 4' 10") walked up to the immigration official to enter the United States. The official's name was Albert Forster, and he recorded the following entries in the manifest.

Line 18 on the manifest is Isaiah's father:
Gheragos Ovanessian (later called "John George" by the family)
Age 48 (Isaiah was 37 at the time, so great-grandpa "John" may have been stretching it a bit)
Marital Status: Widowed
Occupation: Gardener
Nationality: Turkey
Race: Armenian
Residence: Antioche, Syria

Line 19 on the manifest is Isaiah's sister:
Erissa Gheragossian (Auntay Ban, later married as Elizabeth Mesropian)
Age 25
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Lace maker
Nationality: Turkey
Race: Armenian
Residence: Antioche, Syria

Line 20 on the manifest is Rachel:
Rahel Garboshian
Age 18
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Embroiderer
Nationality: Turkey
Race: Armenian
Residence: Antioche, Syria (Rachel was actually from Kessab)

We are not clear if Isaiah was there or not at this initial registration. All three immigrants stated that the would be joining him in this country:

Isaiah Gheragossian
419 Samson St
Philadelphia, PA

As the story goes, Rachel could not be granted entry because she was still a minor, and not accompanied by her own parents. Isaiah arranged a speedy wedding at Ellis Island, performed by a German minister and witnessed by a nurse and cleaning lady, to bring Rachel into this country as his wife.

There are more interesting details on the manifests. Recent transcription of this information into the Ellis Island internet database contains several obvious errors. The race of all three immigrants is listed in the data as "American". Looking at the written document, it is obviously "Armenian". (A footnote on the manifest reads as follows, "'Race or People' is to be determined by the stock from which the aliens sprang and the language they speak".) Their last place of residence is recorded as "Autische, Syria". Autische is the German for autistic, not the name of a place. The most logical interpretation from the writing is "Antioche", which is believed to be Isaiah's place of birth.

For more historical context on the immigration of our family ancestors, you may want to read this recent commentary on the Armenian genocide by Don Cole.

 
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Last Updated on 29-April-2001