Thoughts While Driving from Denver to Santa Fe:  A Northeasterner’s View of the Southwest

Before this trip, I’d never been to Colorado or New Mexico before.  I’d never seen the Rocky Mountains, and although I had been to Arizona, it was almost 20 years ago, and I didn’t get the same perspective that I had this time.  This time I found myself truly marveling at the landscape, the mountains, the desert, the overall expanse of land that exists in so much of the United States.

After all, I am a Northeasterner: born in the Bronx, raised in the suburbs of NYC, and a resident of New England since I was eighteen years old.  I’ve never lived in the country; I’ve never lived more than 90 miles from a major metropolitan area.  I now live a few miles from Springfield, Masschusetts, and about 25 miles from Hartford, Connecticut.  Although Springfield and Hartford aren’t huge cities, they are densely populated urban areas without much open space.

It’s true that from our home we can drive thirty minutes or less and be in fairly rural places—farms are nearby, and the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire are just two hours away.  But even in those places, you don’t see miles and miles of empty road surrounded by undeveloped land with barely a sign or gas station or store to be seen.

So driving through Colorado and especially New Mexico was eye-opening for me.  We took I-25 south from Denver and headed to New Mexico.  Here we were on an interstate highway, the speed limit 75 miles an hour, and within a short distance from Denver, we began to see mountains.  I snapped photo after photo as we sped by, trying to capture the Rocky Mountains from the car.

20160524_183949615_iOS 20160524_190740985_iOS

20160524_203849284_iOS 20160524_213717579_iOS


Fortunately, we decided not to take I-25 all the way to Santa Fe, but stopped overnight in Raton, New Mexico, the first town over the state line from Colorado, about three hours south of Denver.  It was not a scenic place.  We stayed in a Best Western right off the highway, and the highest rated restaurant in town on TripAdvisor and Yelp was the place right in the Best Western.  It was not good.  But it was edible.   There was no nightlife in Raton, so we rose early to get started on the rest of our journey.

Before we left Raton, however, I’d spotted a brochure for “Historic Raton” in the motel lobby and asked the person at the front desk how to get there.  She very pleasantly gave me directions, though I have to think she wondered why I wanted to see the town.  The town consisted of two parallel streets of buildings (with two or three cross streets) about maybe a quarter mile long.  And almost all the buildings were empty, boarded up, out of business.  It was depressing.



downtown raton

Downtown Raton

But it was important for us to see.  This was a town that had once been an important mining town, according to the brochure.  Even more recently those stores and building must have been occupied.  What did the people who lived in Raton now do for work, besides work at the Best Western and the few fast food places near the highway?  Is this why so many people in this country feel so disenfranchised, so angry? Sure, there is poverty in all kinds of places all over the country.  Springfield itself has a large population of people who are unemployed or underemployed, living in desperate conditions.  But a whole town of almost all empty buildings? What must it be like to live in such a place?

We left Raton with a sense of gratitude for all that we have and with a sense of embarrassment that we generally take so much for granted.

And then we ventured on towards Santa Fe.  This time we took Route 64, a two-lane road running southwest into New Mexico.  For the first forty miles or so, the road ran straight and flat through miles and miles of ranch land.  The endless fields of dry beige and green grass, speckled here and there with cattle, were mesmerizing.  We both just kept saying, “This is incredible! Look at how much land there is.”  I wish my little iPhone camera could capture the scope of open land we saw.  There were mountains in the distance, but overall the land was flat and wide as far as we could see.

20160525_133838331_iOS 20160525_134745252_iOS 20160525_140635804_iOS 20160525_141154474_iOS

Then we entered the Cimarron Canyon area, and the terrain suddenly changed.  We were surrounded on both sides by walls of tall evergreen trees and then incredible stone formations above and in front of us as we followed the winding roads up and down and up and down the terrain.  It was like going from a huge empty room into a tiny dark hallway that twisted and turned so that you couldn’t see where it would end.  And it was gorgeous.  It was truly gorgeous.

Entering Cimarron Canyon

Entering Cimarron Canyon

20160525_142704356_iOS 20160525_143101662_iOS 20160525_143124185_iOS

And then it got better.  We passed through the canyon and emerged at the top of hill overlooking the Eagle Nest area with a large blue lake below us to the left and the mountains shadowing us to our right.  In just over sixty miles we had seen three very different types of terrain.  And barely a town or even many cars.  Who owned all those ranches? Who worked on them? Where did they live? We didn’t know.

20160525_144336328_iOS 20160525_144339466_iOS 20160525_144344554_iOS 20160525_144506423_iOS 20160525_144644707_iOS 20160525_144708507_iOS

From Eagle Nest we drove another thirty miles to Taos, passing through more open land and more mountain roads.  We stopped briefly in Taos to stretch our legs, but we knew we were coming back there after our stay in Santa Fe, so we did not take the time to look around.

Quick stop in Taos

Quick stop in Taos

After following Route 64 for about 100 miles (and for just over two hours), we picked up Route 68 in Taos to take the “low road” or “river road” to Santa Fe.  The first portion of Route 68 was awe-inspiring as we looked down at the Rio Grande and climbed high and twisted roads over the mountains and back down again.  In front of us and to our left we could see the white snow-covered peaks of the mountains while to our right we could see the deep gorge that the Rio Grande had carved into the land around it.

20160525_172606142_iOS 20160525_173012800_iOS 20160525_173018888_iOS 20160525_173044128_iOS 20160525_175017231_iOS 20160525_175022403_iOS

Finally, after passing through the rather non-scenic section of Route 68 near Espinola, we arrived in Santa Fe by lunch time.  And there we settled for the next four days, having now seen both how beautiful and inspirational our country can be and also how sad and empty it can be.



Happy 4th of July!

English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na ...

English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na Saoirse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy 4th to all of you who live in the US!

I know my country isn’t perfect. I have never been blind to the mistakes our country has made nor am I blind to our continuing problems with racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and violence. And I know, especially after traveling this summer, that people all over the world love their countries and are proud of their history, their culture, and their heritage despite the mistakes and problems of  those countries.

But this is my home, and I am deeply grateful to my brave ancestors who had the courage to come here to seek a better life and freedom from oppression and prejudice and violence.  I am so grateful to my immigrant ancestors: Hart Levy Cohen, Jacob Cohen and Rachel Jacobs, Bernard Seligman, John Nusbaum and Jeanette Dreyfuss, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt, Isadore Schoenthal, Joseph and Bessie Brotman, and my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager, who came by himself as a teenage boy and walked across Romania to get to this country, leaving his parents and siblings behind.  How can I ever take that for granted?

So today I say happy birthday to the United States of America and thank you for giving my ancestors a place of refuge and opportunity and a home for their children, their grandchildren, and all their descendants.

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Passenger Ship Manifests and The Heartrending Stories They Tell

English: Ellis Island's Immigrant Landing Stat...

English: Ellis Island’s Immigrant Landing Station, February 24, 1905. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my favorite documents to locate is a ship manifest listing one of our ancestors as a passenger, bringing them from Europe to America. I have read and seen enough about these ships and the hardships that the passengers endured to know that these were not pleasant cruises across the Atlantic Ocean. People suffered from disease, malnutrition, terrible hygienic conditions, and frequently even death. Yet I tend to romanticize these journeys, despite the facts. I imagine how frightened but also how excited these travelers must have been, thrown together with other people from all different countries and of all different backgrounds, all of whom were dreaming of a better life in the United States. The stories told by ship manifests I’ve found do much to break down that romantic ideal.

I was only able to find two ship manifests for the Brotman immigrants. The first exciting find was the manifest for the Obdam, the ship that brought Bessie, Hyman and Tillie to New York in January, 1891. Their names were listed as Pessel, Chaim and Temy Brodmann. One column lists how many pieces of luggage each passenger brought, and for Bessie, Hyman and Tillie, they brought only two pieces of luggage. Imagine fitting the clothing of three people plus any other possessions you wanted to keep with you into just two pieces of luggage. When we go away for a weekend, we often need more than that for just two of us. Hyman was only 8, Tillie 6, and somehow they endured this long voyage at sea with their mother. When I fast-forward to how American they became as adults, I find it remarkable.

The Obdam 1891

The Obdam 1891

The only other ship manifest I located for the Brotman family is one I believe is for Max, but cannot tell for sure. It lists a Moshe (?) Brodmann as a ten year old boy, traveling with one bag, on a ship called the City of Chicago in 1890. This very well could be Max, but there is no other Brodmann or anyone else with a similar name traveling with him. If I have a hard time imagining Hyman and Tillie coming with their mother, it is really unfathomable to imagine a ten year old boy traveling alone across the ocean. None of the names above or on the page following his sound like possible relatives, friends or even neighbors since for the most part they are listed as coming from Russia, not Austria. If that is in fact our Max, I imagine that this must have been an incredible experience—frightening, even horrifying, and lonely. Perhaps an experience like that explains how these children then endured the working and living conditions they found in the United States. They had already survived much worse.

I’ve had no luck yet locating a manifest that includes Joseph or Abraham Brotman, but I will keep looking.

On the Goldschlager side, I’ve had more success. I have found a ship manifest for Moritz, Gisella, David and Betty, each of whom came separately, but nothing for my grandfather Isadore. These manifests also tell interesting and some heart-breaking stories. David came in 1904 on the Patricia, which departed out of Hamburg. (Perhaps like his brother, David also walked out of Romania to get to Hamburg.) This manifest contains far more information than the two above. First, it asks for information about who paid for the ticket and the name, address and relationship of any relative or friend the passenger was joining at their destination. David said his uncle paid his passage and that he was going to join that uncle in New York. From what I can decipher, it looks like the uncle’s name was Moishe Minz.

David Goldschlager ship manifest

David Goldschlager ship manifest

I have searched many times and ways to figure out who this person was and how he was an uncle to David. Was he a brother-in-law of Moritz or of Gisella/Gittel/Gussie? Since his last name is neither Goldschlager or Rosensweig (Gisella’s maiden name), I assume he is not a brother. Or perhaps he is a half-brother. Whoever he was, I cannot find him yet. I also find it puzzling that David listed this uncle and not his brother Isadore. Perhaps because Isadore himself was still just a minor, he would not have been a satisfactory person to list as the connection for David in the United States. The other interesting bit of information gleaned from this manifest is the amount of money David was carrying with him: six dollars. He was 16 years old, traveling alone, with six dollars to his name.

The next to arrive was Isadore and David’s father, Moritz. He arrived in August 1909 on the ship La Touraine out of Havre. His occupation is listed as a tailor, and his age as 46 years old. This manifest did not ask who you were meeting in the United States, but instead who you were leaving behind in your old place of residence. Moritz listed his wife, Gisella Goldschlager. So by August 1909, the three males in the family had emigrated from Iasi, and Gisella and her daughter Betty were left behind. This seems consistent with the pattern in the Brotman family: Joseph came first, then his two sons from his first marriage, and then his wife and younger children.

Moritz Goldschlager ship manifest

Moritz Goldschlager ship manifest

Betty’s arrival story is more complicated and very sad. On the ship manifest filed at Ellis Island, Betty had listed her father as the person she was joining in New York. Betty arrived in April 4, 1910, on the ship Kaiserin Auguste Victoria. However, she was detained at Ellis Island for a short time. On a document titled “Record of Detained Aliens,” the cause given for detention simply says “to father.”

Betty Goldschlager Detention of Aliens

Betty Goldschlager Detention of Aliens

According to his headstone, her father Moritz died on April 3, 1910, the day before Betty arrived on the Kaiserin August Victoria. It is hard to believe that her father died the day before she arrived, but if the records and headstone are accurate, that is what happened.

Moritz Goldschlager headstone

Moritz Goldschlager headstone

Betty must have been kept at Ellis Island until another person could meet her. On that form for detained aliens, she listed an aunt, Tillie Srulowitz, under “Disposition,” which I interpret to mean that Betty was released to her aunt on April 4 at 3 pm. (More about Tillie Srulowitz in my next post.)

This story breaks my heart. Moritz had only been in the United States since August, just eight months, when he died. He did not live to see his daughter or his wife again. He was only fifty years old. I don’t have his death certificate yet, but will see if I can obtain it and learn why he died. Imagine how Isadore and David must have felt—waiting four to five years to see their father, only to lose him eight months later. And imagine how Betty must have felt—coming to America, taking that awful voyage, only to be greeted with the news that her father had died just before she arrived.

And finally, think about his wife Gisella. She arrived in NYC in November, 1910, seven months after her husband had died. Did she know what was awaiting her? She sailed on the ship Pennsylvania out of Hamburg; the ship manifest does not list who was waiting for her, only the name of someone who resided in her old home, a friend named Max Fischler.

Gisella Goldschlager ship manifest

Gisella Goldschlager ship manifest

But the record from Ellis Island indicates that she had expected to join her husband Morris Goldschlager, but was instead released to her son Isadore. I have no idea how immigrants communicated with their relatives back in Europe in those days or how quickly news could travel from place to place, but since the ship manifest indicates that the ship sailed from Hamburg on October 23, 1910, over six months after Moritz had died, Gisella must not have known that he had died, or why would she have listed him as the person receiving her in New York when she got to Ellis Island? It appears that Gisella did not know until she arrived in New York that her husband had died the previous April. It is heart-breaking to imagine what her reunion with her sons and daughter must have been like under those circumstances.

EDITED: Some of the facts in this post have been updated with subsequent research.  See my post of January 22, 2014, entitled “Update: My Grandfather’s Arrival.”   Also, this one.

English: Immigrants entering the United States...

English: Immigrants entering the United States through Ellis Island, the main immigrant entry facility of the United States from 1892 to 1954. Español: Inmigrantes entran a los Estados Unidos a traves de la Isla Ellis, el mayor lugar de entrada a los Estados Unidos entre 1892 y 1954. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my family and friends and followers and readers from all over! I can’t believe I’ve had readers from not only the United States, but Canada, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Sweden, Turkey, Ireland, Greece, Australia, Russia, Poland, and Israel.  Thanks to all of you for stopping by, whether you have been here once or many times.  May 2014 bring everyone peace, happiness, and good health.

I am grateful to you all for your support and your readership, and I look forward to making new discoveries and new connections in the year ahead.  I hope to learn more both from my relatives and from my fellow genealogy bloggers and others about genealogy, my family, and myself.


A Call to Israel!

Just to show that I never give up, I thought I’d report on a phone call I made this morning to Shmuel Brotman of Kiryat Tivon in Israel.   Renee, my mentor, made the suggestion that I look for any Brotmans who had lived in Dzikow by checking both JRI-Poland and the database at Yad Vashem.  Both sources found one family, the family of Shmuel and Zipporah Brotman, who had resided in Dzikow/Tarnobrzeg.  It looked like the entire family had died in the Holocaust, but Renee suggested I contact the person who had submitted the names to Yad Vashem, Shmuel’s daughter-in-law Chana Brotman.

I then had to track down Chana Brotman.  I knew from the Yad Vashem submission that she had lived in Kiryat Tivon in 1997 when she submitted the names of Shmuel and his family, and so I made a request on both the JewishGen website and on Gesher Galicia for help in locating the family.  By this morning I had several responses, including two that gave me phone numbers, one for Chana and one for her son Shmuel.  The person who provided me with Shmuel’s number had just spoken with him and said he was awaiting my call.

I jotted down some notes and then called Shmuel.  He’s about my age and fluent in English.  He was very happy to help me, and we spent about half an hour, comparing notes and trying to figure out whether there is a connection between our families.

At the moment I still don’t know what the connection is, but it seems likely that there is one.  His grandfather Shmuel Brotman was born around 1888 in Dzikow, and his great-grandfather’s name was Moshe.  I don’t yet know where Moshe Brotman was born.  He could even be the same Moses Brotman who ended up in Brotmanville.  We still have to sort more things out.

He did tell me that he has done some research and believes that the Brotman family originally came from Georgia in the former Soviet Union and left to escape the pogroms.  He believes they changed their name to Brotman to get across the border.  According to Shmuel, some Brotmans went to the US, some to Romania, and some to Poland, including his family.  Whether our ancestors were also part of that family I don’t yet know, but it is a possibility.

So just as I was about to give up hope of finding more traces of our family, I received a glimmer of hope this morning from Israel.  No matter where this goes, it was another one of those uplifting experiences where strangers helped me find someone and that someone ended up being welcoming and hopeful that we are related.