Tuesday, November 29, 2005

June Comes To America


UPDATE - OCT.2008: Vital new information on the origins of June's family has appeared on the Henry Miller Walks website, through research by Kreg Wallace. Please be sure to read his "June's Origins: New Documents" after reading the posting below, as it clarifies and corrects some of these assertions.

Two of the more recent Miller biographies, Happeist Man Alive by Mary Dearborn and Henry Miller: A Life by Robert Ferguson, state that June's father, Wilhelm Smerth (later anglicized to Smith) arrived with his family to New York in 1907; Ferguson specifies July 10, 1907.

Thanks to the internet and the amazing resource that is the Ellis Island website [free with registration], I was able to do a little research. What I discovered is this: Wilhelm did indeed arrive in 1907, but he came alone. The rest of his family--wife and children--arrived in 1908, including six-year old June.

Wilhelm Smerth arrives in America in 1907
If you search this yourself, make sure to look it up by its misspelling: 'Withelm Smert'. Wilhelm was 29, Jewish, last resided in Biory, Austria. He sailed to Amercia from Hamburg on the Batavia, arriving at Ellis Island on July 9, 1907 with six dollars in his pocket. If I can read the handwriting on the original ship manifest correctly [fully viewable on the website], he stated that he would be staying with his brother Chaim Lipschultz at 155 Rivington Street.

I assume that Wilhelm came in advance to establish a homestead for his family before calling for them to join him; a common plan of action for new immigrants even today.

June arrives in America in 1908
On June 26, 1908, six-year old June, her mother, and four siblings boarded the President Lincoln [pictured left] in Hamburg. The ship was built in 1903 and went through various names before being christened President Lincoln in 1907. It was later entered into service during WWI and was sunk at the end of the war [a detailed history of the ship can be found here and here].

The President Lincoln docked at Ellis Island on July 8, 1908, almost exactly one year since Wilhelm arrived. The ship manifest is sometimes difficult to read, so I'll include some image samples.

Above is the entry for the mother, age 30. Her name was apparently Francis Budd, but this name has been interpreted by the Ellis Island website transcribers as "Tanie." The manifest states that her husband is Wilhelm Smerth. Her contact person back home is noted as being her brother in Moldawitza, Bukowina/ Bukovina [ref. 3 below].

From the Naturalization Record refered to by Robert Ferguson, we know that June had brothers and sisters: Maria Augusta, Herman, Sigmund, and Edward. Besides June, four children are listed as being a "child" of "Tanie": Gustava (11), Herman (9), Sigmund (4) and one I just can't read (3) [ref. 1 above].

Finally, there is June. In Ferguson's biography, he suggests that June changed her name to Julia when the family went from being Smith from Smerth. However, this 1908 manifest shows an entry for Julia, age 6; June's real name [ref. 2 above; could be "Julie"]. Julia is listed as being Austrian, Jewish, last residing in Russian Moltawica [ref. 4], also her place of birth [ref. 5]. She and the family would continue on to Norfolk Street, where Wilhelm was living [ref. 6].

Incidentally, the records of Henry Miller's immigrant German family are absent because they predate those avaialble on the Ellis Island website. Henry and June's passages to Europe in the 1920's are also unavailable because they postdate the records available on-line.

For those interested in Anais Nin, however, make sure to look up her arrival from Havana in 1905, at age 2, and her return from Barcelona at age 11 in 1914. And if it's relevant to your genealogy, don't forget to look up your own family.

14 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Some excellent genealogical work here. I find William and Fanny Smith living at 1203 38th Street in Brooklyn in 1910. Here's how they were enumerated in the census [T624-982, p. 82]:

William Smith, 32, married 14 yrs., an ironer at a cloak factory.
Fanny, his wife, 31, mother of five children, all of them living.
Agusta, daughter, 13
Herman, son, 12
Julia, daughter, 9
Sigmund, son, 7
Edward, son, 5

The census confirms that William emigrated in 1907, and his wife and children in 1908.

4:22 pm  
Blogger RC said...

Hey Chris, thanks alot for your information. This is exactly the sort of collaborative comment I was hoping to inspire for this blog.

9:11 pm  
Anonymous Kreg said...

I dug up some more ship manifests from ancestry.com that should be of interest...

On the manifest for the 1908 Smerth family arrival, the last child in the list whose name is difficult to read is "Ignatz". According to Chris' census data, this name was later changed to Edward. The "Tanie" transcription should actaully be Fanie. Ancestry.com lists it alternately as Tanie and Janie.

In that 1908 manifest, there is also a third page (not mentioned in your post) on which the Smerth family appears. This page is a list of passengers who were detained on arrival. Apparently Fanie and her 5 children were detained at the port until they could be picked up by Wilhelm ("Husb Wm" = husband Wilhelm) whose address is listed as 380 Alabama Ave., Brooklyn.

You can grab the Smerth records here:
Whilhelm arrives - 1907
Fannie and kids arrive 1 - 1908
Fannie and kids arrive 2 - 1908
Fannie and kids detained - 1908

I also accessed the Henry and June manifests from the 20's and 30's. Unfortunatly, I was only able to get US arrival documents so I couldn't check for the 1927 departure of June and Jean to test the Lewin hypothesis:

June returns from trip with Jean - 1927
Henry and June return from Europe - 1928
June returns from Paris - 1930
June returns from Paris - 1933
Henry returns from Paris - 1935
Henry returns from Paris - 1936
Henry returns from Greece - 1940

Of interest in these documents is that June is consistently listed as having been born in Brooklyn on January 28, 1906 (one instance has June 28, but this could be a transcription error - Jun. looks like Jan.). The Julia Smerth records indicate a birthdate of 1902 in Austria. So either June is lying about her age to appear younger or the Smerth info is a red herring.

Also, June goes by June Mansfield when travelling alone, but is June Miller when travelling with Henry.

When Henry and June return from Europe, their address is 116 Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn. And when June returns alone from Paris in 1930 and 1933 her addresses are 146 W. 4th Street, NY and 1 Milligan Place, NY (both in Greenwich Village).

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