A Likely Public Charge

Early in my research, my father shared with me the family story that his grandmother – Wladyslawa (Winifred) Tobolski – was detained at Ellis Island until her brother (or was it her brother-in-law?) came from Chicago to claim her. That always struck me as odd, until I found her arrival record and discovered the pages at the end, the “Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry.”

Wladyslawa Tobolska was born in Kazmierz-Biskupi, Poland, the daughter of Wojciech and Katherine Jachnek Tobolski. She immigrated to the United States aboard the Vaderland, arriving at New York from Antwerp in May 1906. Quickly settling in Chicago to live with her older sister and her family, Wladyslawa later married Stanislaus Piotrowski in April 1915 in Gary, Indiana.

Yet when Wladyslawa first came to the United States, she was only 8 years old. I think of my daughter, approximately the same age now as Wladyslawa was then, and I am simply amazed. The fear and excitement that must have gripped her during the trans-Atlantic journey!

Wladyslawa Tobolska, arr. New York, 29 May 1906, Vaderland, p. 100.

At first glance, Wladyslawa appears to be part of the Barizinska family, but we can see Tobolska written in a smaller font and at a slight upward diagonal, suggesting the surname was written in later at some point. The “Admitted” stamp on the left indicates that Wladyslawa and her traveling companions can be found in the Likely Public Charge pages at the end of the Vaderland‘s manifest. Marian Smith’s outstanding “Manifest Markings” articles provide additional information on this fascinating sub-story of the immigration phenomenon.

The family story, as told by my father, is indeed supported by the evidence. Being so young and unable to provide for herself, Wladyslawa was indeed detained by Ellis Island officials. Claimed by someone, perhaps her brother as the family tradition suggests, Wladyslawa reappears in the 1910 Census, living with her sister and her family in Chicago.

My father does not recognize the Barizinska name, nor has it come up elsewhere in my research. Here is an image from the “Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry” at the end of the Vaderland manifest.

Wladislawa Tobolska, arr. New York, 29 May 1906, Vaderland, p. 139.

That being said, there appears to be a family connection, as the “cous” mark shows next to Josefa’s entry. Perhaps Josepha (and Fanina) are cousins and traveled with Wladyslawa to ensure her safety in the long voyage across the Atlantic. Regardless, I have some new names and avenues to explore, both in the United States and in Poland.

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