Yakab Ziwerts and Berta Ermanson on their wedding day, 2 June 1913 in Dubrava, Russia

Yakab Ziwerts and Berta Ermanson
on their wedding day, 2 June 1913
in Dubrava, Russia

Like millions of Americans descended from 20th century immigrants, my husband’s family has heard the story of their great-grandparents’ arrival through Ellis Island. It is a romantic recollection of two young Latvian-Russians, Yakab and Berta ERHMANSON ZIVERTS.

As the story goes, they had inadvertantly purchased different types of tickets for their trip from Liverpool to the United States; one was as a tourist and one as an immigrant, which required them to be processed separately. But they refused to leave each other and eventually convinced the officials to let them stay together through the process. From Jersey City, they took a train to Philadelphia to meet Berta’s brother, who had previously settled in Bucks County.

When I started researching this family line, one of the first things I did was look for their immigration records. I searched long and hard, with many name variants and date ranges, with no success. Upon a visit to the National Archives in Philadelphia, I located the naturalization records for Yakab and Berta Ziwerts, who were now James and Bertha SIWERT. The records indicated that they arrived through the Port of Boston, not New York. There is a discrepancy with the dates, that I am not sure to make of, if anything. The Certificate of Arrival states they arrived on April 5, 1914, the Declaration of Intent states April 23, and family records say July 10.

Naturalization papers of James Siwert (aka Yakab Ziverts)

Naturalization papers of James Siwert (aka Yakab Ziverts)

I relayed this information to my husband’s grandmother Violet, the Siwert’s oldest daughter, and years later to her younger siblings. They all maintained the Ellis Island story.

“They went to Boston first because the weather was bad, but then went to Ellis Island,” said her sister Lillie.

Diverting to Boston due to weather made sense. But why then get back on a boat to New York and go through processing again at Ellis? Acting on a recommendation from a vastly more experienced genealogist (Megan Smolenyak,) I went to work checking ship arrivals in the Boston and New York newspapers, to see if the same ship was reported as arriving in both ports several days apart. She suggested that the passengers were processed in Boston, then brought to New York where the ship was probably going to be picking up other passengers or cargo for the return to Liverpool. They wouldn’t need to be re-processed, but there should be record of the ship’s arrival.

A news clip in the Boston Journal confirmed part of the story. The weather was indeed a factor. It delayed the arrival of the Cymric into Boston, which was its original destination on this trip.

Several questions remain: Why would they have traveled to Boston, when their family was in Philadelphia? According to advertisements, the Cymric made trips to both New York and Boston from Liverpool. Did they make a mistake when purchasing their tickets? Did they get back on a boat in Boston to New York and go through Ellis Island? I hesitate to write off the memories of Nana and her siblings, as they would have heard this directly from their parents. Any suggestions on ways to confirm or disprove?