Bronisława Sanetra: 1911 Ellis Island and Special Inquiry
Bronisława Sanetra traveled with two women that I’m convinced she was related to and knew well. But were either women responsible for her? Did Marianna leave Minneapolis to go escort Bronisława from Poland to her family? Are there more records to go with this Special Inquiry page? I asked those questions for about 10 years now, and I can finally say the answer to all these questions is “no”. Here are some things I learned to help me conclude that.
What was Special Inquiry? A very generalized summary: if an inspector thought you could be a “burden to society” you were held, until a decision could be made. Examples: Poor health, possible criminal, no job skills, immigration violations, and traveling without an adult could mean possible orphan. If you were under the age of 16, you were only held long enough to contact who you where traveling to, your sponsor. Sometimes with other violations listed on a person’s record, they were held longer, interviewed, and that interview was recorded. I thought this page explained Special Inquiry well, on Jewish Gen Web. This explains the manifest markings, and the Special Inquiry process. This also includes an example of someone who risked deportation and that hearing:
This Special Inquiry record was the last record I could find for Bronisława. I first knew about this record from an Ancestry.com hint. I had already saved the manifest record into my tree. The Special Inquiry lists at the back of the manifest were indexed later. I wanted an interview transcript like I saw on these two websites above, or at least more information about why Bronisława was held. I wrote letters, made lots of phone calls, got papers notarized, no answers. I kept being told the record didn’t exist anymore. But I had seen these other examples, so I kept asking archivists and showing these examples of what I was looking for. I made two different calls to ask an Ellis Island historian archivist questions. He helped me understand the Ellis Island process for children and explained what Bronisława’s record notations meant. April 2017, I went to the National Archives and spoke to someone specializing in these records. Here is my example of Bronisława Sanetra and what I learned these records mean. I was taught that if you were held and risked deportation, then a record might still exist. But the way Bronisława Sanetra’s record is notated, she was never in danger of deportation, so there is no further record available for her. She would not have been interviewed. Now I am content, and now I believe this Special Inquiry page is indeed the last record Ellis Island would have for Bronisława Sanetra.
The researchers I spoke to at Ellis Island and the National Archives explained to me what would have happened to Bronisława and Marianna. Bronisława was marked “under 16”. This notation means Bronisława was traveling unaccompanied. Ellis Island would have telegraphed whoever was listed, in this case, her father Adam Sanetra. Law enforcement would verify Adam Sanetra did indeed live at the address given. Adam Sanetra would have been telegraphed about which train his daughter Bronisława would be put on, and asked would he be there to pick her up? After Adam confirmed he would be there, then Ellis Island would put Bronisława on the train. Typically, “under 16” was a 24 hour hold. The fact that it took 5 days for Bronisława was unusual. I’m told that delay most likely meant there was some difficulty locating Adam Sanetra for him to reply to the telegram. There is no further notation, meaning as far as Ellis Island knew, she reached her family. If someone hadn’t been there to get Bronisława at the train station, she should have been returned to Ellis Island, and a notation would have been added to that effect.
Marianna Kłósak Wojtas was held because she violated “section 11.” Archivists I spoke to said they weren’t exactly sure what section 11 was, but it most likely means she violated a citizenship law. When you signed naturalization papers then, you also signed an oath you wouldn’t leave the country for 7 years without notifying authorities. Marianna had only been in the country about 5 years.
I looked through the manifest to see if anyone else was marked like Bronisława and Marianna. There were two others in their group. Anton Wolamin was also marked as under 16 and violating section 11. He left Ellis Island the day before Bronisława and Marianna though, on February 24th. Amelia Fic was also marked on Special Inquiry, but it appears she was deported though.
Here is the example of Anton Wolamin:
Note, Anton has a niece and nephew listed with him. All 3 of their meals are counted and listed with Anton, as was the way all families were notated on this record. But no such notation is listed for Bronisława and Marianna. They have separate meals calculated. Although Anton is an adult accompanying two children, so his being held is a little confusing to me.
Here is the listing for Amelia Fic:
All of the people in these examples were in section 14 of the ship. Each section is often about 2-3 pages on the manifest. The number on the Special Inquiry page listed in these examples after the number 14 (section) gives the line number on the manifest, in section 14. So Anna Lach, Marianna Kłósak Wojtas and Bronisława Sanetra were line # 5, 6 and 7, in section 14. Anton, his niece and nephew were line 18, 19 and 20. Amelia Fic was line 16. Here they are on the manifest, both pages:
I now know that Bronisława did travel with relatives. Marianna most likely rode the same train as Bronisława, because they left the same day. But we don’t know for sure. Archivists told me the train from Ellis Island to Chicago was non-stop, arrived the same time each evening. Then the next stop was Minneapolis. But neither Marianna Wojtas or Anna Lach would have been technically responsible for Bronisława, or they wouldn’t have needed to detain Bronisława long enough to confirm her family would be there and that the correct address was given. Their meals were separate, no relationship was notated on the manifest or special inquiry. I’d like to think that when Bronisława didn’t reach her family, she would want to go to family she knew, like the women she traveled with. But she was also only 9 years old with just enough money for traveling expenses. I have been trying to learn what I can about the Minneapolis relatives, in case when Bronisława was old enough, she lived with or near these relatives.
Another thing archivists told me to consider was the IPL. Immigration Protection League. Various religious groups and societies greeted women and children, then helped them travel safely to their destinations, staying with them until the immigrant reached the person they would live with in the United States. Hundreds of women were involved in helping immigrating women and children with things such as translations, and serving as companions for safety. The IPL was started in Chicago by Grace Abbott who worked with Jane Addams at the Hull House. The Immigration Protection League started for Chicago in 1908. By 1911, they had a building across the street from the train station in Chicago to help family find each other and find a place to stay if needed. In 1901, Jane Addams started the Juvenile Protection Agency, in part to protect children immigrating. So I am told that in 1911, Bronisława should have had someone ride the train with her from Ellis Island to Chicago, that spoke Polish, to safely get her to her family. And that those agencies and groups were created to try to prevent the very thing that happened with Bronisława: not getting to our family somehow.
For now, I can say that Bronisława Sanetra was still alive and Ellis Island notates she was put on a train February 25th, 1911 to go to her family. She was not returned to Ellis Island, she was admitted to the USA. She is not in the cemetery for people who died at Ellis Island, she did not file for Social Security, and she did not apply for US Citizenship. She was not adopted through the Catholic Church or through the State of Illinois. She was not married (or any record) at Holy Cross church in Minneapolis, the church her related travel companions attended. The family in Poland did not hear from her, they thought she was with us. And she was not on the train when our family went to meet her in Chicago. Feb 25th, 1911 at age 9 (listed as age 7) is the last (most recent) record we can find. Paul Sanetra and his siblings wrote countless letters throughout their lives looking for Bronisława. Letters to unions, churches, Red Cross and other groups trying to reunite families. I keep checking through newspapers and keep an eye out for new record updates. I am still determined to find out what happened, and how long Bronisława lived. It would be really amazing if Bronisława lived long enough to have children and her children did DNA tests.
Here is a timeline chart I made:
Note: This ship manifest shows Bronisława was leaving Regina Maślonka. Regina’s maiden name was Żuławska. Her first husband Wawrzyniec Wandzel died in 1887 and she secondly married Szymeon Maślonka. Szymeon’s first marriage was to Regina Kłósak. I have not yet found a connection between Szymeon’s first wife and Marianna Kłósak who traveled with Bronisława, nor with Kłósak ancestors of both Adam Sanetra and Rosalie Wandzel. But I continue to look at possible connections. See post about Bronisława missing, my “100 year old mystery”.