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Immigration Records: Episode 212 <<

Cathy's Story: Island of Tears

Cathy In looking for the passenger ship arrival records for all of her father's family, Cathy Horn began a search for her great-aunt Catharina (née Horn) Spiegel and her three daughters, who arrived from Hungary in the early part of this century. She knew that Catharina and her three daughters - Margaret, Elizabetha, and Catharina - had arrived in New York in late November 1910.

During a research trip to the National Archives, she looked for "Spiegel" and located the ship. A search of the ship's passenger arrival records uncovered the listing of Catharina and her three daughters. As was her practice, Cathy then turned to the end of the list to review the list of detainees, those persons who were detained on Ellis Island while waiting to learn whether they would be allowed entrance into the U.S. Surprisingly, she found Catharina's three daughters listed there. This meant there was a story, and Cathy couldn't wait to go home and call her cousin Maria, Catharina Speigel's granddaughter.

That night, while waiting for her cousin to call, she reread the copies of the passenger list and detainees list, wondering what story they held. So excited was she on finding the list of detainees, that she ignored the obvious answer which lay before her. But at long last, her mind finally registered the surprising piece of information on the list that she had overlooked. Catharina Spiegel had a fourth daughter, Apollonia, only 15 months old!

immigration In the entry next to her name, it looked as if someone had written the words "died December 3, 1910." Finally, after what seemed like years, her cousin Maria returned her call, and Cathy told her about Apollonia. After a long silence Maria began to speak, saying that she had vague recollections of her mother and grandmother discussing Ellis Island, a baby who died there, and their longing to know where the baby was buried. Maria said that her own mother and two aunts had remained on Ellis Island for several days, alone and frightened children in a foreign country without their mother. Maria also recalled that her grandmother and baby were taken to a hospital, where they were separated. After a few days, her grandmother was told that the baby had died. So Catharina Spiegel, upon her release from the hospital, continued on to Ellis Island to pick up her other three other daughters. Together they traveled to Pennsylvania, where she and her husband lived until their deaths, never knowing what happened to their baby, Apollonia.

During another research trip to the New York City Municipal Archives, Cathy's search of the death records for Richmond County, more commonly known as Staten Island, turned up Apollonia's death record. She and her mother had stayed at the Hospital for Contagious Diseases on Hoffman Island, a small island located off of Staten Island. According to the death certificate, 15-month-old Apollonia died ten days after the ship arrived in New York.

Apollonia's death certificate also showed that she was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Queens County, New York. On writing to the cemetery, Cathy received a letter confirming that Apollonia was buried there in an unmarked grave and a map showing the location within the cemetery where her body was interred.

After being lost to her family for 83 years and almost lost to memory, Apollonia had finally been found. Although she never landed on Ellis Island, known both as a gateway to America and an island of tears, her name will be remembered on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island. Baby Apollonia will never be forgotten again.

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