Sunday, July 8, 2018

Chasing Great Grandfather Anton Gailunas Across the Ocean

I've been on the hunt to find out more about my maternal great grandfather Anton Gailunas. If you've been following me on Twitter, I have been sharing some of my recent findings while reviewing ship manifest records. My grandmother has asked me to assist in finding out more about why he left for America and left his mother and father behind, to help fill in his immigration story.

Here's what I knew about Anton when I first started researching: He was known to others in the family as "Eddie Gail" and was a jewelry engraver.  He was born on August 23rd. His wife's name was Mollie. 

One of the first documents I found was his petition for citizenship.  That's how I found his birth name "Anton Gailunas". He is listed with my great grandmother Mollie (whose birth name was Mathilde Siegel) as well as my grandmother, Dorothy, living at 467 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY. Anton listed he was born in Riga, Latvia. This has been a subject of debate as several census records list his birth country as Lithuania. 

I knew I found his naturalization petition for the following reasons:

1. Lists his name in America that family knew him as (Eddie Gail)
2. My grandmother is listed along with his wife Mathilde (and I have reviewed her citizenship petition)
3. Occupation of engraver is correct
4. Brooklyn, NY address was confirmed with my grandmother
5. One of the witnesses was Rose Lubinsky (sister-in-law to Anton, Mathilde's sister)

Anton's Declaration of Intention (with picture!)

Anton's Petition for Citizenship

After confirming the petition was accurate, I went one page ahead and found the declaration of intention and found a picture of him listed. The declaration also listed Mathilde's maiden name "Siegal" and her name she was known as in America "Mollie". His description was listed: blue eyes, brown hair, 5'5" tall, 145 pounds with a birth mark on right side of neck near jowel. Address was listed at 374 2nd St, Brooklyn, NY. 

Recently, I was researching his immigration to America. I found a 1915 ship manifest record that showed an Anton Gailunas listed as a sailor heading to NY from Hull, England (which is where Anton was listed as sailing from on his petition for citizenship). However, what was significant about this record is that the line is crossed out. In speaking with other genealogists, this indicates that Anton probably didn't make the boat and was struck out to keep an accurate record of crew members.

1915 Ship Manifest for S.S. Novgorod - shows Anton Gailunas' record crossed out

I went back to the petition for naturalization and focused on looking for the ship manifest for the S.S. Northwestern Bridge arriving in New Orleans on April 26, 1920. No records came up. I was stumped - did they not survive? Then recently several of my genealogist friends pointed out it was probably a merchant ship (similar to the 1915 manifest). One of my good friends found the ship manifest record for the Northwestern Bridge. The name wasn't very precise but that looks to be Anton listed as "A. Golnar". His rank was listed as "A.B.", able seaman.

1920 Ship Manifest Arriving in New Orleans from England - A. Golnar appears to be my great grandfather

What's next to find about Anton?

1. Ship manifest from Latvia (or nearest port) to England. I did find a possible manifest from the Hamburg passenger list record. I need to review this document further.

2. Research his father a bit further and see if I can find any details about him in Riga. It might necessitate an email to the archives there to see if they can find anything.

3. Research more about Anton's employment as an engraver in the U.S.

If you think you may be related to Anton, please contact me at shamrockgenealogist[at] I would love to connect with Gailunas relatives.

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