National Archives at Philadelphia

Walter Spector's Genealogical Journey

Walter Spector's Genealogical Journey

I began the search for my family history at the Cape May County New Jersey Court House in the mid 1980s. I discovered that my great-grandparents purchased property in the town of Woodbine. In 1999, with serious determination, the search continued. I set out to learn every detail about my descendents' country of origin and their histrory in this country. I wanted to see ship's manifests, naturalization papers, census records, draft registration, birth and death records, and other legal papers that told my family's stories. Much of this journey took me to the National Archives.

As a resident of the Philadelphia area, I was close to the National Archives office in Center City Philadelphia. With the assistance of the many archivists, I was able to find many of the records mentioned and more. A parallel search took me to the City of Philadelphia Archives, City Hall, and the Temple University Urban Archives. I was able to find an archive of city photos, newspapers, and death and birth certificates.

By this time, many genealogy records became available on the internet, including Ellis Island records and those many of commercial entities. Now some of the research and a lot of foot work could be completed at home. Yet, I continue to come into the National Archives to do further digging. I have also found where other relatives posted our family history online. Mary Eby Spector, my grandmother, her sister, Rose Eby Levey, and their mother Bella travelled on the Red Strar Line and settled in Woodbine, New Jersey. Bella's ship included a cargo of 21 bales of animal hair. I've now traced several family lines that traveled to America on various Red Star Line ships.

Research in other states has taken me to the National Archives at New York City and the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton. Each location had an abundance of information and is staffed by experts who were of great assistance.

In 2004, I joined the Jewish Geanealogical Society of Philadelphia to meet with people with common interests and many years of experience in searching their family histories. Besides collecting documents, I have researched and created family trees for six families. My search has taken me from California to Argentina. I probe for artifacts, sometimes at flee markets, that can be shared, as well as family stories, photographs, and scraps of paper that document the almost- lost history.

This year I have been able to expand my interest in collecting postcards about Philadelphia to include my interest in genealogy. I started to collect postcards of the ships on which my relatives traveled from Europe. So far, I collected about twenty-five postcards and to my surprise, I noticed recently that half of them were of the Red Star Line (provide link to pdf of Spector postcards images and caption). The postcards illustrate the ships and contained promotional messages that present the grandeur of traveling by sea. Some of my family traveled on the Red Star Line from Antwerp to Philadelphia and New York City. From the ledger records of Jewish banks (link to pdf of bank page and caption provided by Walter Spector), I learned that some came in steerage, while other came on second-class passage.

I do not think that my genealogial search will end at this point. I still have not uncovered the all of the past generations that remained in Europe.