Day 9 – Mapping Your Ancestors

Today’s Family History Connection Experiment activity has us sharing locations of our ancestors. It makes sense to combine that with my current project – the life of my maternal great-grandfather, Sigmund Lichtenthal.

Sigmund was one of six children born to Rachmiel Lichtenthal and Antonia “Taube” Beller. Born in 1875 in Tarnopol, Poland, Sigmund traveled to Budapest, Hungary and trained as a hat-maker. In 1894 he was working for a hatmaker at 22 Schönbrunnerstrasse in Vienna, Austria.

By 1899, he had married Rosa Berger and settled into a new home at 23 Wassnergasse in Vienna, Austria. By 1927, he owned the thriving hat and shoe business, Lital. His family resided at 6 Nordbergstrasse where the main store was also located. There were five branch stores throughout Vienna. During my trip to Vienna in 2018, we visited 88a Mariahilferstrasse, one of the branch locations.

After losing the business to Hitler in 1939, Sigmund and his wife moved to 32/7 Operngasse. They were lucky to be able to emigrate in 1941 from Vienna to New York via France and Portugal on the ship Serpa Pinto. That wasn’t their original plan, however. More on that below.

Once in the USA, Sigmund and Rosa spent many years in Norwalk, Connecticut, living at 14 Kemp Street. 1946 found them living in New York City at 477 Central Park West. Their final address was 485 Central Park West where Sigmund lived from 1954 until his death in 1957. Rosa remained in the apartment until her death in 1961.

Mapping can be very helpful in helping us get an understanding of our ancestors’ lives. Plotting residences can give one a sense of how far people traveled. It can also help sort out timelines. While researching Scott’s great-grandmother, the only way I could make sense of her “escapades” was to plot her activity on a map.

I used Google Maps to create this map of Sigmund’s locations throughout his life. Click on the map to open in Google Maps.

I am so lucky to have many documents related to my ancestors. One special item is Rosa’s 1939 Austrian passport. As shown in the image below, Sigmund and Rosa were scheduled to travel to America by way of Russia and Japan.

Original Route as described on Rosa’s passport. The route was dated Feb. 18, 1941.

I have no idea the route they might have taken from Japan to New York, but its a moot point since they were given a new route a few days later. That’s probably a really good thing. I can’t imagine what that trip might have been like for my great-grandparents, who were 65 years old at the time. The trip across Russia would have been exhausting. The voyage from the mainland to Japan and then on to the United States might have been more than they could have handled. Perhaps I will discover the reason for the change in itinerary as I dig deeper into Sigmund’s life.

The map below shows the actual emigration route. Sigmund and Rosa started their journey on Feb. 26, 1941. After traveling on land (most likely by train) they arrived at Lisbon, Portugal where they boarded the ship the Serpa Pinto for the voyage to America.

The approved route for the Lichtenthal’s emigration. Dated Feb. 26, 1941, it appears they had a choice of traveling to Aachen, Germany, Welkenraeth, Belgium or Hargarten Falk/Hargarten-aux-Mines, France on their way to the ship in Lisbon, Portugal.
Actual emigration route – Feb. 26, 1941-March 30, 1941.
The purple markers indicate the locations of choice as listed above. I’m not sure of the exact overland route they ultimately chose.

While working on this post, I discovered some information about the ship my great-grandparents sailed on as well as new information on the emigration of Jews from Vienna to the United States in 1941. That shot my whole day!! I got so involved in this new research I did NOTHING else all day!! That’s what I love about family history – you never know where the “road” will take you! (See what I did there? A mapping reference!!)

Spend a little time mapping your ancestors. You could use US Census Records or City Directories to plot residences. You could trace their emigration routes as I did. Or, make your descendants happy – map your residences for posterity. After all, your story needs to be told as well!

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