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  • Susan Weinberg

Tracing Their Journey

Updated: May 10, 2022

In our prior article we introduced you to the Industrial Removal Office that aided Jewish immigrants in traveling to the interior of the United States by assisting with jobs and transportation. We learned that 1400 Jews came to Minnesota through the IRO and became the nucleus around which many of our families grew. So how do you determine if your relatives were among them? To find that out you will need to access two separate sites, one holds the indices and the other the records. The index will tell you if they used the IRO so let’s start with that.

Searching the Index

Our entry point is the Center for Jewish History in New York, an organization that works with a number of partner organizations. Through their site you can access the indices that are held in the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute. You can find them at If you type in a name it will search their collections and identify where it can be found. Their collections are extensive and include indexes for Jewish orphan asylums, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and many other databases. We are going to focus on the Industrial Removal Office so type in Minnesota as the keyword and select the Industrial Removal Office in the field below that. You will see that there are 1393 records. To the right you will see a brief summary of each entry. The database is composed of immigrants to Minneapolis 54%, St. Paul 32%, Duluth 5% and the balance is divided between small towns throughout Minnesota.

Let’s put “Abraham Katz Minnesota” into the original search field with the Industrial Removal Office selected as the database. You should get an entry for Abe Katz - 11/6/1907 Minneapolis, MN along with the critical information of Box 9, Page 147, Entry 23002

Now we are going to take that information and find the actual entry at where the related documents are held. Ancestry is a pay site, but most libraries provide it free onsite. Hennepin County libraries are temporarily making Ancestry available remotely so get your library card and log in if that is your library. If not, contact your library to determine what is available.

Finding the Records

Once on Ancestry go to Search at the top and in the dropdown select Card Catalog. In the Title field, type in Industrial Removal Office. Click on the link beneath the title of the collection. Here it will tell you a little about the collection. To the right you will see a dropdown menu. We are focused on Removal Records so go to that entry and choose box 9 as indicated for Abe Katz. Now we are going to look for both the page and entry number. The screens and pages don’t line up exactly, but with a little trial and error you will discover that screen 152 corresponds to page 147 as noted in the information on Abe Katz. Look for the entry 23002 and move across to your left where you will see two entries that say Minneapolis.

One person is named Lena Chait and the other Abr Y. Katz and they are coming from the same address in NY. The address tied out to where I knew they were in New York. Abraham went by Abram Yosef and that appeared to be the abbreviation. At first I was puzzled by the Chait, but I remembered that there was a marriage between Abram’s daughter Lena and a Hyatt. You will note that it has their ages and professions. One column which is especially valuable indicates how many months they had been in the country. Their record said three months which tied to the immigration record that I had found. If I didn’t already have that record this would give me a clue as to when they came so I could find it.

Now let’s widen our lens. Go to the top of the page to see what is found in each column. If they came as a family, it would indicate the names of family members. In our case, the two different names are probably the reason this was not done. If a man was married, but he didn’t come with his family, it indicates if the family was in the US or Europe. In the last few columns, they assessed if the move was a success. Sometimes it was judged unsatisfactory and it may indicate that they subsequently went to a different destination.

Interestingly, in the story that I was following, the young woman traveled under her married name even though she was not yet married. Apparently she was trying it on for size. She and her intended got a marriage license the week she arrived and married soon after. They obviously knew each other before her arrival and came from the same Lithuanian town. Her father returned to New York, but after several years, he and other family members returned to Minneapolis where they now had a nucleus of family members to welcome them.

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