A Visit to the Family History Center

I’m currently taking an online course from the University of Toronto – The National Institute for Genealogical Studies entitled Research at Family History Centers.  Even though I’ve been to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City many times, I’ve never been to a local Family History Center (FHC).

As part of one of the assignments, today I stopped in at the Family History Center in San Bruno, California.  The FHC in San Francisco is actually closer to my house, but the FHC is on my way home from work.  I decided that my goals were to find out how the center operates and to order a couple of films.

After I arrived at the FHC, I thought I would examine the Passenger Records on Ancestry.com, since I don’t have access to these records through my own subscription at home.  I searched for Sarwetnik, hoping to find a passenger arrival record for Joseph Sarwetnik’s family in a port other than Ellis Island.  I was not successful.

S.S. Volendam

The S.S. Volendam

Unexpectedly, when I searched for Jan Savitt, I found a passenger record for Jan on the S.S. Volendam, sailing on a West Indies Cruse round trip from New York, from August 27, 1938 to September 8, 1938.  I imagine Jan was providing the entertainment for the cruise.

Jan Savitt Manifest 1938

Passenger Manifest for Jan Savitt on the S.S. Volendam

Click on the link for a PDF copy of Jan Savitt’s Passenger Manifest.  The manifest states that:

  • Jan Savitt is listed on line 12 of list number 8
  • Jan was an unmarried male who was 27 years old at the time
  • Jan stated that he was a native of the United States, born in Philadelphia, Pa. on September 4th, 1910
  • Jan’s address was 1619 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Pa.

Well, this is an interesting find.  Other documents, however, suggest that Jan was born in Shumsk, Russia in 1908, not in Philadelphia in 1910.

While at the FHC, I also searched the FHL Catalog for Shumsk, the ancestral village of Jan Savitt.  The FHL holds microfilms for the Roman Catholic Church from 1841 to 1907 (with many gaps) and for the Orthodox Church from 1882-1906.  While Jan Savitt’s family was Jewish, residents were required to register births, marriages, and deaths at the Catholic Church, regardless of their religion.  Unfortunately, non-Catholics did not always comply.  Since Shumsk was largely Jewish, there is a chance some Jewish records will be found in these Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church records.

Finally, I ordered two films from the Parish of Piotrawin (including Births from 1850-1896, Marriages from 1826-1913, and Deaths from 1888-1909).  Ordering the films was easy and relatively inexpensive ($11.00).  When the films arrive, the Center will call me and I can examine the films for about two months.  I hope to find Stanislaw Markiewicz and his parents on these films.

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2 Responses to A Visit to the Family History Center

  1. Arnold Schwartz says:

    Hi Steve,

    I too need the passenger manifest for the SS Volendam, on her New York arrival on June 4, 1928. Since Ellis Island closed in 1924, what web site did you find the passenger manifest for 1938?

    I also need to order microfilms from the LDS, that contain births, marriages and deaths from a pre revolutionary town in then Russia. And I too realized that under the Tzar of Russia all the Russian Orthodox churches were required to register everyone. even if they were Jews or Jypsies. Please tell me what to ask for at the LDS, so that I can order the films for the Parish of Jekobpils Latvia(Jacobstadt Russia).



  2. Hi Arnie,

    I found the passenger manifest for the SS Volendam on http://www.ancestry.com . Family History Centers and many public libraries have access to all the databases on Ancestry.com. I searched just the US Immigration Collection on Ancestry.com to make sure I saw only immigration records without all the census records, phone directory records, social security records, etc. There’s a link to the US Immigration Collection on the main page at Ancestry.com under the heading OTHER COLLECTIONS.

    I found some church records for Jacobstadt / Jekabpils in the Family History Library Catalog at http://www.familysearch.org . I clicked on the “LIBRARY” tab at the top of the page, and then I clicked on “Family History Library Catalog” I then clicked on the “Place Search” button and entered Jekabpils (notice this is spelled Jekabpils rather than Jekobpils) as the “Place”. I left the “Part of (optional)” space blank. I then clicked on the link for “Latvia – Jekabpils” and then clicked on “Latvia, Jekabpils – Church Records”. Unfortunately, the only records I found were for Kirchenbuch, 1890-1923 Evangelische Kirche Jakobstadt (Kurland). Clicking on this link shows that the records are for:
    “Parish registers of baptisms, marriages, deaths and confirmations for the German (dt.) and Latvian (lt.) protestants in Jakobstadt, Courland, Russia; now Jçkabpils, Latvia. Text in German, with some Latvian, after 1891 in Russian.” You can get to the same place by typing “Jakobstadt” (notice the spelling difference here, too) in the Place search box.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Family History Library has records that would include Jewish records. It wouldn’t hurt to stop by your local Family History Center and ask them if they can help you get further than this.

    Sorry I can’t be of more help with the church records, but you may be able to find something in the US Immigration Collection on Ancestry.com.


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