How can I find the microfilm to NJ passenger list when the film is blurred online?

+3 votes
My Oma passed away last year. She was very private about her family. We have the hurdle that all immediate relatives were born in Germany. My Opa, her husband, passed away almost 20 years ago. No one is living in this immediate circle of questioning.

The only real and accurate record I have is her naturalization paperwork. She states she "legally entered the US on June 3, 1960 via S&W 36". This touched down in NJ. She states that when she enters the US, it is lawfully by the name Renate Siemons (married name- birth, 1935, marriage -1957 in Germany). We, the family, think her maiden name may not be accurate. She states it was Kowalski. When she was young, she told us that she was pulled from her mother who was placed in a concentration camp.

Before her death, she got rid of all of the paperwork associated with her German heritage. I know aunts and uncles that have visited us, but now I have no point of contact. I feel I have exhausted every option. I have scrolled through thousands of pages of microfilm since I know her handwriting. If someone could give me a new way to look or research, I would very much appreciate it!
WikiTree profile: Renate Siemons
in Genealogy Help by Nicole Guymon G2G2 (2.2k points)
I would be willing to share any info. I really need tips- I know some German and my husband speaks Spanish/French. I just need a tip on where to search next. German birth/marriage  records show nothing. I know my Opa changed his last name from Siemon to Siemons. I've traced all his family back yet there was always a language barrier between his family and my Oma. I know her sisters and brothers name. I know their kid's name. I don't know that I am exact on spelling. I just dont know what else to do.

1 Answer

+1 vote
Best answer

Dear Nicole:

My heartfelt thoughts go out to you regarding your Oma and her childhood experience.  The holocaust affected Poles as much as, if not more so, than the Jewish community, and the soulless deeds should never be a part of humanity again for anyone, for any reason.

You can start by contacting the state of New Jersey to find the department responsible for these shipping records, or archives.  Once located, it may be possible to request access to the microfilm, or microfiche that appears blurry.  You should document all you can about the image.  If there are any visible numbers or letters, record them and use the information in your inquirires.  

As well, it may be possible to "clean up" the image.  Download the image in ,jpg or .tiff format and look for graphic imaging services on the web.  If you own your own copy of Photoshop, or Graphic Converter (Mac OS X), you can do this yourself.  You want to adjust the "resolution" higher (adding more pixels), then adjust the contrast, brightness and hue.  The advantage of having a Photoshop professional do it, is that they are familiar with the best ways to "enhance" the image to make it readable.  Photoshop is a complex piece of software to use and requires years of training to use it to its fullest potential.

Nest, you can contact the Polish National archives (Krzysztof Wiƛniewski, and explain your story.  I was pursuing my grandfather by his 1906 Polish passport (in Russian).  After having it translated, I had an address.  It tuns out that the village name was a "Russian interpretation" of the Polish name, and thus incorrect.  It was the Polish National Archives who revealed this to me and produced an image of the documentation of my grandfather's birth and I now have my great grandfather's name (Pavel and location).  Progress!

Lastly, if there is any indication that your Oma may have been Jewish, you can try to locate any information regarding the Kowalski name.  When first searching for my grandfather, the village name Pultusky, was associated as a Jewish community.   Jewish persecution is often mistakenly associated with pre-WWII and during WWII.  However, Polish history demonstrates accounts dating to the 1200s, so the challenge of finding possible Jewish roots is that many "changed" their names and used "geography" or "occupation" in their new name.  With Kowalski, it is always assumed to be "occupation" (blacksmith), but there is also a Jewish community (Kowal) with a history of "skilled craftsmen" that could have been adopted.  In these cases, the Jewish name is lost, unless it is archived by the synagogue. As an incidence of occurrence, the name "Kowalski" does not appear much in Jewish name indexes (less than 1%), but it is there.  There are a couple of Rabbis with the name and some from Pultusky.

If you have any information about "where" in Poland she was from, it would be helpful.

This will not be easy, and it is obviously painful.  But you will gain "closure" and a sense of "grounding" and strength, when you know "who" you are in the end.

I wish you all the luck possible!

If you are on, there are resources there too.

Feel free to email me directly.


selected by Nicole Guymon
First, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. That was a lot of great info. I was hoping I would find some answers in the fact that she brought two children over with her gaining naturalization for the both of them as well. They had been born in Wiesbaden. Her naturalization paperwork states she was born in Bottrop, Westphalen. She always told us Idstein. I guess I am also still wondering if it would be possible to bypass this much documentation. How was she able to fill out her paperwork to be an American citizen? Did they not require proof at the time?

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