Sorry, this will be a longer one. When I was done writing it, I thought about including the whole family in this post, but I decided otherwise. That would be too much information, I guess.
This week I would like to introduce you to Paul Hugo Rudolf KOPPETSCH. He is the husband of my greataunt Else NICOLAUS. Regular readers might recognize her name. She is coming up once in a while in my blogposts. Her story and the one from her family just intrigues me.
But to start at the beginning. What do I know about Paul?
The first document I have found for him was a passenger list from 1928, the year he emigrated from Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany (today’s Kaliningrad, Russia) to New York on board the vessel S.S. Hamburg.
There he is stated as being 36 years old, married and working as a railroad laborer. His birthplace is given with Daniels. I really thought that this is a mistake, but Auntie Google helped me out. I really found a tiny place called Daniels in the county of Königsberg. His last residence was the city of Königsberg.
And how often did I tell you to check and re-check and check the sources again? And what do you think how often I fall into the same trap? Well, you are right! I didn’t check the second page of the passenger lists just until yesterday. I cannot believe I made this “beginner’s” mistake. But I think not even a newbie would be that “stupid”.. no offense meant, you get my drift ;)
When I started looking online for the name KOPPETSCH, I always fell over a Wilhelm (William) KOPPETSCH emigrating from Königsberg to New York. This guy got really annoying, since he was always where I looked for my KOPPETSCH ;)
The second page provides more detailed Information about the closest relative back home, which in this case is his wife Else in Königsberg, even with the full adress. Then the final Destination, Information about how much money he had – $25 not much to start a new life – some political questions, his appearance (5 feet 11 inches with blonde hair and brown eyes) and the most important thing: Who paid for his passage?
It was his brother! His name was William KOPECK, he lived in the Bronx – 2328 Turnbull Av.
Is that the Wilhelm (William), I always stumbled over? Note to myself: dig deeper into this.
On Valentine’s Day 1929 Paul declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States of America. And with this document I have more detailed information about him for the first time.
Oh.. he grew one inch from the time he arrived in 1928, being 6 feet now ;) And it looks like blonde hair, brown hair.. who cares.
He was born on February 10, 1892 in Daniels, Germany. He is still living at his brother’s residence at 2328 Turnbull Avenue in New York, NY. And it is the first time I find a connection between him and Else. That is the name of his wife and she still resides in Germany.
The next trace I have of Paul is the 1930 US census. As a genealogist you have to be creative sometimes when it comes to names. I found him under the last Name KOPECK. He is 38 years old and he found work as a plumber.
In the meantime his wife Else had arrived with the three children Eva, Wilhelm and Harry. They entered the US in 1929.
Question: Does the US census 1930 have one or two pages? I only saved one page and don’t have access to the worldwide records anymore to check.
Actually the next document was like my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
It is his Petition for Naturalization from February 13, 1936.
He moved in the meantime to 1121 Vincent Ave, Bronx, NY. He still works as a plumber. I could “confirm” his birthdate and -place. That means, I at least have 2 different records with the same data. And it matches his age on the passenger list from 1928.
The document also provides his wedding date. He married Else on December 12, 1920 in Königsberg, Prussia, Germany. As well as detailed data for his wife and his two children. Harry is not mentioned here anymore.
One family story says he was killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver in either 1934 or 1936.
Those documents are great since there are cross references on them. E.g. his passenger lists. That really helps to clarify and to make sure that I have the correct person.
In the same year the family traveled back to Germany. Family story says because the daughter Eva fell sick and got treated in a hospital in Berlin. I actually wonder, if no US hospital was able to help them or if the family wanted to be surrounded by their relatives in case the worst thing happened.
The passenger list from November 12, 1936 of the vessel S.S. Hansa shows Paul, Else William and Eva.
As you can see, Paul is already stated as a US citizen. He received his US passport on October 11, 1936 in Berlin. What is odd is the fact that with the -“- it looks like also his son William was US citizen, but Else and Eva not (yet). They were still travelling with a visa.
What strikes me here is that their adress is given again with 2328 Tournbull New York, NY, although according to his petition they moved to 1121 Vincent Ave.
1937 Else filed her petition for Naturalization. The adress provided there is 1113 Dean Ave and Pauls occupation is given with “fireman”.
I wonder how often the family moved around and why?
For the 1940 census I had to be creative again. Who would have guessed their last name to be given with KOWPETCH?
And the census ist the first sign that Paul and Else are not together anymore. You might remember from my story about her, that she went missing between 1937 and 1948, where she re-appeared with a different last name in Paterson, NJ (VEAUDRY).
So, the 1940 census only shows Paul as head of the household but still married, his son William and his daughter Eva. They moved to East 74th Street in the meantime. And again I don’t get it how the enumerator could state they lived in the same place on April 1, 1935. And btw. here is son William ist given als “Al” like Alien. Only Paul is naturalized.
But that is not all I found out about him. I found a Military Registration Card from 1942 for him. And there it is the first time that I’ve seen an indication that he changes his name:
His full name is given with Paul Hugo KOPPETSCH but someone wrote KAY over his last name. I guess he was either sick and tired that people would always make up new names for him or he wanted to get rid of this “germanic” last name in the times of WW II.
He moved again, living in East 83th now? His son William (living at the same adress) is given as the person who will always know his father’s whereabout. Which for me is the next sign that Else is not part of their lives anymore.
I also found the index card for his final name change, but unfortunately forgot to save it, when I had my trial on ancestry.com.
He changed his name to Paul Hugo Rudolf KAY.
And that was the last trace I found of him.
- where is he after 1942
- did he really fight in World War II, if yes did he survive
- if he did, what did he do after WW II
- did he ever remarry
- when and where did he die?
Have you heard the name before? Do you maybe have any information on him or his family?