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From Munich via Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Speyer to New York: Theresa Schaal

Aktualisiert: Mai 15

This is the english translation of Von München über Mannheim, Ludwigshafen und Speyer nach New York: Theresa Schaal.


My 2nd great aunt Theresia Schaal was born in Munich July 8, 1895 (Munich, 1895). Theresia was the second daughter of Anna Katharina and Johann Evangelist Schaal (Kemmner, 2019; Landeshauptstadt München, 1895).

My 2nd great aunt Theresia Schaal was my grandma's aunt.

The small family lived with the eldest daughter Anna Maria, my great-grandmother, and Theresia in Parkstrasse 1a in the Schwanthalerhöhe district of Munich (Munich, 1895), only a few minutes away from the famous Theresienwiese, where the annual Oktoberfest was held even then. Theresia was born at 1:00 in the morning in the family's apartment (Munich, 1895). Later she calls herself Theresa.

Munich's Marienplatz around 1898 (Bauer, 1982).

When Theresa was one year old, the family moved to Mannheim, over 300 km away. On September 6, 1896, her father Johann officially registered his family there. As his employer, he named Durlacher Hof in Neckerstadt-Ost. (Mannheim City Archives, 1896)


The address of the family was Second Querstrasse 22 in Mannheim (Mannheim City Archives, 1896). During my research I found out that the streets of Neckarstadt-West were initially numbered 10th Street (10th Street) or Elfenstraße (11th Street). The area would fit in well, as the Durlacher Hof brewery in Käfertalerstrasse 168-170 (German Documentation Center for Art History, 1881) was very close. If Second Querstrasse was located in Neckarstadt-West at that time, it was probably today's Laurentiusstrasse (Marchivum, no date).


Theresa was just 13 when her father Johann died in 1909 (City Archives Ludwigshafen am Rhein, 1909), her sisters were 16 and three years old. At that time the family lived at Bismarkstrasse 1 in Ludwigshafen (City Archives Ludwigshafen am Rhein, 1909). Ludwigshafen is the sister city of Mannheim and is on the opposite side of the river Rhine. Time must have been difficult for the family: Anna Katharina now had to take care of her three daughters all by herself.

Ludwigshafen around 1900 (Holzborn, 1993).

A short time later, the family moved to Speyer in the Palatinate with around 23,000 inhabitants (Rhineland-Palatinate State Library Center, 1911). The late father Johann had also lived there before the birth of his children (Stadtarchiv Speyer, 1890) - maybe there was a connection to Speyer? I'll research that when I look into Johann's life story. In Speyer, the mother was listed in the address book in 1911 and 1914 as Johann Schaal's widow at Roßmarktstrasse 34. (State Library Center Rhineland-Palatinate, 1911; State Library Center Rhineland-Palatinate, 1914)


Theresa lived with her mother and siblings in Roßmarktstrasse 34, which is from this point of view just behind the city gate "Altpartel" (right in the picture).

At the age of 17, from August 1, 1912, she worked eight days as a maid with a Mr. Gustav Walk in Blumenthalstrasse in Speyer (Speyer City Archives, 1912a). Unfortunately, I couldn't find out why she was only doing this work for a few days, and I couldn't find the employer in any address book either. From November 13 of the same year she also worked as a maid for widow and seamstress Hedwig Adam (Stadtarchiv Speyer, 1912b). In 1912 the Titanic sank on its crossing to America and taking about 1,500 lives (Statista GmbH, 2020). Nevertheless, 18-year-old Theresa decided to emigrate to America the following year: On August 9, 1913, she traveled with the S.S. Bremen from Bremen to New York (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a).

With the S.S. Bremen Theresa emigrated to New York City in 1913.

In my family to was always told that "Resel", as she was named in Germany, was said to have emigrated to the USA with a friend and her family. It was said that she was going to live with quakers. Theresa's mother Anna was against her daughter's emigration and hoped that she was at least in good care with the quakers. On August 18, 1913, The Sun from New York reads "Ss Bremen, 800 miles east of Sandy Hook 7:15 PM" (The Sun, 1913a).

On August 18, 1913, the newspaper announced that the S.S. Bremen is already 800 miles east of Sandy Hook (near NYC).

The Wednesday newspaper announced that the S.S. Bremen was already off Fire Island, south of Long Island and just before New York City at 23:00 the evening before (The Sun, 1913b). According to information from MyHeritage, the SS Bremen entered the port on August 20 (MyHeritage, 1913).

On August 19, the SS Bremen is shortly before New York City.

Theresa claims to be able to read and write English when entering the USA. Most recently, she was a saleswoman and lived in Speyer (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a). As a contact in her home country, she named her mother Johanna Schaal at Rossmarktstrasse 34 in Speyer (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a). Here she must have meant either her mother Anna Maria or her sister Johanna. Such mistakes could happen to both the passengers and the immigration officer when the arrival was stressful. She was single and wanted to travel to New York to see her cousin Albert Schmidt on 943 Columbus Avenue / New 186th Street (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a). She had paid for her second-class trip herself (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a), presumably she had previously saved her salary for this trip. She owned another $ 25 (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a). Theresa is described to have light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a). She was 5'5 tall (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a).


Theresa Schaal's entry in the passenger lists of the SS Bremen (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913a).

In addition to the passenger list, Theresa can also be found in the Record of detained aliens (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913b). So when she first arrived in New York, she was detained. Young, single women or mothers with their children who traveled to a male relative or husband were often detained at that time (JewishGen, 2002). The state wanted to ensure that women were cared for and protected (JewishGen, 2002). Theresa, too, was probably initially detained in order to be picked up by her cousin Albert.

Theresa Schaal's entry in the list of detained Aliens (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913b).

We do not know whether Theresa emigrated with a friend or not. Normally, families and people traveling together were also listed together. However, Theresa is listed individually and is initially detained when she arrived, which also indicates that she made the trip to America by herself. The following information also indicates that Theresa had traveled alone: Instead of being picked up by her cousin (whom I have never heard of), after a day in custody on August 21, she was picked up by Madame Bolliet, residing at 341 W 30th Street in New York (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913b).


This lady is also listed in the New York City directory as Ms. Elise Bolliet, matron (Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, 1913). The word matron indicates that the lady has supervised women or children (Merriam-Webster, undated). In a report from 1898, I found that Madame Bolliet was the manager of the Young Women Home Society of the French Evangelical Church in the City of New York (New York State, 1898)

Description of the "Young Women Home Society of the French Evangelical Church in the City of New York" (New York State, 1898).

The society, founded in 1888, aim „to give shelter, board and protection to French-speaking young women, while temporarily without situations, and assist them with in procuring employment“ (New York State, 1898, New York State, 1899) . In 1898 and 1899, the organization was able to support 360 and 294 women, respectively (New York State, 1898; New York State, 1899) To be accepted there „French-speaking respectable young women are received and pay $4 per week for board, if they are destitute, the are admitted free. Application to be made to the Manager, at the home" (New York State, 1898).


It is not known whether Theresa could speak French. She was born in Bavaria, then lived in Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Speyer. After Latin and Greek, French was taught in Bavarian boys' schools as early as the 19th century and was introduced as a compulsory subject in 1854 (Klippel, 2007). Latin and Greek were mainly important for the humanistic education and discussion of the literature that men dealt with (Klippel, 2007). However, girls mainly learned French at school (Klippel, 2007). In the 1940 census, Theresa states that she has completed the German equivalent of high school grade 1 (United States of America, 1940). Since elementary school was eight years, she would have attended school for about nine years (The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, no year). Did she learn to speak French to have at least casual conversations?


„In the late 1800s, the French Evangelical Church opened a home for young women in need of temporary lodging. The home was located on West 30th Street in 1912, when the New York Observer reported that ‘shelter is afforded these young French women, while seeking and obtaining employment as teachers, governesses, maids or nurses. The number of those who, during its existence, have availed themselves of the benefit of this institution is upwards of nine thousand.’ The four-story brick townhouse has more recently operated a a hostel and is now an apartment building“ (Our Town, 2019).


Madame Elise Bolliet was already around 67 years old when Theresa arrived in New York (New York Times, 1928) and had lived an exciting life: she was born in Switzerland and came to New York around 1885 (New York State , 1915). Before working as a manager of the shelter for women and girls, she was the manager and personal assistant of Frederick and his wife Louise Vanderbilt on Fifth Avenue (Prescott, 1894). Elise is described as a French lady with a typical French appearance and behavior, slim, small and demonstrative presence (Prescott, 1894). The article can be viewed for free here.


She seems to have been loving with the maids (Prescott, 1894). "In hiring servants Madame Bolliet is particularly generous. Her orders are to get only the best, and to pay them liberally. All the Vanderbilt servants are obtained from the congregation of a dear little French church, on Thirtieth Street, the pastor of chic is personally responsible to the directress for the honesty of those he recommends. ”(Prescott, 1894). Madame Bolliet therefore had an early relationship with the French Evangelical Church in New York and later directed its organization for young women. She seems to have run the home for women with love and passion (Unions chrétiennes de jeunes filles, 1914).

A portrait of Madame Bolliet from a newspaper article (Prescott, 1894).

How long did Theresa stay there? Did she feel comfortable? Did her arrival in New York go according to plan or did she imagine it would be any different? In 1915, in any case, 19 women from France, Italy and Switzerland lived in the Young Women Home Society in addition to Madame Bolliet (New York State, 1915). Theresa was no longer listed; she had to have moved out before the summer of 1915 (New York State, 1915).


In the following years she must have met her husband Otto Stepanek. Otto was born on February 16, 1890 in Karlsbad, then Austria (Roman Catholic Church Karlsbad, 1890). His parents Josef and Katharine Štěpánek had their son baptized Emmanuel Otto on February 23 (Roman Catholic Church Karlovy Vary, 1890). Otto's father Josef was a bookbinder (Roman Catholic Church Karlsbad, 1890). On December 8, 1913, the 23-year-old Otto traveled to New York with a friend Rudolf Kretschmar. As a profession, like his father, he stated bookbinder. Otto was about 5'6, had fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1913c)


Their first daughter Anna Theresa was born around 1916 (Kemmner, 2019). On June 5 of the same year, Otto had to register for service in WWI. He is now described as medium-sized, strong, with blue eyes and black hair. Otto is married and wants to be excluded from duty to support his wife and child. Although his wife's name is not explicitly mentioned, later recordings show that Theresa was married to Otto Stepanek. Their address was 174 E 85th Street in New York. (United States, 1917)


The small family lived in Germanville, an area between 79th and 96th Street from Third Avenue to the East River. This area was home to immigrants from Germany, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Russia and Poland who spoke German - hence the name. Only one street further, 86th Street was the heart of the district and was also called Sauerkraut Boulevard, where you could find breweries, cafés, pastry shops and a German-language film theater. (Schulz, 2016)

Germantown in Yorkville, New York City (Heideberg Restaurant, o. J.).

Otto worked as a machinist for the Rapid Addressing Machine Company on 32 W 23rd Street (United States, 1917). The Rapid Addressing Company produced addressing machines for letters, in which the characters were placed on a piece of paper and then automatically glued onto the board with the machine (Early Office Museum, 2016). The second child Joseph Stepanek was born on January 8, 1918 (Ancestry, 1944). The daughter Anna was probably named after Theresa's mother Anna Katharina Schmidt and the son after Otto's father Josef. After my grandmother passed away in 2018, we found boxes with old photos. It also contained photos of Anna and Joseph.

Joseph and Anna on a postcard - taken at Glaser Studio, 1532 Third Avenue in Germantown.

Shortly after Joseph's birth, the Spanish flu spread in New York: around 33,000 people died from the disease (Poon, 2018). New York had the best conditions for a virus to spread, as many families lived close together (Poon, 2018). Theresa and Otto must have been afraid for their family. Perhaps they too have isolated themselves, leaving the house only for the most important purchases, as we currently do during the corona virus?


In January 1920, the young family can be found in the Census, they remain in the Germanville area: Otto, Theresa and the two children lived on 208 E 84th Street in New York City (United States of America, 1920), only one Block away from their home in 1917. Otto and Therese report their ages to be 28 and 23 (United States of America, 1920), although they are actually both a year older and even turned 30 and 25 in 1920. The two are married (United States of America, 1920). Otto gives the year 1912 as the date of entry into the US, Theresa remains with 1913 (United States of America, 1920). Both are not yet naturalized, they are aliens, but speak English (United States of America, 1920). Otto again states to be a machinist, working in a machine shop (United States of America, 1920). Theresa is a janitress in a tenement house (United States of America, 1920). The tenements were buildings or houses that were expanded in the course of the immigration wave for a large number of residents, so that instead of just one family, at least three families found space (Sherman, 2019). Theresa definitely had a lot to do with her work and the two small children.

Tenement Buildings in New York City.

Only a few months later, in May 1920, Otto declared with his intention to become an American citizen. He gives the following information about himself: He is 30 years old, a machinist, fair-skinned, about 5'5, weighs 148 pounds, has brown hair and gray eyes. He names his wife Therese and claims to have arrived in New York on November 22, 1913. Since he actually arrived on December 8th, November 22nd was probably his departure date in Bremen. (New York State, 1920). What happened to them in the next 20 years? I cannot find Theresa, Otto and the children Anna and Joseph themselves.


According to stories, Theresa and her mother lost contact after her emigration. When her younger sister Johanna also emigrated to America in 1925, she was supposed to find her sister Therese on behalf of her mother Anna, even though the sisters didn't get along very well (Kemmner, 2019)


A photo by Theresa (privately owned).

Through passenger lists something else can be observed: Johanna gives the address of her brother-in-law Otto Stepanek as her final destination in the USA. So she knew exactly where her sister lived with her family: namely at 169 East 96th Street in New York City (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1925). From later photos we know that the two sisters actually found each other.

Johanna (1st from left) with Theresa (1st from right), Otto (2nd from right), Joseph (2nd from left) and his family in 1952 (photo privately owned).

Another indication seems to be the entry of Johanna's later husband Adolf Deschler, who travels to New York in 1927 and gives his final destination as Brooklyn, N.Y. 375 Lumpterstrasse, where Otto Stepanek lives (Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1927). As Lumpterstrasse doesn't exist, the closes match is 375 Sumpter Street in Brooklyn. It is unclear whether Theresa and her family lived there. But it could have been true, as the following places of residence were nearby. Unfortunately, I cannot find the family in the 1930 census, even at this address (United States, 130b). This map shows all of Theresa's places of residences, her husband Otto's workplaces and other relevant locations.

In the New York City directory from 1933/34, the family is listed together at 386 Bleecker Street in Brooklynn (Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, 1933). While Otto and Therese live in the house, Annie and Joseph seem to have an apartment in the back of the house (Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, 1933). In the 1930 Census they are not to be found at this address (United States, 1930a), they must have moved here shortly before. It was not until 1940 that I found them in the New York Census:


Otto and Theresa Stepanek have been living with Joseph on 60-29 68th Road in Queens for at least five years. Anna has already moved out, married and had two children. While Otto was now naturalized, Therese had now submitted the first papers. She didn't work and also didn't look for work. Otto, on the other hand, works 40 hours a week as a machinist in a machine shop, possibly the same one that he did 20 years ago. His annual salary was $ 2,080. (United States of America, 1940). Apparently, many Europeans, especially Germans and Italians, lived in the area called Ridgewood from the early 1920s. Mainly because the apartments here were much more spacious than in Manhattan, where Theresa and her family lived before. (Haller, 2016)


On April 25, 1942, Otto had to register for service in WWII. It was the fourth registration, which has also been described as the "registration of old men". He continued to live at 60-29 68th Road, Ridgewood, Queens. Otto now works for the International Banding Machine Company, 1013 Grand Street in Brooklyn. He is still 5’5 and now weighs 156 pounds. He has gray eyes, black hair, slightly reddish skin and a tattoo on the back of the left forearm. (United States, 1942)


On April 23, 1944, Joseph also registered for World War II. Joseph is 5’10 and weighs about 135 pounds. He has blue eyes, brown hair, fair skin and a scar on his left index finger. The new address is interesting: Theresa, Otto and Joseph seem to have moved back to Manhattan, 319 East 73rd Street. It is unclear whether the family really lived at this address because the previous address will be mentioned later again. Maybe only Joseph lived there, although he also explicitly gives the address for his mother. Joseph was unemployed at that time. This document also shows that Theresa was called "Tessie" in America. (Ancestry, 1944) The children were grown up by now. We will certainly learn more in 2022 when the 1950 Census will be published.

Theresa's husband Otto Stepanek in 1952 (privately owned photo).

On October 31, 1953, Theresa's husband Otto died of a long illness at the Wyckoff Heights Hospital at the age of 63. He is survived by his wife Theresa, his children Anna and Joseph and four grandchildren. (Queens Ledger, 1953).

Otto Stepanek obituary in the Queens Ledger on November 5, 1953.

Theresa survived her husband by 21 years. We do not know what she experienced and did in this long time. She died in Brooklyn in May 1974 (Social Security Administration, 1974).

Theresa Schaal (privately owned).

All sources used are listed in the following document, available for download:

Quellenverzeichnis Theresa Schaal (1895)
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