My great grandfather and his family came into the U.S. without papers. This is my father’s father’s father, “Tatta Bouche” * Siegel. Tatta Bouche, Nosan Natte Siegel after whom I am named, was born in Romania, as was my great grandmother, Bubbe Kreintse. I remember her since I was about ten years old when she passed away. Tatta Bouche passed away before I was born.
They left Romania for Paris with their first born Yonah Leib (“Jean,” then “John”) around 1900. Romania and France were on good terms because France was a European advocate for Romanian nationalism against the Ottoman Empire.** On a personal level, the Romanian language is a Romance language like French.
After about ten years they left Paris for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my great grandmother had an immigrant sister and a brother-in-law. I can’t say whether my great grandparents arrived in Paris with papers or not, but I’m almost certain about the family tradition that they came to the U.S. without papers.
The family first appears in the 1920 United States Federal Census as living in Chicago. Even so, my Zeide (Grandfather) John does not appear to be living in the family home or anywhere else that I’ve found. Family tradition was that John was working at the Ford Motor Company in Michigan.
So how did my great grandparents enter the U.S.? I surmise that they entered through Canada. Perhaps it was relatively easy to enter Canada from France, at least the Francophone part of France.
* Tatta – for grandfather, literally father in Yiddish.
* Zeide – grandfather in Yiddish.
* Bubbe – grandmother in Yiddish.
* la bouche – ‘mouth’ because of his luxuriant mustache. The family lost the French pronunciation /boosh/, it becoming /boozh/.
** See the subject of the “Eastern Question” – how the powers of Western Europe were supporting Greece, Serbia, Romania, and other countries in their independence from the Ottoman Turks.