110 Years Ago Today

On November 15, 1902, 110 years ago today, Júlia (Molnár) Balla (1885-1962), my 2nd great grandmother, arrived in New York to begin a new life in America. At the age of 17, Julia left Eszény, Hungary, where she was born and raised, for Hamburg, Germany where she boarded the S.S. Pretoria, departing on October 31, 1902.

A photograph of the S.S. Pretoria

The ship manifest for the S.S. Pretoria states that Julia was coming to New York to join her sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Molnar. Julia appears on a Record of Detained Alien Passengers from the S.S. Pretoria. She was detained, according to this record, because she was waiting for her sister to pick her up, which took place at 4:25 pm, the time at which Julia was discharged.

A page from the ship manifest for the S.S. Pretoria showing Julia Molnar, who is found on line 13.
S.S. Pretoria Record of Detained Alien Passenger showing Julia Molnar, who is found on line 30 (last entry).

These details from the ship manifest are consistent with family oral history, which states that Julia did come to New York to be with her sister, because her sister found her a job. Lizzie was living in New York and working as a chef in the household of a fairly well-off family. Because Lizzie was such a good employee, they asked her if she had any relatives that could take the position of maid in their home. She told them about her sister Julia, and they paid for her to come to America. The following painted photograph of Julia (left) and Lizzie (right) shows them wearing the uniforms they wore while working for this family.

Julia (left) and her sister Lizzie (right) in their Uniforms

Nearly five years after her arrival, Julia married Alexander Balla (1886-1950), with whom she had ten children, the first five of which were born in New York and the remaining were born in Sabine and Jasper counties in Texas.

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6 thoughts on “110 Years Ago Today

    1. It’s a great one among the few old photos I have, I think. When I was a kid, my great grandmother told me that the two posed for the photo and then had it painted somewhere on a boardwalk–she wasn’t sure where though.

      For many years, the one I always saw, which was in the possession of my great grandmother’s sister, was believed to be the only one. After my great grandmother died, we discovered that she had one as well. When I asked about there being two identical painted photographs (with the exception of the white mark), I was told that they think that both Julia and Lizzie had a copy of the photograph painted. Lizzie’s copy ended up in Julia’s hands after Lizzie died. Although Lizzie had two children, the photograph didn’t get passed on to them. She had a son, whom I’m told was rather attractive and worked and died as a young man (probably in his twenties) on a cruise ship, She also had a daughter, who was also named Irene like my great grandmother and wasn’t the nicest person–she didn’t care much for family or relatives. I suspect the photo was given to Julia the last time she saw her.

  1. It’s amazing how adventuresome your 2nd great grandmother was. It must have been hard to leave her family and make the long trip to America. . . now that I think about it, her sister must have been even more adventuresome to have come first.

    1. They must have been adventuresome for sure. I cannot imagine doing what they did at such young ages, but then I suppose events in their native countries provided them with enough courage to do so. I have little on the story of Lizzie’s life, particularly specifics about her arrival. I keep trying to find more, but she has become one of my more elusive relatives.

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