Family History Mystery: Discovering Alexander Balla’s Immigration Details

For a while now, a great deal of mystery has surrounded the immigration details of one of my 2nd great grandfathers, Alexander Balla Sr. (1886-1950). According to oral family history, Alexander left the village and country of his birth, Eszény, Hungary (now Eseny, Ukraine), for the United States when he was between 18 and 22 years old, working aboard the passenger ship in exchange for part or all of the passage fee. Oral family history about his immigration also adds that although one of the reasons Alexander immigrated to the United States was to be with family members that were already living there, another significant reason was the fact that his life had been threatened in Eszény by someone or a group possibly connected to the Black Hand. Despite these details from oral family history, I was never able to track down a shipping manifest for Alexander’s immigration.

Recently, Ancestry.com made Texas Immigration and Naturalization records available, which has helped clear up some of the mystery surrounding his immigration. According to both his Declaration of Intention and Petition for Naturalization, which were filed in 1942, Alexander immigrated from Eszény to the United States on May 8, 1906 aboard the SS Pretoria, arriving in New York, New York. In addition to providing the date of his immigration, Alexander’s Declaration of Intention and Petition for Naturalization provide an additional, and highly interesting, fact about his immigration to the United States. According to these records, Alexander did not arrive in the United States under the name “Alexander Balla,” “Alex Balla,” or even “Sándor Balla.” Instead, he states that his lawful entry for permanent residence in the United States was done under a completely different name, that of “Joseph Domoks.” Seeing this was surprising, as there was no mention of his using an assumed name in oral family history or on any other historical record. Although there is a lot of mystery surrounding the threat made against his life, including who exactly did so, it is likely that this motivated him to change his name in order to conceal the fact that he was leaving the country, as well as concealing where he was immigrating to.

Alexander Balla’s 1942 Declaration of Intention

Alexander Balla’s 1942 Declaration of Intention

Alexander Balla’s 1942 Petition for Naturalization

Alexander Balla’s 1942 Petition for Naturalization

The information provided by Alexander’s Declaration of Intention and Petition for Naturalization records, is, moreover, supported, with slight differences, by the SS Pretoria ship manifest for his arrival. According to this record, Alexander arrived on May 6, 1906, instead of May 8, 1906 as stated on his naturalization records. His name is enumerated on this ship manifest as “Jozsef Domokos” (or “Jozsef Jomokos”), which is slightly different than what is found on his naturalization record (“Joseph Domoks”). This immigration record also states that Alexander arrived in the United States to be with his brother, István Balla (Steven Balla Jr.), who he reported was living in Tompkins Cove, Rockland Co., New York.

Immigration Record for Alexander Balla, who appears on line 12 of the manifest with his assumed name of “Jozsef Domokos” (or “Jozsef Jomokos”).

Immigration Record for Alexander Balla, who appears on line 12 of the manifest with his assumed name of “Jozsef Domokos” (or “Jozsef Jomokos”).

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7 thoughts on “Family History Mystery: Discovering Alexander Balla’s Immigration Details

  1. Very interesting story and great find. To think that all these many years those records were just sitting there waiting to be found. I wonder how many other people came into the states with different names and no one in their family knows that little bit of family history. Good Job and thank you for providing the records for others to see.
    Take Care.
    Jose from Clarkston, Michigan

  2. Hi again,
    I noticed that on the ship record there is an entry next to his name and it is the record number of the declaration of intent document. However, the dec. of int. date is June while the entry on ship rec. is May 21, 1942. So it seems that he turned in the intent doc. and the officials went to the ship log and checked it, thus making a note saying they checked it. That number on both documents leaves no doubt that they are the same person. I also checked the name Domokos and it is a fairly common Hungarian name. There are many families in both the US and Canada with that last name. It would be interesting to go back in time and find out why he picked that particular name. Was he friends with a Domokos family back in Hungary?
    Thank you again for the interesting post.
    Jose from Clarkston, Michigan

    • Hi.

      Thank you for all of your research. At present, I have no idea why he chose this name. It would be interesting to know, though. I have no indication at this point that the name is a family name.

      Take care,

      William

  3. Very interesting. I am researching my grandfather’s lineage and your post popped up as I am looking for Eszenyi’s from Eszeny (now Eseny, Ukraine) . My grandfather also came into the US under an assumed name. Under his narrative for naturalization, he stated he did so as the other man’s name was in line before his and decided not to come,so he took his place.
    I also think that one of my great-grandfather Eszenyi’s married a Balla- just got the Reformed Church records..
    An Erzsebet Balla married Jozsef Eszenyi on 11 Sept 1861. (his second wife, first passed away two months earlier)
    Karen

  4. Pingback: Records, Forms and Applications | Enhanced News Archive

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