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.
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.