Marius, Mauris
Maurice, Morris

Grandfather's Rocky Road
To America and Citizenship

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Morris in his 20's.

Usher's grandson, Morris, did not hop aboard a ship at Hamburg and enter through Ellis Island, nor did he arrive with his name intact, nor did he sail through citizenship requirements on the first try.

Morris Rubenstein's story continues below the photos and his progress chart.

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Ellis Island? No.
Lake Champlain to Quebec, Canada
Via Rail and Boat to NY (see 7th line)

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At the top of the photo, just  above the Oath of   Allegiance, are the words, "One witness was incompetent."

At the bottom of the photo, in the section called "Order of Court Admitting Petitioner," Marius changed back to Morris.  

In the center section, as Morris again, he  took the Oath of Allegiance,  renouncing Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia.

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Morris Rubenstein's records were not, as expected, at the National Archives on Varick Street in Manhattan. He came through the Supreme Court of the State of New York, and so his records were at the Division of Old Records, in the landmark building of the Surrogates Court at 31 Chambers Street, across from the Municipal Building (open to the public only on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Morris written 'Marius'

Morris Rubenstein, with duplicate entries for a Marius Rubenstein, was listed in the old fashioned index, in drawers, on "cards" made of paper. There were many such cards, those with the earlier dates having the stamp "denied."  He didn't know one of his witnesses was not a citizen, which was required.

A petition dated June 23, 1910, declares the intention to become a citizen of Marius Rubenstein, living at 95 Allen Street, and married to Esther (Simon) Rubenstein. That had to be our Morris, whether or not he was called "Marius" on these papers.

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The second time around Morris was getting the hang of things.  He brought his father-in-law to be his second witness, and he signed his name as Marius, while the clerk wrote Maurice. Below, Morris finally became a citizen, even though the clerk wrote Mauris. m-marius-maurice-admit.jpg (10339 bytes)

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17 April 1880 Born in "Haradon" Russia  
12 September 1902 Emigrated to the U.S. from Liverpool, England  
22 September 1902 Arrived at Lake Champlain, and eventually, in NY  
13 September 1905 Declaration of Intention
Living at 566 2nd Ave.
Marius (1)
23 June 1910 Petition for Naturalization with "incompetent" witness
Living at 95 Allen St.
12 January 1911 Denying Petition:
"One witness was incompetent"
12 January 1911 Order of Court
"his name ... is changed to…"
Morris (2)
19 January 1911 Second try:
Petition for Naturalization
  Affidavits of Witnesses and Signature of petitioner Marius
  Petitioner "above mentioned" Maurice (3)
10 July 1911 Oath of Allegiance Marius
  Order of Court
Admitted as a citizen
Mauris (4)

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Records are in Beaux Art landmark building above on the left (Municipal Building is on the right). The Hall of Records, now called the Surrogates Court (interior view below), was under construction from 1899 to 1907, and was inspired by the Paris Opera.

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Photos by Susan Rogers

'By rail and boat'

Marius, who gave his birthdate as April 17, 1880, "emigrated to the United States from Liverpool, England, on or about September 12, 1902," and claimed residency "continuously" since  September 22, 1902. The Naturalization Petition does not name the vessel on which he sailed; that blank says "Lake Champlain to Quebec and via rail and boat to N.Y."

Passenger list next goal

So we know Morris sailed from Liverpool, where a ticket to America was less costly than it would have been from Hamburg, which was closer to Gorodok. Now that we know the date and port,we ought to be able to find the manifest or passenger list, which will reveal more about his voyage to America.

'Marius' petitions for citizenship

On June 23, 1910, at the New York State Supreme Court, Marius declared his "intention to become a citizen" and brought along the two required witnesses, whose suitability demanded not much more than that they already be citizens.

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Abe Kemelhor, a merchant, and Herman Nemetzky, also a merchant, "each being severally, duly, and respectively sworn" and deposed, first claimed themselves to be "a citizen of the United States of America;" and next, to have "personally known" Marius for five years. It was later revealed that Herman Nemetzky was not a citizen.

Petition denied

Entries made over six months later show that Marius' Petition for Naturalization was not successful. On January 12, 1911, the section entitled "Order of Court Denying Petition" on the back was filled in as follows: "…it appearing that one witness was incompetent, the said petition is hereby dismissed without prejudice." So, while the card catalog entry says, "denied," the actual petition actually said "dismissed without prejudice." Morris went on to make good use of the day.

Marius becomes Morris

Below the section denying his petition for citizenship is the section for change of name. It reads, "…upon consideration of the petition of the said Marius Rubenstein, that his name…hereby is changed to Morris Rubenstein, under authority of the provisions of [an act that went into effect in 1906]." It is touching that perhaps the first time Morris wrote his newly restored name, it was to sign the Oath of Allegiance, and on the very day he was denied citizenship.

Morris 'renounces' Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia

The same section of the petition provides space for taking the Oath of Allegiance, and so, having just lost 'Marius' and regained Morris, he took this opportunity to take care of that. "…I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign price, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, of [whom] I have heretofore been a subject…"

Morris tries again

Just seven days after the date of his denied petition, Morris tried again. On January 19, 1911, he signed his second petition for naturalization, again using Marius, no doubt because that was the name used on his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen. As for witnesses, merchant Abe Kemelhor came again, and the second witness was Morris' father-in-law, Abraham Simon, who listed his occupation as "wine maker." (In the New York City directory of 1910, he had listed his occupation as "juice.") Abraham would have been 51 years old on witnessing for his son-in-law, who was then 31 years old. Morris' second petition is our only known sample of the signature of Abraham Simon.

'Mauris' [sic] gains citizenship

Nine days short of six months after his second petition for naturalization, Morris was successful. First he had to repledge his allegiance, and he had to do so as Marius, that having been the name used both on his intention and his second petition. In the "Order of Court Admitting Petitioner," it is written that "Mauris [sic] Rubenstein" is "admitted to become a citizen.…" Mauris was issued Certificate of Naturalization No. 214889, on  July 10, 1911.

Marius, Maurice, Mauris, Morris…whatever. Our grandfather had finally become a citizen.

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