Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cousin Jack: Kidnapped, Stowaway, Serial Naturalization Petitioner

My father and his cousin Berly remember a cousin of my grandfather, Jacob "Jack" Landor, who would come to visit the family in Baltimore.  Jack was a Merchant Marine who would appear suddenly with presents for the kids.  My Aunt Susie says that Jack knew that she and my Uncle Sid collected stamps, so he often sent postcards from exotic places from his travels and made sure to have different stamps on them.

I decided to look into him more--and the documents back up Jack's unique nature.

According to my cousin Berly, Jack was kidnapped by a woman because he was a beautiful child; he had the bright blue Diamond eyes (which I have as well).  She said he was taken to what was then Palestine where he mostly lived in orphanages.  Berly recounted by Jack remembered his sister (probably named Basya) as a child and said how Jack always missed her.

So what do documents say?

The first record I have of Jack is a ship manifest.  But this was a unique one--he was the only individual on the page.  He had been caught as a stowaway!
Jacob Landor Stowaway Ship Manifest; 1930

18-year-old Jacob Landor (whose calling or occupation was "stowaway") sailed from Genoa to New York in 1930.  He listed his last permanent residence as "Palestine," backing up Berly's story.  And to the left of his name, "DEPORTED" was stamped.

He was also listed on the same ship on the "crew" section--again with his own page.
Jacob Landor Stowaway Ship Manifest; 1930
Here Jacob's position on the ship is "stowaway," and there is a notation saying, "This man made his appearance after the Steamer left the last Port, although the ship had been searched for stowaways."

Since Jacob had listed "Palestine" as his last residence plus my cousin Berly having told me that he had been taken there by his kidnapper, I decided to see what might be available in Israel.  I asked Israel Pickholtz for advise, and he quickly found Jacob Landor's naturalization papers--for Palestinian citizenship under the British Mandate.  In addition to a lot of documentation, there was a photo included.
Jack Landor from his Naturalization File
Jack's application for citizenship had several different years noted for when he first arrived.
Page of Jacob Landor's Palestine Mandate Naturalization Application
In the above document, Jack says that he first arrived in the Palestine Mandate in 1931, shortly after being deported from the US.  However, the mention of "Palestine" in his stowaway manifest plus Berly's story implies that he would have lived there in the 1920s.  Another document in the naturalization packet meshes better with both of those data points:
Page of Jacob Landor's Palestine Mandate Naturalization Application
An Eliezer Rivlin (who says he is the landlord of a building on King George Street in Jerusalem) says that Jack first arrived in 1922.  My aunt Susie says, "The Rivlin fsmily was and is very well-known in Jerusalem. Ruby Rivlin, Israel's current President is part of this legacy. The first Rivlin came with the Vilna Gaon's students to Jerusalem at the beginning of the 19th century! The address for Eliezer is next to the Sochnut - Jewish Agency on King George street!"

Regardless, Jack applied for a Certificate of Naturalization in 1940.
Page of Jacob Landor's Palestine Mandate Naturalization Application
I don't know if the citizenship papers were granted or not.  But just four years later, Jack was applying for naturalization yet again--halfway across the world!
Jacob Landor's US Petition for Naturalization, 1944
It seems that Jack made it back to America.  He landed (as a member of the crew) in May 1944 in the port of New York.  According to his petition for naturalization, he enlisted in the US Navy as a Fireman second class that July, and by November 1944 he was able to petition for citizenship by leveraging his military service.  He only mentioned Russian citizenship on this document--nothing about Palestine or the British Mandate.

Jack eventually joined the Merchant Marines.  After that, he traveled the world until as a  ship engineer until retirement.  I have multiple ship manifests of him coming into various US ports as a crew member.

Berly said that at some point, he discovered her and my family in Baltimore.  He was extremely excited to find relatives.  She said that he was engaged once in his younger years, but his fiancee fell down a stairwell and died.  He did marry again, much later in life, to a Spanish woman named Carmen, but they divorced.

Berly recounted that Jack ended up in a retirement home not far from Raleigh, North Carolina for retired Merchant Marines.  His death certificate backs this up:
Jacob Landor Death Certificate
Jack's death certificate's informant was my grandfather's sister (and Berly's mother) Deborah Schuster.  Jack's parents were given as Mordechai Landor and Ester UNKNOWN--but Jack's Social Security documentation shows who his mother was:
Jacob Landor Social Security Application Index
Jack's mother was Ester Diamond--my grandfather's aunt.  So he and my grandfather were first cousins.  As a teenager, he'd told me that he had an aunt Esther, but that she'd been lost in the war.  I didn't think to ask if she had children who survived!

Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Feel free to follow me (@larasgenealogy).

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  1. Nice detective work! And a handsome guy!

  2. Nice! Now if only I could find my "Splaver who was a forger."

  3. More excellent research. He had quite a life.

    1. Thanks. I just kept on finding the craziest documents about him!

  4. Lara, my first impression when I saw this photo: He has Lara's pretty wavy hair! My second impression, I had to go back and do a double take: the resemblance to you is absolutely uncanny--beautiful. I love what you're doing and sharing! Thank you for making this journey public!

    1. Thank you so much, Robin! (He actually looks just like my Uncle Sid.)

  5. Great work, and a very interesting read! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lara,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  7. What a life he had! Great research, as always.

  8. An amazing story . . . congratulations on your detective skills!

  9. What amazing good luck (and hard work)! I've had difficulty navigating the Palestinian records system. Any suggestions about how to go about it?