Lisi's "Passport"

Lisi’s “Passport”

Traveling sure was different 100 years ago. My grandmother, Lisi Ebner had to get all her papers in order to travel to America. I found her “passport” among the artifacts she left behind. She had actually written on it “My Pass von [from] 1911.”

I can’t read most of the lines in the “pass” because all is in Hungarian (In 1911, Siebenbürgen/Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), but things like her town (Nagy-Apold—Hungarian for Grosspold) and dates can be made out.

Her name seemed to be misspelled—as Erzsébet, instead of Elisabetha. That wouldn’t fly today (literally!). But I was told by my “Rosetta Stone,” Meta, who deciphers the old German letters for me that Erzsébet was the Hungarian name for Elisabetha. (And thanks to Nick at Nick Gombash’s Genealogy Blog, for providing the correct spelling. See his comment below that translates the details of Lisi’s town, district, county, and country—from the Hungarian)

I always assumed (because of her note) it was a true blue passport, but I’ve learned it was actually a “Dienstbuch,” literally a “service book.” We can consider it a kind of “resume.” In it are listed her various employers, when she started working for them, her job, and even salary. Because of its official nature, (the first page is stamped by the local police!),  it appears to have also been used as her passport, per her own note. 

Lisi's employment history with the Jickeli family, with whom she corresponded for sixty years.

Lisi’s employment history with the Jickeli family, with
whom she corresponded for sixty years.

This method of keeping track of employers seemed to be pretty common (See my post of May 4th, Happy 125th Birthday). My maternal grandmother, had the same type of book, but in Austria it was called: Arbeitsbuch, literally her “Work-book”).

The first entry listed In Elisabetha Ebner’s “Work-book” is from January 1, 1903-December 31, 1904, when Lisi was ages 15-17. 

The next two pages have been filled out by Dr. Carl F[riedrich] Jickeli, (left) Eisenhändler (hardware store owner). I recently learned this was far more than a hardware story, however. It was a kind of department store in the center of Hermannstadt (Sibiu) where you could buy everything from kitchenware to tools and nails to clothing.  Lisi actually worked for Carl Jickeli’s wife, Berta, from January 8, 1906, to August 15, 1911, (ages 18-24) as a Stubenmädchen (parlor-maid—a good position). Monthly salary:  12 Kronen. She must have also been given room and board, as she was eighteen miles from her home in Grosspold, but it still doesn’t sound like much. The left page is stamped with the final date of her employment: 1911, Aug. 15.  On the right page is hand-written:  [Wishing you] complete satisfaction in every path.

For more than five years Lisi was Mrs. Jickeli’s right-hand gal. Her role evolved far beyond that of just a maid, as future letters, revealed. Mrs. Jickeli entrusted her with the running of the household when she had to be away on business, and most importantly, entrusted her young daughter, Lisbeth, to Lisi’s  care. 

As she prepared to leave the woman she considered a second mother, Lisi would turn to Mrs. Jickeli for a very important document to help her find work in the far-away land of America. Coming up—”The Recommendation.”

I’m curious as to what sort of passports any of my readers may have from their ancestors. Do they seem to be uniquely a passport—or did you find an “employment book” as well—that might have been used as a passport?