I have been stuck trying to solve a "mystery" in regards to my grandparents, who immigrated from Spain in 1920 and settled in the Gary, Indiana area. Specifically, the mystery is that there are no records of either of them ever entering the U.S. legally. However, there are a couple of additional twists to the story. I apologize for the length but I've done a lot of research and it's all relevant...
- My grandfather served in the Spanish Navy from May 1915 through December 1918. I have a copy of his discharge papers that prove this fact. He was discharged on December 31, 1918 in Cartagena, Spain.
- He was born on Christmas Day, 1891 in Garrucha, Spain - a very small fishing village. His name was Rafael Fas Campoy and went by "Rafael Fas" when he entered the U.S. It is important to note that "Fas" is not at all a common surname in Spain (or anyplace else for that matter). According to recent Spanish census records, there are about 600 people with the Fas surname in Spain out of a total population of over 40 million.
- I located a copy of a draft registration card completed by "Rafael Fas" in Gary, Indiana, but it was signed and dated on June 5, 1917. Everything on the draft card matches up perfectly with the description of my grandfather - birthdate of 12/25/1891 in Garrucha, Spain, was married with one child (which would have been accurate on that date), etc. It was even signed with an "X" (he was illiterate). The mystery here was that in June of 1917 he was serving in the Spanish navy, so how could he have been filling out a draft card in Gary, IN? Sure, it could have been another Rafael Fas, but how many Rafael Fas' could have been born on Christmas Day 1891 in Garrucha, Spain (a small fishing village) who just happened to immigrate to Gary, IN?
- There are no records of either him or his wife (Catalina Fuentes Altero maiden name, later to become Catalina Fas) ever passing through Ellis Island. We believe they went back to Spain at least 1 or 2 times after immigrating to the U.S., so theoretically they should have been processed through Ellis Island at least once.
- I have records showng that my grandfather was detained by immigration officials in Detroit on November 30, 1928. Apparently he was working on a ship that stopped in Buffalo, and he took a bus back home to Gary which traveled through Canada and crossed over to Detroit from Windsor by ferry. His paperwork was clearly not in order and he was denied entry into the US pending a hearing.
I have the transcript from his hearing, during which he was denied entry and deported to Canada, depsite having a wife and several children living in Gary. The main reason for denial, according to the report, was no prior record of legal entry into the U.S., and illiteracy.
- During his hearing, he said that he first entered the U.S. at Galveston, Texas while employed on a Spanish commercial ship and was there for a couple months before re-boarding the ship and heading back home. However, there are no immigration records showing that he ever entered at Galveston.
- He said that he landed in New York and processed through Ellis Island to live in the U.S. permanently on July 10, 1919. Again, there are no records. The name of the ship he listed didn't exist. I have correspondence between the officials in Detroit and Ellis Island trying to verify whether he ever landed or whether the ship he claimed to land on ever docked there. Both were negative.
So, a very bizarre story indeed. Were my grandparents in fact illegal aliens?
I'm not sure where to look from here, but if anybody has any advice as to how I can explain all of this I would sure appreciate it.