29 December 2006

Relative Claus

A Christmas card addressed to Stephen Votruba in Winona, Minnesota was somehow mistakenly delivered to the home of Frederick Novotny on Long Island in New York. In the letter accompanying the forwarded card, Novotny told Votruba that his great aunt had been married to a man named Votruba. Noting that the New Yorker is a possible relative, the Minnesota resident calls it a "Christmas miracle." “For all I know, he could be a distant relative from Ellis Island.”

Bzzzzzttttt. Your Votruba ancestors, Mr. Votruba, have lived less than a mile from your Minnesota home since at least 1880, having arrived in the U.S. some 20 years before Ellis Island opened in 1892. Novotny's uncle's family arrived in New York around 1902.

So the two Votruba families were not separated at Ellis Island, but what are the odds that the two men are related? Since Votruba is a not-uncommon Bohemian name and Novotny doesn't even profess any Votruba ancestors, I'd say the odds are just a little higher than for any two men of Czech ancestry.

Christmas miracle? Humbug.

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