Finding Josephine (my search for the Half Man, Half Woman)

Joesephine during her prime.
Josephine during her prime.

When I started these searches for sideshow folks back in November of 2014 it originally started only as a search for Ella Harper. I had also been interested in Ruth Mignon, so during the time I researched Ella I did Ruth’s, too. While I was working on Ruth’s I realized that I had two performers who were born with deformities and so I decided to pursue a different type of performer. That’s when I chose Martin Laurello, a guy not deformed but who had trained himself into a marketable skill.

My searches were going to end after Martin’s but I had discovered that I’d actually become quite interested in these odd performers of the sideshow world. However, I wanted a different category of performer this time. So I came across Josephine and decided that this was possibly the new category for my search this time, the fraud.  

Like the others, Josephine’s bio was sparse and ends abruptly. In a brief synopsis, she was a man or woman (that really narrowed it down!), though most believed her to be a man. She was possibly born in Austria about 1913 and had started performing in the 1920s, which really didn’t make sense age-wise. She claimed to have a female left side and a male right side.  

As you can tell in her picture, she wore what appears to be a Tarzan-inspired costume for her male side combined with alluring, almost-lingerie for her female side.  This wasn’t her only costume but they ran along a similar vein. She also had appeared in Todd Browning’s 1932 cult film, Freaks, but disappears after this from show business and history.

With these barest of details I almost changed my mind about searching for her. Josephine Joseph was obviously a stage name and nothing was known of her real name. I didn’t want another repeat of Ruth the Penguin Lady, where there was no known maiden name and no one was even entirely sure of her given name of Ruth.

Fortunately for me a recently discovered tidbit about Josephine was discovered by an intrepid researcher in England named Estelle Hargraves, owner/operator of the website The Skittish Library. She had found a news story from 1930 about Josephine on trial in England:  Josephine’s Trial

This is Estelle Hargrave, proof positive that The Beatles weren't the ONLY good thing to come out of Liverpool!
This is Estelle Hargraves, proof positive that The Beatles weren’t the ONLY good thing to come out of Liverpool…

The critical part for me was that Josephine had a husband named George Waas who was on trial also. This was the lead I needed to begin at least an exploratory search for her to see if it was worth pursuing.  

Since the news story begins 22 August 1930 and they said that they were going to leave the country I searched for passenger lists from just after that. I found a possible couple arriving in New York City on 20 October 1930. It shows a George and Antoinette Wass, not Waas. He is 38 and she is 32.  His profession is showman. The birth date for George is a typo. It’s the birth date of the baby above him on the list.  1930 Arrival

Since this sure sounded like them and since it gave their New York City address as 1455 Madison Avenue I next searched for them on the 1930 Census to confirm that I had the right couple.  I quickly found a George Wass in Manhattan and when I checked, it gave the same address.

It shows George and Antoinette living with his mother. However Antoinette is now Josephine A. Her birthplace is Austria, as are her parents, and she was born about 1900. Besides the fact that we now knew that Josephine was her real name, I had also agreed earlier with Estelle Hargrave’s supposition from her website that Josephine appeared much older than her generally accepted 1913 birth date. 1900 seemed a much more realistic birth date for her. In the clips from her 1932 Freaks movie she looked to me to be closer to forty. The census also shows her as speaking German and her occupation as a Vaudevillian actress. 

George is shown as George F Wass, born in New York in 1892. It also says his father was born in Northern Ireland and his mother in Australia. Like Josephine, he is also listed as a Vaudevillian actor. It also shows that he and Josephine had been married 13 to 14 years before, which means they must have married not too long after her arrival in America.

His mother, Margaret A, appears to be born in about 1866 in Australia, with both of her parents being born in Northern Ireland. According to the census she had arrived in the U.S. in 1890 and was still an immigrant alien. It says she is a widow and had gotten married at age 22. This puts her marriage at about 1888.  1930 Census

After this I had horrible luck trying to find them on any other census, both with the U.S. Federal and the New York State ones, so I went back to the passenger lists hoping to glean more clues. First I found them departing New York on 14 March 1930 and arriving in the UK in Liverpool on 24 March 1930.  This fits with the time-frame for them that probably makes this the trip to the UK where they are are arrested. It again shows George as a showman and that they will be staying at Rose Cottage, Rednal, near Birmingham. Other than that not much else is useful. 1930 Liverpool Arrival

Found them again arriving in New York on 11 February 1930 after departing Liverpool on 1 February 1930.  This time I got some useful information, George’s birthday of 20 June 1892. That could open up my searches on George since there were several people named George Wass in the NYC area that I’d found. And the other significant thing was that Josephine was naturalized by her marriage to George, not by the normal process to citizenship. This meant I was going to probably have a much harder time finding her in the Naturalization searches. 

I also found the actual Liverpool departure listing for this trip.  It really didn’t give much other than they had been staying at 6 Haymarket Street in London during their stay. Like the other passenger lists, it shows George as a showman and Josephine as a housewife. Liverpool Departure   New York Arrival

Now that I had George’s birth date I did another round of searches for him. Immediately I came across his 1942 WWII draft card. It shows his name as George Francis Wass and he’s living at 40 W 106th Street in NYC and is now working for the WPA (Work Projects Administration), part of Presidents Roosevelt’s New Deal.

The person listed as point of contact is not Josephine but apparently a roommate that has the same address as George. So George and Josephine have either divorced or she has died. One interesting thing about George is that on the second part of the draft card it shows him as 5 feet 11 inches tall, but only 130 pounds.  He was a very, very slender guy.  WW2 Draft Front    WW2 Draft Back

At this point I went back to the census searching and decided take another look at a particular one I’d seen in the 1920 Census that I had discounted initially but that had actually matched in most details except for their use of the surname, Dexter. They are living at 303 29th Street in Manhattan. This time George has a father, George E. He was born about 1850 in England, as were both his parents. He had immigrated to the U.S. in 1891 yet is still an immigrant alien. His occupation is circus actor.

George’s mother is listed as Anna (she was Margaret A in the 1930 census) and her birth at about 1874. This gave me pause as it makes her abut 10 years younger than the 1930 Census, but ages on the census are known to be wrong at times, even as much as 10 years off like Anna. George himself is shown as being born about 1892 in New York and is also an actor in the circus.

Josephine is now Josephine E. Initials in the census are not to be trusted, so I ignored that for now. She was born in Austria about 1899 and her parents were both born there. This time though it says she immigrated in 1910, not 1916. I’ve seen disparities in immigration years numerous times before, some even with different years several times, although this was a sizable difference.

The part that bothered me the most was that now her native tongue is listed as Polish. If this is truly Josephine then I believe she might have come from what was known then as the Galicia area of Austria. After WWI the western part of Galicia became part of Poland.  Galacia itself was a mixture of Poles, Germans, Ukrainians and Jews. Since the 1880s there had been a massive emigration from Galacia. The Ukranian Galacians tended to go to Brazil, the Germans to Germany and the Poles and Jews to the U.S. and Canada. More great information on this here: Brief Galacia History

Considering that her 1916 immigration date was during WWI, I would lean towards 1910 being more accurate, but if so it means that because of being a minor she more than likely she came over with family. This was something to think about when searching passenger lists.

She is shown again as naturalized and her occupation as an embroiderer in an embroidery shop. This was just a few years before she started performing and now I wonder if this embroidering job lead to the idea, or at the very least, where she made her costumes. But it definitely fits the story.  1920 Census

I still wanted confirmation it was them though, so I did another census search using the Dexter surname and it gave me the 1925 New York State Census. This time George and Josephine are living on their own at 310 43rd St. West in New York City. Everything is correct for him and his occupation is now a stage hand. Josephine’s age puts her at being born in 1899 but this time it says in Russia. Two possibilities can account for this. One is that maybe the part of Galacia she was from had become part of the Ukraine (and more research would be needed for this) or, and I think more likely, the enumerator screwed up and confused her with the family listed directly below her. In any case I am fairly certain this is her because her occupation is working in a theatrical line (“line” is how I interpret the sloppy writing).  1925 Census

Since I was in the 1925 NY Census I went ahead and searched for George’s father and mother using the Dexter surname also. They popped up living at the same address they had in 1920, 303 E 29th Street in New York City. George is now a retired lecturer, wherever that came from. I found later that it might refers to an occupation in the circus. Neither he nor Anna have become citizens either.  Anna’s age now puts her being born about 1871.  1925 Census

My next search turned up George F Wass’ WWI draft card from June 1917. His name is now showing to be George Dexter Wass, born in New York City on the correct date and currently living in Chrome, New Jersey. Chrome is now a part of Carteret, NJ. His occupation is a showman for some circus in Chrome but I am unable to fully interpret the name of it. He is listed as single so he and Josephine had not yet married as of 5 June 1917. So far I have never found any proof that George actually served in the war though.  WW1 Draft Card

Another search on George turned up something I’ve never turned up before on any tree, an application for Social Security from June 1938. Now his name is George Wass Dexter.  I wonder now if, being actors, he and his father created the Dexter name. Or like many actors do, they used some family name for their career. It lists the correct birthday and place. His father is shown as George W Dexter and his mother as Anna M Kelly. The “M” must be the Margaret that was used later. There was no file to download but I did take a screenshot of it. 

George's Social Security application.
George’s Social Security application.

I hadn’t had any luck on Ancestry with a marriage for Josephine so I tried FamilySearch, the Latter-Day Saints site. Many times the LDS site will have things that other places do not. You can search for free but if you’re not a paid member than you won’t get to see the actual documents. The reason you need to see the documents is that many times transcriptions have errors. 

Sure enough, there it was.  Now George is listed as George D Wass Jr. Josephine is now shown as Antoinette Sambor. Finally! Her maiden name is now known, although there are some variations of the spelling that I noticed later. They were married in Manhattan on 20 August 1917. This is just two months after his WWI draft card.

For George’s father it just says George and his mother is Anna Kelly. Josephine’s birth info now states it as 1896 in Austria. Her father was Theodore (anglicized of course) and her mother was Natalie Hornack, although in reality it’s probably Hornak. Here is the link to the marriage: Marriage.  The funny thing was after I put this marriage information in the tree, it popped up in a search on Ancestry. 

The next thing I found was the death of George’s father. It shows that George Edwin Wass died 4 Januay 1928 in Manhattan, New York. His birth is listed as 9 Jul 1849 in London, England and his occupation as actor. His burial place is listed as Woodlawn but it doesn’t give the location of this cemetery. His parents are shown and they are William Wass and Catherine Manners.

Keep in mind that other than the death date, death place and death cause everything else on a death record is only as accurate as what the informant told them. And sometimes that isn’t too accurate. Assuming though that the informant was Anna and considering how long they were married I’d have to think it’s fairly accurate. Again I found this on FamilySearch.  George Edwin Wass’ Death

At this point I wanted his and Anna’s marriage info, but the first thing I found on her was on a New York arrival passenger list. It was the exact same ship and trip back from Europe that George and Josephine had made after the trial, the one from 20 October 1930. She wasn’t listed with them because aliens were listed separately from U.S. citizens on the passenger lists.

I haven’t found out if she met up with them or was there the whole time during the trial. In any case, this passenger list shows her birth place to be Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. There is a handwritten note on the second page that leads me to believe that she possibly left New York for the trip in June 1930.  1930 Arrival Page1   1930 Arrival Page2

As far as Anna’s marriage, I next found what is possibly the correct one, but I do have my reservations. It turned out to be in Australia. This information is from the Australian Marriage Index, 1788-1950 but no document to look at. It shows her marrying Edwin George Banks Wass in Victoria, Australia in 1887. The reason I am not positive it’s them is that I also found the exact same couple in a birth index for their child, George Wass in 1888 in Prahran, Victoria, Australia. If the child is OUR George, his birth date and place is very wrong. Too wrong to be possible I believe. More likely is that either it’s the wrong couple or they had a previous son who died and they used the name George again after they came to America. Repeating the names of a deceased child was very common in those days I have discovered while doing genealogy. 

Anna's possible marriage in Australia.
Anna’s possible marriage in Australia.
Birth of unknown George in Australia in 1888.
Birth of unknown George in Australia in 1888.

What bothers me about this is that I got curious and briefly tackled George Edwin Wass’ parents through the UK Censuses and came across a possible William and Catherine Wass with a four year old son, George E Wass. It’s in Whitechapel so the location could be correct for our George’s Edwin’s birth, however the census was from 1861 and our George Edwin would have been twelve years old then, not four. And considering the mother’s age it seems more likely that the 18 year old sister, Ann Sophia, is really the mother but has her mother is raising him. I’ve seen this done countless times.

Regardless, when I went back to the family in 1851 there was a son named Joseph Banks Wass. Remember the marriage in Australia?  One of his names was Banks. To me, this family’s George is the one from the Australian marriage and not our George Edwin. Maybe my counterpart in England can dig more into this?  Hint, hint, Estelle! 

At about this time on FamilySearch I found Anna’s death.  She was listed as Anna Wass Dexter, an actress. Her birth was shown as 5 September 1864, but the transcriber for the website or the person filling out the death certificate put the birthplace as Austria instead of Australia. She died on 4 January 1937 in Manhattan and was also buried at Woodlawn, like her husband. Her address at the time was 927 Columbia Avenue in Manhattan but I believe they meant Columbus Avenue.  Anna’s Death

Unfortunately I never did find any hard evidence of what happened to Josephine after she made the movie Freaks. I believe she divorced George before 1940 as I never found a death record for her and George is listed as single, not widowed, in the 1940 Census. The question is what then?

One possible person I did come across was a Josephine Wass in the 1940 Census living in Chester, Pennsylvania as a widow (very common then for a woman to claim widow instead of divorced due to shame). She is a house maid for a Polish family and had been living in Wilmington, Delaware in 1935. Her birth is listed as 1892 and from Poland. I found her again in 1955 back in Wilmington at 132 Bird Street. She passed away on 11 July 1966 and her birth shows as 4 July 1891. If this is her then she was 40 when she filmed Freaks.

The part about this that makes me question it is the fact that this Josephine is buried in a Catholic cemetery in Wilmington. My gut tells me she is Jewish. However, judging the fact that George’s family was possibly Catholic due to their Irish roots she very well could have been Catholic or had converted. Too many possibilities.

Her burial name though was Josephine S Wass. The standard format for a married woman’s name in the U.S. is to use her maiden name as her middle. So her initial would be “S”. Her burial location is the Cathedral Cemetery at 2400 Lancaster Avenue in Wilmington, Delaware. Her plot is: Sec-J Row-3 Lot-19 Grave-8. If anyone in the Wilmington area could dig up her obituary we may find out once and for all if this is her. 

I did investigate the surname Sambor and found out it is Polish and Jewish. In the Ukraine nowadays it is Sambir. This brings up another possibility that I hope we discover is incorrect. Let’s assume that she got divorced not long after the movie and she returned home to Poland. If she did and IF she was Jewish….  Well, we all know how THAT could have ended within a few years. Though Estelle and I both checked the Holocaust databases with no success (thankfully!), it means absolutely nothing. Personally I hope she remarried and settled down somewhere with a house and a white picket fence for the rest of her days. 

Update 28 Jul 2015:  After a bit more creative searching I came across an Antonina Sambier on a New York passenger arrival list from 27 May 1910.  I also found her departure list from Hamburg, Germany but it was too horrible to read. Besides, the New York ones usually give the better information when they are immigrants. 

She is number three on the list and it shows her to be a 17 year old house maid from Austria, the same occupation as the Josephine S Wass from Delaware later. Her ethnicity says she is Ruthenian. To understand more about this you can view the Wikipedia entry here:  Ruthenian History

Suffice it to say that it matches up with her Polish and Ukrainian roots. It also means that she was probably Catholic, which makes me feel better about her odds of not dying in the Holocaust and her possible burial in that Catholic cemetery in Delaware. It lists her father, which I couldn’t decipher and it says she is going to Jersey City, New Jersey.  1910 Arrival Page1The second page says that her brother paid her passage, that his first name is Wasyl and that he lives at 57 Morris Street in Jersey City.  She is 4 feet 11 inches tall, which is quite a difference from the 5 feet 6 inches that has been generally accepted. Also she has brown hair and blue eyes. This is all well and good but I still needed proof that it was our Josephine so next I needed to find Wasyl. 1910 Arrival Page2

First place to try was the 1910 Census. Unfortunately nothing showed up. This forced me to use his address and go page by page for the area he lived in. When I got to where his address would be it wasn’t listed. This can happen when no one is living there but the census was taken in April and Antonina arrived in May so I would think he would be still be there. For now this was a dead end so I did some other searching for him and found his WWI draft card from Sep 1918. It shows him as Wasyl Sambir, born 12 March 1881 in Galacia, Austria. He lives at 139 First Avenue in New York City and works in Brooklyn. Oddly enough, his next of kin is a friend, not his sister.  WW1 Draft Card

He pops up again in the 1930 Census in Sullivan County, New York.  At this point he is a caretaker at a summer hotel, has been naturalized and is a widower. It shows his 1909 arrival to America and that he was born about 1882 in Poland. So with this information I went searching for his arrival and his marriage.  1930 Census

 I found his 8 April 1909 departure from Hamburg easily enough but it is in German and it really doesn’t give much help anyway. It does mean he would have arrived about 18 Apr 1909 but I have yet to find it. Next I needed his marriage. I finally found it on FamilySearch. He is called Basilius instead of Wasyl, which is just a variation of Wasyl. He had married a Maria Wyszniowecke, who was born about 1893 in Galacia, Austria. It gave her parents’ names and it also gave Wasyl’s parents. They were the same as our Josephine’s!  The one problem I did have was that the marriage took place in Manhattan on 8 October 1911 and this is seven years before Wasyl’s WWI draft card was filled out, where Maria would have been listed. So did she die early on? Or when he was a widow in the 1930 Census was that a second wife that had died perhaps?  Wasyl’s Marriage

I was unable to find her death so maybe they were divorced before 1918 and she had remarried. The other possibility is that the Wasyl from the 1930 Census is coincidentally a different Wasyl. Regardless, we now know that Wasyl and Josephine were brother and sister and we are just a little bit closer to finding Josephine. Every little clue counts.

Update 29 Jul 2015:  Another minor breakthrough. Today I found the passenger arrival list for Wasyl’s wife, Maria.  With the surname Wyszniowecke you can imagine the fun I had looking. She arrived 19 March 1909 in New York. She had resided in the same town in Austria (Podusilna) as Josephine, which is now in the Ukraine. It shows her as coming to be with her cousin, whose name I had a hard time trying to decipher. It also says her ethnicity is Ruthenian, like Josephine’s did. As of now I am still unable to find either Wasyl or Maria in the 1910 or 1915 censuses. 

Update 30 July 2015:  Today I was fortunate enough to discover Wasyl’s name on his 17 April 1909 arrival in New York at Ellis Island up on FamilySearch.  Arrival at Ellis IslandI knew he would have arrived around the 18th since we had his departure date from Hamburg as 8 April 1909 and the trip is usually about 10 days long. I am unable to upload an image here as it would have to be purchased from the Ellis Island website, but they do provide a look at it and the information from it. He is listed as Wasyl Sambir, a single male that is 27 years old and his last place of residence is Ryssaze, Hungary. I’m not sure how the town is actually spelled but this spelling didn’t show up on Google.

The second page reveals that he paid his own way and has twelve dollars to his name. He was better off than Josephine. She only had five. His destination is his brother-in-law, Harry, whose last name appears to be something like Fanak and who lives in Jersey City, NJ but I was unable to make out the street name. A quick check of the 1910 Census did not reveal this Harry to me so more digging will have to be done, but at least now we know that another Sambor sister is in the area. 

After dinner I decided to give it another try, and assuming that Wasyl’s sister got married after arriving here in the U.S. just like her siblings did, I went back up to FamilySearch and had a look.  She popped up as Emilia Lambir. THIS is why you should look at documents, not just the information provided. I mentioned earlier in the blog about doing this because the transcriptions are wrong many times. Apparently the “S” looked like an “L” to the transcriber, which I’ve seen before. I knew it was an “S” of course because her parents are listed and it’s the same as Wasyl’s and Josephine’s. 

She married a George Fanok, so he is probably George Harry Fanok. Of course we don’t know the exact spelling of his last name but it’s probably close. They were married 22 June 1907 in Manhattan (what is it with them all getting married in Manhattan?). Further brief searching hasn’t resulted in anything on them yet. 

Emilia Sambir's marriage
Emilia Sambir’s marriage

Update 1 August 2015:  After spending some time adding to Emilia’s tree, I found them on a census and when following this lead it out it appeared that she had three kids and then probably died early on. George (Harry) remarried quickly and had more children. As I pursued all the children’s lives I started to get less sure that this Harry Fanok was Emilia’s husband. It’s still possible but if so then his name was Harry Maxim Fanok. This came about when one of the children turned out to be Harry Fanok of baseball pitching fame from the early 1960s, known then for his blazing fastball. He mentions his grandfather, Henry Maxim, in his bio. I’ll have to get back onto Emilia later. This family fried my brain for now.

I decided to just do a general search on the Ellis Island website for any Sambor/Sambir. One interesting hit was for an Anna Sambor from an arrival in 1931. Page one shows her sailing from Southampton, England on 16 June 1931 and arriving in New York on the 25th. She is a single 17 year old whose occupation is farming and that she is from Podusilna, the same hometown of our Sambor folks. Page two says her relative in Poland is Marja Sambor (her aunt) who lives in Podusilna also. Anna’s final destination is Brooklyn and that her father paid her way over. Then her father is listed and it’s none other than Wasyl Sambor of 677 Metropolitan Ave., in Brooklyn, New York. After putting Anna in the tree and doing a search the passenger manifest showed up so I can actually upload it here. She was also detained upon arrival. This can happen for many reasons but in her case it was nothing serious, only because her father was supposed to call. 1931 Arrival Page1   1931 Arrival Page2   Detention

If this was our Wasyl then the earlier 1930 Census I’d found may not be him since this census places him living in Sullivan County, New York. Sullivan County is northeast of New York City but close enough to be easily considered that he might have lived there. It is also possible that he moved the following year back to New York City and that both guys are one and the same. Searching for him in Brooklyn in 1930 yielded nothing so I did the more difficult page-by-page in the Metropolitan Ave area for him and when I found the address he was not yet living there. The fact he’s not there is the main reason that both Wasyls may be the same guy. Either way, how did Anna end up being born back in Poland?

Maybe early on Wasyl’s wife left him for home and had Anna in Poland or they both moved back and then he returned later. If Maria had died in Poland in between Anna’s 1914 birth and Wasyl’s 1930 census as a widower in Sullivan County then it would make more sense with the documentation found thus far. Further searching on Anna has been less than fruitful for now, but I did find an Ann Sambor that had been married to a Samuel Elvert and passed away in 1975 in New Jersey. Unfortunately I was unable to find any marriage info on them. 

Update 2 August 2015:  Doing some  yard work and getting away from the blog the rest of the night helped clear my head so I got back into it this morning. I decided to tackle Emilia and Harry again. This time I found what appears to be them in the 1910 Census. They are living at 51 Morris Street in Jersey City, NJ. They also have a new son named Michael whose age is 8/12. The census was taken on 5 May so this means he would have been born about August 1909, give or take. When I added him to the tree a Social Security application popped up for him that says he was born 23 August 1909 in Jersey City. It also shows that he died 26 July 1997. Harry shows as being born about 1885 in Russia. Now keep in mind that Russia, Poland, and Austria are going to be interchangeable as time goes on with these people from Galacia. The census also shows him as arriving in America about 1902, he speaks English and is a laborer on the docks. Emilia is called Millie here, which is reasonable. She was born about 1887 in Russia, does not speak English, and has borne one child that is living. This is the first marriage for both and they’ve been married for two years. They were married in June of 1907 so two years is correct. Also she states that she arrived in 1902. 1910 Census

In the 1920 Census Harry has moved the family to Hanover, Morris County, NJ. Emilia has been replaced by a new young wife named Pauline. The three boys are there and they all match up plus a new one month old boy named Walter, who would be from Harry’s new wife. Walter’s age was transcribed as 9/12 but looking at the census reveals it to be 1/12, which matches his true birth of 22 November 1919. Emilia’s last child was Harry Jr., who was born 19 November 1914 in Whippany, Morris County, NJ. This means that Emilia probably died November 1914 to January 1919. Unfortunately I am unable to find any documentation for it. Harry Jr., it turns out, happened to die on 9-11. I found nothing though that ties him to dying at the World Trade Center.  1920 Census

A quick search revealed Harry’s marriage to Pauline Procopetcz on 25 January 1919 in Manhattan (again with the Manhattan marriage location!).  Harry and Pauline’s Marriage

I decided to end Emilia’s research at this point. There is plenty more on Harry, Pauline and all the children but nothing helpful in locating Josephine. 

Update 3 August 2015:  Received an email from a Bradford Smith, an astute reader of this blog. He had noticed something I didn’t. One of the things we genealogists always do when we check a grave on FindAGrave.Com is then check that particular cemetery for others with the same surname. Well, young Bradford caught me with my pants down as I had not checked for others and he pointed out that there was a Harry and Anna Wass also buried in the cemetery in Delaware where our possible Josephine was buried in 1966.

This Harry was born in 1913 and his wife Anna in 1919. The age easily fits to for Harry to be her son. Unfortunately our Josephine didn’t get married until 1917. Now it could just be a coincidence that there are others buried there named Wass, however I located a 1930 Census from Wilmington with a Josephine Vas and son Harry, both with the correct info. And when this Josephine was in Pennsylvania in the 1940 Census discussed earlier in this blog Harry is newly married to Anna and they are in Wilmington on their own with their brand new baby, Harriet, who by the way was also buried in the same cemetery about 10 years ago under her married name. None of this is 100 percent concrete but it is fairly likely so I’m now of the opinion that Delaware Josephine is a coincidence. Thank you Mr. Smith for your diligent assistance!

Update 6 Aug 2015:  Speaking of Mr. Smith, he did some more searching and came across some interesting information and some ads for her performances in 1927. These articles/ads refer to the Josephine Joseph Big Circus Side Show, so she and George had their own show from near the beginning of her touring apparently.  And Bradford also discovered that George was referring to himself as George Dexter.  I am posting these various finds with this update.  1927 Ad One   1927 Ad Two

Another from January 1928 in Reading, PA that Brandon found that uses the Big Circus Side Show moniker.
Another from January 1928 in Reading, PA that Brandon found that uses the Big Circus Side Show moniker.

I’ve come to the conclusion that their surname is probably Sambir. The Sambor name seems to start for the most part after arriving in America. Josephine’s arrival here is probably the best example. It was listed by the ship’s crew as Sambier. This would have been due to how the name sounded to them when she told them her name. As it stands right now I am going to say that our Josephine’s real name was Josefina Antonina Sambir, or something very similar.

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Thanks for stopping by! -Ray

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