While accepting a Tony award for his role in the musical The Band’s Visit, actor Tony Shalhoub shared part of his immigrant father’s story with the audience. Tony, best known for his roles on TV shows Wings and Monk, became emotional as he linked his father’s journey to his success as an actor. Here’s what Family Tree Magazine was able to find out about Tony Shalhoub’s father, Joseph.
Joe Shalhoub immigrated to the United States from Lebanon at just 8 years old. In August 1920, Joe stepped off the ship Rochambeau at Ellis Island. The famous immigration port is just a few miles away from Radio City Music Hall, where his son would receive the highest award in theater 98 years later.
The passenger manifest (which spells his name Chachoub) shows how and when Joe arrived with three of his siblings. As you’ll see in the far right column, the four were bound for De Pere, Wisconsin, a suburb of Green Bay. The second page of the manifest (not pictured) details they will live with “Uncle Joe.” (Indeed, according to the 1920 census, this uncle, Joseph Shalhoub, lives his wife in De Pere.) The list states their closest living relative in their home of Syria is their father, but Tony said in a 2015 interview with the Wall Street Journal that their parents died in Lebanon before the four left.
At the time of his immigration, Joe’s homeland was in turmoil. Following World War I, the Allied Powers divided up the Ottoman Empire. The Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1917 gave Syria and Lebanon to France, and Iraq, Jordan and Palestine to the United Kingdom. The Agreement neglected existing ethnic boundaries, as well as the wishes of the Arab peoples. So when the Agreement was enforced in 1920, the French faced armed resistance in their newly acquired territories.
Several years later, Joe naturalized in the state of Wisconsin. His Declaration of Intention gives a birth date and place (March 19, 1912, in Ableh, Syria), as well as his height, weight and hair color. The document also confirms his immigration date. Note that, in his nationalization record, Joe lists his nationality as French, but his ethnicity as Syrian.
The file even includes a headshot! You can see the family resemblance.
After he naturalized, Joe married and continued his one-man business driving a truck. With that money, he provided for his 10 children. And one of them went on to win a Tony award, three Emmy awards and a Golden Globe.
“Tonight, I celebrate him. And all those in his family who journeyed before him and with him and after him,” Tony said. “…May we, their descendants, never lose sight of what they taught us.”
To research your own immigrant ancestors, check out the Immigration Records Genealogy Cheat Sheet.