Vivian Maier's Family


Recent release of the 1940 census shows new details about the early life of Chicago photographer Vivian Maier and indicates that her father, Charles, was involved in her life, at least during 1940, and that she and her brother, Charles, lived together with their parents, at least for a while.

Although early accounts of Vivian Maier's life reported that she was an only child, census records and a 1936 obituary showed that she had a brother. Her extended family also included an aunt and a great-uncle in New York.

Attention has gone to the 1930 census report that showed Vivian and her mother, Marie, living as boarders with photographer Jeanne Bertrand in New York. Vivian Maier was 4 at the time of that census report.

The 1940 census report shows that father Charles, 48, and mother Marie, 43, were living with daughter "Vivan" and son Charles at 314 64th St. in Manhattan.

Although the census report lists the age of "Vivan" as 14, in line with her birth in 1926, it indicates that Charles was 12. Based on the 1930 census, the junior Charles would have been 20 in 1940.

The 1940 census does show members of the family had lived on different continents for some period of time.

According to the census report, Marie Maier and her daughter were living in St. Julien, France, Marie Maier's birthplace, on April 1, 1935, while Charles Maier and his son were living in New York on that date.

Chicago Magazine reported in 2011 that a birth certificate identified Vivian Maier's parents as Maria Jaussaud Maier, a French immigrant, and Charles Maier, an Austrian immigrant. Vivian Maier was born Feb. 1, 1926, in New York.

An obituary in the New York Times on Jan. 31, 1936, records the death of Wilhelm von Maier on Jan. 29, 1936, in Lenox Hill Hospital and confirms Vivian Maier's family relationships in New York.

The obituary identifies von Maier as the "dearly beloved husband of Marie von Maier, devoted father of Mrs. Alma C. Corsan and Charles von Maier, and grandfather of Charles von Maier Jr. and Dorothea Vivian von Maier."

Census reports and other public documents provide more details about the Maier family, with differing versions of their name used.

A 1920 census report for New York shows Charles Maier and his wife, Marie Maier, living with his parents in New York. The census report shows his parents as William Maier and Marie Maier.

Although the report indicates that the senior Marie Maier was from Austria, it shows William Maier from Hungary. From 1867 until the end of World War I, Austria-Hungary was one country. The report lists the country of origin for the younger Marie Maier as France.

The census of 1920 shows a large Maier household. In addition to the two Maier couples living at 162 E. 56th St. in Manhattan were two boarders.

Between 1920 and 1930, William and Marie Maier moved to an apartment at 574 E. 156th St. in the Bronx. City directories show the Maiers living at 162 E. 56th St. in Manhattan in 1922 and 1925.

The other occupant of the apartment at 574 E. 156th St. in 1930 was Charles W. Maier, whom the census of 1930 lists as a "grandson."

The 1930 census report shows the age of Charles W. Maier as 10, his father as Austrian and his mother as French. It shows his birthplace as New York.

According to the records of Ellis Island, the family of Wilhelm Maier arrived in the United States in 1905. This is the date that later census reports show as the date of arrival for William; his wife, Marie; and their son, Charles.

The ship's manifest for the Kronprinz Wilhelm in 1905 shows those in the family as father Wilhelm, 47; mother Marie, 44; sister Alma, 17; and brother Karl, 11. These ages are in line with subsequent age reports for William, Marie and Charles Maier in the 1920 and 1930 census reports.

In 1920, William was 60, Marie was 59, and Charles was 27, according to the census report.

In 1930, William was 72, and Marie was 69, according to the census report.

The census of 1910 also includes the members of the Maier family, but the report indentifies the family name as "Meyer" rather than "Maier."

Living in an apartment at 220 E. 76th St. in Manhattan were father Willian, 50; mother Marie, 51; daughter Alma, 22; and son Charles, 17. According to the report, the family had arrived in the United States in 1905.

The report shows that William "Meyer" worked as a gardener at a hospital, Alma "Meyer" was a matron at an orphanage, and Charles "Meyer" had a job as a salesman at a grocery store.

Also in the household, according to the census report, were two boarders and Julius Hauser, the brother of Marie Maier.

The report indicates Hauser, 45, arrived in the United States in 1906 and was working as a butcher at a hotel.

Julius Hauser arrived in the New York in 1906 aboard the Brandenburg, according to Ellis Island records. The record indicates that a relative in the United States was his sister, "Maria v. Mayer" in New York.

He listed his place of birth as Öedenburg, which is on the Austrian-Hungarian border. Öedenburg now is better known as Sopron, in Hungary.

The census of 1920 shows Hauser moved to different lodgings as a boarder, but he was still working as a butcher at a hotel.

City directories show the Maiers still living at 220 E. 76th St. in Manhattan in 1915 and 1916.

Although the subsequent census reports in 1920 and 1930 showed naturalization for the Maiers in 1912, naturalization papers for them have not been located yet.

A ship's manifest for a voyage in which Marie and "Vivianne" Maier returned from France in 1938 shows that Marie Maier received citizenship "by marriage May 11, 1919."

A 1914 ship's manifest shows that "Maria Jaussard" arrived in the United States aboard the liner France. She was 17 and working as a maid for Louise Orio Heckler, a resident of New York. According to a subsequent passport application, Heckler had lived for a year in France between 1916 and 1917, before returning to the United States.

Although "Maria Jaussard" lists her nationality as French, the ship's manifest indicates that her most recent residence was in Italy. She identified her birthplace as St. Julien in France.

St.-Julien-en-Champsaur in southeastern France is a commune in the canton of St.-Bonnet-en-Champsaur, as is the commune of St. Bonnet-en-Champsaur, which family documents indicate is the birthplace of Jeanne Bertrand.

The 1930 census shows that Bertrand, Marie Maier and her daughter, Vivian, occupied an apartment at 724 Saint Mary's Street, also in the Bronx.

The Maiers' apartment and Bertrand's apartment were less than a mile apart by travel on the streets and even closer with a shortcut through St. Mary's Park, the largest park in the Bronx.

According to the 1930 census report, William Maier, at 79, still was working part-time at a warehouse. Marie Maier's job as listed on the 1930 census report was as a practical nurse.

The separate living arrangements for the children may have been necessary to provide them with adequate room and financial support.

The location of Charles (Karl) Maier, Vivian Maier's father, after 1920 has not been clear. The 1920 census showed that he was working as a mechanical engineer in a candy factory.

The 1940 census shows that Charles Maier was working as a "steam engineer" in a "government house."

Alma Maier in 1914 married Joseph Corsan, a Russian immigrant and silk merchant in New York.

The census of 1920 indicates that Alma Corsan, 32, was a 1905 immigrant from Austria. The Corsans lived in Manhattan in 1920 and 1930, but at different locations, according to the 1930 census report.

What happened to the couple after 1930 and to Alma Maier Corsan is not clear, although her father's obituary in 1936 still included her as "Mrs." Corsan.

In 1939, Joseph Corsan, owner of the Colony Silk Shop in Manhattan, filed a petition for naturalization, although earlier census reports indicated that he already had received naturalization.

Corsan stated in the petition that he was not married, but the 1940 census reported that Joseph and Alma "Corson" were living together as husband and wife at 108 E. 66th St. in Manhattan. The date on the census sheet was April 20, 1940.

Corsan, who arrived in the United States in 1909 aboard the President Lincoln, was, according to Ellis Island records, born Josef Korsuhnsky in Kiev, Russia, in 1886. He received citizenship on May 27, 1940.

Social Security records indicate that Joseph Corsan died in New York in 1970.

Social Security records also show that a Marie Jaussaud, born in 1897, the year of Vivian Maier's mother's birth, died in New York in 1975.

Published: Feb. 23, 2011
Revised: June 8, 2012

Related Sites

The Telegraph: Vivian Maier -- the nanny with a flair for photography

Artificial: Pioneer of Photography--Jeanne J. Bertrand

New York Times: New Street Photography, 60 Years Old

Kitchen Sisters: The Lost & Found Photographs of Vivian Maier

Women's Voices for Change: Vivian Maier--A Photographer Discovered

The Anti-Room: Uncovering the Beautiful Mystery of Vivian Maier