Atlantic Crossing in Winter

Friedrich der Grosse from

Friedrich der Grosse from

Crossing the North Atlantic in the heart of winter was a grueling experience, as Josef reports in his diary.

The first and second days were fine, but the other ten days we had very stormy weather so that not a single person remained healthy or found any joy or pleasure on the ship. The ship flew up, then down, and made us completely dizzy. I was only sick the first two days, [perhaps he means the first two days of stormy weather], and then I got used to the ship’s movements. Still, to travel over the water in winter is gruesome. The weather was so stormy that we could only see 80, 100 meters at the most, and the water flew about.

Besides the weather, other unpleasantries accompanied Josef’s journey:

Another problem on the ship was eating. As long as I had mother’s bread and wurst, it was ok, but when I had eaten all that, I just stood there and didn’t know how to get something to eat because the cost [of food] is miserable on the ship.

It’s quite possible Josef ate sparsely for the entire trip as he had very little money. We heard that when he first arrived in America, he would buy a loaf of bread and a salami, and portion it out over a week. No wonder he was so skinny.

This is the last that Josef writes in his diary about his journey. I feel a little cheated, but don’t want to be greedy either. I would like to have learned more about how he felt seeing the Statue of Liberty, pulling into the port of New York, and enduring more health inspections at Ellis Island. But then I’m grateful to have the records he did make –and that have been amazingly preserved for this past century. It is so much more than I even imagined existed. I hope you readers have felt a kinship with the efforts your ancestors made through Josef’s trials and exhilarations as he made his way first across Europe — and then across the Atlantic.

According to the Ellis Island Ship’s list, Friedrich der Grosse arrived on January 11, 1911. Thanks to Monika Ferrier, I was able to find Josef’s name, name and age mis-transcribed, on the ship’s manifest.

While Josef continues his journey, the next few posts will share more finds that shed light onto the process of my “archaeological” dig, along with a bit of history thrown in for good measure.

2011-01-05T13:55:00+00:00 January 5th, 2011|Family Archaeologist, family history, Genealogy, Germans, immigration|


  1. Nolichucky Roots January 5, 2011 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    This has been mesmerizing reading, Linda. On its own your Josef’s journey is interesting, but since my grandfather followed a similar path – and endured a winter crossing (I never considered the differences in crossing in one season vs. another) – I have adored reading these posts.

  2. Greta Koehl January 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    I echo Susan’s comments – a fascinating story. Though it was obviously a difficult crossing, he definitely had the gumption to handle all the challenges!

  3. Nancy January 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    It’s so hard to imagine the difficulties of that journey. Reading his words takes a minute or two but the crossing itself! Whew!

    I’ve given you the Ancestor Approved Award. You do a nice job of highlighting you ancestors here. You can learn more about it and get the image at this post on my blog:

    I hope you like awards!

  4. Linda Gartz January 5, 2011 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Susan, Greta, and Nancy,
    Thanks so much to all of you for your comments. The winter crossing did sound pretty grim, but the reward on the other side was great! Nancy, thanks for the Ancestor Approved Award. What a nice idea — keeping all of genealogy nuts engaged with each other! I’ll have to be diligent now in getting those ten surprises together.

  5. Anonymous January 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    It is so interessting to read about Joseph, I feel cloth to him. Why ? Because he was born in the same house, where I was born, and he lived 21 years there. I lived there 25 years. We loved our family very much and and so a family separation was terrible, but the urge after freedom and a better life and to live its own life were stronger. I left Transylvania also december, on 29. (but not 100 years ago, only 30 years ago). Only Josephs emigration is more interesting than my.
    Thanks Linda, your Cousin Maria

  6. Sandy Arnone January 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    This is a fascinating read. I’ll be a regular visitor on your blog to learn more about Joseph’s experience. His journal makes a fascinating read and reminds us of the hardships people endured to find a better life.

  7. Anonymous January 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    America comprises risk takers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and the like. From the situations that your grandfather faced, I understand why this country has these characteristics. Hopefully we will retain these good qualities.

  8. Anonymous January 6, 2011 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to cross an ocean back then, especially during winter. They were brave souls.

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