This post was originally published on Jan. 5, 2011.
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.
Josef’s experience crossing the Atlantic in winter in winter reminds me of comments from my Scottish grandmother about her brother’s journey to the United States from Scotland around 1900 in winter. He thought he might not survive the journey through the Bay of Biscay because he was so sick. Both Josef and John survived to make their unique contribution to American society. Family Archaeologist is a terrific blog.
Thanks for the great compliment, Sandy. I think of all those thousands of new immigrants, trying to make a better life — and how many did so, your ancestors included.