Out to Sea

12/30/1910—First page of letter from Josef to Lisi on  F. Missler stationery

12/30/1910—First page of letter from Josef to Lisi on F. Missler stationery

Once Josef arrived in Bremen, and his path to America seemed clear, he wrote to Lisi. Not only had Friedrich Missler,  probably Bremen’s most successful ticket agent, given thousands of passengers a brown, canvas wallet like the one in which I found Josef’s diary, he also provided stationery emblazoned with “F. Missler” and the agency’s address at 30 Bahnhof Strasse [literally: Train Station Street], proving Missler was a marketing wizard of his day. Many descendants who have these wallets have mistakenly thought “Missler” was the name of the ship pictured and researched in vain to find it.

Here’s the first page of Josef’s letter to Lisi, written on Missler stationery. If you look closely, you can see the date at the start of the letter (the date is first and the month follows in Roman Numerals).

30/XII 1910
December 30, 1910
Dear Lisi,
I want to tell you that I have arrived in Bremen happy and healthy. Now I want to tell you about my nightmare trip.

At this point Josef describes his misadventures and narrow escapes, which have already been shared in previous posts, so I’ll skip over that part and start with Bremen: [If you missed those narrow escapes, see Terror Atop the Train and Threats to the Dream.]

Thank God I am here, and I thank our Lord God again many times for the good thoughts he gave me. But such a trip! I thought it would undo me!
Missler Emigrant Hall, Bremen, 1907. Perhaps this is where Josef sat with his new-found friends.

Missler Emigrant Hall, Bremen, 1907. Perhaps this is where Josef sat with his new-found friends.

We’re sitting here at F. Missler, and already it’s going a bit easier because each person [fellow travelers he’s met] makes the other happy, and so we are getting along fine.

Tomorrow, December 31, 1910, we’re going to board the ship, as long as we remain healthy. Every day we are checked by a doctor, and up to now, I am completely healthy. Many people, who got sick on the trip, have already been here in Bremen for eight weeks. One woman, who had eye inflammation [probably trachoma–pink eye] has already been waiting here four weeks. She’s finally received authorization to depart for America.

With heartfelt greetings, I end my letter. Please, dear Lisi, tell me in your first letter what you have heard of my colleagues. [To read my recent discovery of what happened to the two friends with whom Josef started his trip, see the end of this post: Threats to the Dream]

With greetings to all, 
Gärtz, Josef, Bremen
We must look to his diary now, to see into the heart and mind of a young man, his written emotions  a reflection of what thousands of others must have felt at this point in their journeys, as he travels the final leg that will transport him to an unknown land and future.
Friedrich der Grosse from NorwayHeritage.com

Friedrich der Grosse from NorwayHeritage.com

December 31, 1910
Early Saturday morning at 4 am, we saw a doctor who looked us in the eyes and inoculated the left hand with four shots. At 7a.m. we took a two-hour train to the ship. We boarded the ship at 10:30 a.m., and at 11:30, it departed directly for America.

I was moved by sadness, joy, and fear as the mighty colossus pulled us far out over the waves of the great sea. Everyone on land waved after us with their handkerchiefs as they wanted to share with us a last and friendly farewell. They know such a trip deals with life and death, and we’re never certain if we’ll see each other again.

Throngs at the Port of Bremen. Not the era of Josef's departure, but gives a sense of the kind of crowd he describes. (From the collection of Maggie Land Blanck)

Throngs at the Port of Bremen. Not the era of Josef’s departure, but gives a sense of the kind of crowd he describes. (From the collection of Maggie Land Blanck)

Josef truly rang out the old on New Year’s Eve, 1910, departing from everything familiar — and hoped to ring in 1911 with a new life in America. But first he had to endure the harsh winter crossing over the frigid, stormy Atlantic seas.
2010-12-31T04:30:00+00:00 December 31st, 2010|Family Archaeologist, family history, Genealogy, Germans, immigration|


  1. Jasia December 31, 2010 at 6:36 am - Reply

    Great post, Linda! The post cards and photos were a nice addition too. I can hardly wait to see what happens next on Jozef’s voyage. My maternal grandmother made the trip from Poland (via Bremen) to Ellis Island in 1913, so not long after your Jozef. I’m sure I’ll be imagining her trip was similar to Jozef’s…

  2. Linda Gartz December 31, 2010 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for your comment! I can imagine the hope and fear (Gee–sounds like “Little Town of Bethlehem”) that accompanied all the millions emigrants who boarded those ships.

  3. Ziobob December 31, 2010 at 10:09 am - Reply


    If Grandpa Jozef could spend a day with you today he would be brimming with pride as to the rewards of the hardships he endured.

  4. Linda Gartz December 31, 2010 at 11:37 am - Reply

    What a sweet thing to say! They could never have imagined that their words, written so long ago, would be available to the whole world with the click of a mouse (only a “squeak” of such would be imagined in their time.) They did live to see a man land on the moon–perhaps a greater leap of technology from their late 19th century lives than even we have seen in our lives. But all is moving exponentially fast! What will the world be like 100 years hence?

  5. Kerry Scott December 31, 2010 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Wow, to leave on the eve of a new year…that must have been something.

    I’m digging how these line up to exactly 100 years ago. We live in such a different world now, but starting over is still…starting over.

  6. Linda Gartz January 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Kerry. It was the centennial that compelled me to get this blog started this year. And as to your comment of “starting over” reminds me of your post of changing careers — something I’ve done too. It’s empowering!

  7. Margel January 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Linda- I really enjoy your blog. It feels like Josef is writing to me. To have such a wonderful family resource is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it, and your photo choices add so much.

  8. Linda Gartz January 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    That’s a wonderful testimonial — to say you feel Josef is writing to you. I love these first person accounts because they transport thoughts and feelings across the ages. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  9. Candace George Thompson January 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    I’m an OCWW member, sat behind you at the personal essay sessions last fall. I’m finding your posts and site entertaining and instructive as I work on the story of my own career Air Force family. Looking forward to talking with you at a future meeting. Congrats on such a professional and creative blog, and also on your Persimmontree story. Cheers! Candace

  10. Linda Gartz January 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Candace,
    Thanks so much for the positive comments. I’d love to talk with you about your project.
    I’m not sure I’ll be at the Jan 6th- 20th meetings, but will definitely be at 1/27 on blogging! See you soon.

  11. Anonymous January 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Hey, Linda,
    When I first read “North German Lloyd” and “Bremen” in your posts, I thought of my late father who served that line and the Bremen as Purser (or Asst.) for a couple years before the WWII until requesting a transfer to the NYC sales office. But, that was surely the “Bremen IV”, the fast, two-stacker ex-1928, depicted also in your story. Nice job, Linda! Henry

  12. Linda Gartz January 5, 2011 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Bremenhaven — or Port of Bremen– was the port from which thousands made their way to America. Sounds like your dad had a lot to do with keeping the business in business — and thereby helping immigrants get to America.

  13. Kathy Reed January 9, 2011 at 10:38 am - Reply

    I absolutely love your blog (and thanks for posting on mine). When I was searching blogs for the “Ancestor Approved” Award, I wanted to give it to you — but someone else had beat me to it. I’m going to read every post. You seem to have struck a nerve since you already have 45 followers on a relatively new blog. Congratulations.

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