With the closest relatives three and a half hours away, our children grew up in the car/van/minivan. Family visits, coupled with tent, then pop-up camper, finally Holiday Inn Express vacations, got them all to the lower 48 states by 1998. Alaska was added in 2010. Two children completed all fifty–with Hawaii on their own dimes (before Mike & I got there!)–prior to that. Family vacations were apparently time well-spent, because our children have lots of stories to tell (some more entertaining than others!) of those trips, and they all seem to enjoy travel as adults.
For my ancestors, the trip from Europe to America was not for relaxation. They uprooted themselves from the life they knew and traveled to a completely foreign place. Both Mike’s and my families are relatively new to North America, with only a handful of ancstors showing up in the 1850 census records. No Mayflower Society or DAR/SAR memberships in this house!
I’ve not had terribly good luck locating ships’ passenger lists. Part of the difficulty has to do with:
- inexact emigration dates
- non-existent naturalization records–or incomplete information on them
- lack of ships’ records from that time
- difficulty in reading the records that do exist!
- extremely vague descriptions of the passengers. With a somewhat common name, is that “farmer from Germany” mine, or someone else’s?
Few of my ancestors passed down information about their emigration. When I expressed surprise about that 45 years ago to the grandaunts & granduncles (their parents were born in the USA, but they had aunts and uncles–and grandparents–born in the “old country”), their reply was that everyone was trying so hard to fit in and become American, they didn’t talk about the past. It’s also possible those memories saddened them, so not talking about it made it easier.
But we do have snippets of their adventures. My great-grandmother, Dorothea Hary/Harre/Haré/Harry (just a few of her variations!) was born in Wisconsin, but her parents and older siblings were not. I still haven’t found the passenger list for the ship they came over on in 1854. But shortly after I got married, I was contacted by a Mr. Leslie Larson. His wife descended from Dorothea’s older sister, Margaret. At some point the story about the last leg of their journey, after arriving in New York, was recorded. I don’t know who the story originated from (possibly Margaret?), or who wrote it down, but this is what I read:
“Great grandfather [Peter] did not have enough money when he arrived in New York to bring all the family to Two Rivers. Great Grandmother HARRÉ [Elisabetha] lived in New York and worked at a hotel for at least a couple of months until she had earned enough money to pay hers and the children’s fare to Cooperstown near Two Rivers. She carried Peter and kicked Johnny to keep him from lagging behind, and they walked all the way from Cooperstown to Two Rivers, a distance of approximately 15 miles.” (from narrative obtained from Leslie Larson)
Peter & Elisabeth (Boullie/Bullea) Harré arrived in New York some time in May, 1854. I don’t know exactly what route or method they used to reach Wisconsin. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825, so all they needed to do was get to the starting point. While cross county train travel was not available yet, apparently New York State had several railroads linking different parts of the state.¹ Taking a train to the canal wouldn’t have been difficult. Or they could have traveled up the Hudson by boat.
Water transportation would have been much easier and quicker than overland travel through the relatively new (and still rough around the edges) states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. From the description, it sounds like Peter went on ahead–probably to secure land, get seeds planted, start on a house, maybe? The oldest of their four (at that point–two daughters had died before they left) children was under age 10:
- Mary–9 1/2
- Peter–barely a year
None of them were old enough to be helpful to him. It made sense for them to stay with their mom while she earned the traveling money.
Arriving in Two Rivers, she was still not home free! According to Google, (click for map) it’s a 16.3 mile walk to Cooperstown, and takes just under 5.5 hours–following present-day roads. I can’t begin to imagine doing that with children and questionable roads! Peter wouldn’t have known exactly when to expect them, so couldn’t have been there to meet them in Two Rivers and give them a ride back. Did Elisabeth have to deal with luggage, too? Hopefully not, if she was carrying the baby! Were that left in town, for Peter to drive in for later, with a wagon? So many questions, so few answers . . .
Sometimes in genealogy, we get so focused on the ship crossing the Atlantic, we forget that wasn’t the end of the road. Interstates didn’t connect places. No Holiday Inn Expresses to stay in, serving cinnamon rolls. And no Game Boys (or whatever the current equivalent is) to keep the kids from complaining during the trip.
As far as I know, none of my ancestors kept diaries, documenting their travels. I’m grateful to have this one description to give me at least a taste of what it may have been like for the others.
¹ Website describing state-wide train service in New York beginning in 1830: click here