26 May 1881. Seems like a somewhat random date, right? It’s actually very important—the day one set of great grandparents, Christian Meintzer Colorful and Sophia Gaertner My Favorite Photo, arrived in New York. It was before either Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty were in place.
I still don’t have arrival dates for:
- Carl Moeller and Elfrieda Jonas
- Nicholas and Elisabetha Jost
- Christian Bruder and Catharine Cugel
- John Haase and Elisabetha Nachtwey
- Peter Harré and Elisabetha Boullie
- Ignatz Schweiger
- John Joseph Carmody and Elizabeth Alloway
- Frank Kukler and Anna Plansky
- Joseph Schmitt and Margaret Hildesheim
- Patrick Nolan, and his parents John Nolan and Elizabeth Alpin (Halpin)
- James Needham and Mary Elizabeth Renehan
- Augusta Maud Varco and her parents, Robert & Jane
- John Flynn (Augusta’s husband)
Just looking at the list makes me sad, and I would give almost anything to know those dates and arrival ports! I didn’t choose this 1881 date from all the random dates in my file simply because it’s when Christian and Sophia brought their large family to the USA from Le Havre on the French steamer, Labrador. I chose it because of another random event, 137 years later.
People who know me know that we cruise quite a bit. This past April, Carnival launched a new ship with a very short European season. The Carnival Horizon had just 5 cruises in the Mediterranean, with a transatlantic cruise (our first!) leaving May 9th from Barcelona. We booked that cruise shortly after it became available.
We spent 5 days circling the Iberian peninsula before heading west to Halifax—with 6 sea days in between! We’ve had 5 consecutive sea days before, so weren’t concerned when we left Vigo, Spain.
I love sea days—looking at the horizon, watching the changes in the sea—regardless of whether it’s smooth or rough. At some point I usually think about my ancestors, wondering what their trips had been like, and how they felt, looking at the sea.
This particular cruise wasn’t really different, until about 3 days into the crossing. It suddenly dawned on me that I was sailing across the Atlantic at the same time of year as Christian and Sophia! I couldn’t believe in all the months of planning, I never connected those two random events.
While they and we all ended up in NYC (we docked 3 days before they did), our ocean voyages were vastly different:
- 3 weeks (I think they left on 5 May, but I’m not finding that document right now) vs. 6 days
- Steamship vs. diesel/marine fuel
- Steerage vs. Ocean view stateroom (their passenger list didn’t distinguish between 3rd and 4th class–anything not 1st or 2nd class was “steerage”)
- 1388 (160 1st class, 125 2nd, 653 3rd, 450 4th)¹ vs. 4000² passengers (they were listed as passengers 494-502 on the passenger list, so maybe 3rd class?)
- 3200¹ vs. 133,500² gross tonnage
- 7 children ages 19 to <1 vs. traveling without kids
- Limited food choices vs. abundant eating options
- we won’t even talk about the IMAX, water slides, or ropes course . . .
I still marvel that we unintentionally mimicked their trip. If we had wanted to do that, undoubtedly we would have run into problem trying to find a ship going where we wanted, when we needed it. Yet this one simply dropped into our laps.
Will I find those other emigration dates? Maybe. Maybe not. Will I ever be able to understand what all of them went through? Surely not. Nevertheless, I do feel different somehow as a result of that one trip.
So, coincidence? Random? I’m not so sure . . .
²Carnival.com. https://www.carnival.com/cruise-ships/compare-cruise-ships click here (then select “Horizon” and “compare” to see its stats); accessed 18 November 2018.