Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wedding Wednesday - Erich and Ida Richter

Erich J.B. Richter and Ida Caroline Hilgendorff were married on December 12, 1882 in Henry County, Ohio.

On the marriage record for Erich and Ida, it looks like someone wrote "Bamns" in the left column.  I tried to look this up and I think that the word is actually "Banns".
The definition for banns is: 1. the public declaration of an intended marriage, usually formally announced on three successive Sundays in the parish churches of both the betrothed. 2. any public announcement of a proposed marriage, either verbal or written and made in a church or by church officials.

I did a little more research on banns and found that "banns" or "banns of marriage" were associated with the Church of England and other denominations whose traditions are similar.  Banns are announced or published in the church of the bride and of the groom for three consecutive weeks.  It they intend to marry at a different church from the one they normally attend, the banns have to be announced in that church as well.  So the banns could be read in three churches in some cases.

The banns are read so that the congregation knows of the upcoming marriage and can voice any objections that they have.  Such as, the couple are too closely related, or one of them is already married.  If there are no objections, then they are allowed to marry.

There is no marriage license required when banns are published.  The marriage is recorded in the church records and maybe the Family Bible, but it is not required to be reported to any civil authorities.  So it is possible to find banns of marriage, but not be able to find an actual marriage record.  Also, just because the banns were announced does not necessarily mean that the marriage took place.  So in the case of Erich and Ida's marriage, it is really lucky for us that Rev. L. Dulitz went down to the courthouse and recorded their marriage.  

Rev. L. Dulitz

Rev. L. Dulitz, was the pastor of the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Napoleon, Ohio from June 2, 1872 until August, 1884.  During his pastorate he baptized 213 children, confirmed 132, solemnized 72 marriages, and buried 60 persons.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

E. J. Richter, Napoleon, O.

This is what I have so far on E. J. Richter, the older brother of Lydia and Zilla Richter.
Erich J. B. Richter
b. 8 Jan 1854 in Germany...immigrated to USA about 1880 or 1881
d. 24 Apr 1939 in Napoleon, Henry, Ohio
m. 12 Dec 1882 in Henry County, Ohio to Ida Caroline Hilgendorff

Ida Caroline Hilgendorff
b. 30 May 1861 in Napoleon, Henry, Ohio
d. 20 Aug 1947 in Napoleon, Henry, Ohio

Erich and Ida's children:
Bertha M. (1888-1978)
Walter Edwin (1891-1986)
Meta C. (1894-?)
Eda Lydia (1897-1974)

According to the 1900 US Census, Erich and Ida had 6 children but only 4 were living at that time.  They lived in Napoleon, Ohio and Erich's occupation is sign painter.

At the time of the 1910 US Census they are still living in Napoleon, Ohio with three of their children, Walter (18), Meta (16), and Eda (12).  Bertha was married so she was living with her husband at that time.

The 1920 US Census still shows Erich and Ida are living in Napoleon, Ohio and only Eda (21) is living with them.  Walter and Meta were each married and on their own by then.  Erich's occupation is sign painter.  His daughter Eda is a bookkeeper.

The 1920 US Census has a column titled "Whether able to speak English."  This column is marked "yes" all the way down except for three people.  It was blank for a baby and one older person, and when it gets to Erich, there is an "X".  I would think that he did speak English after living in the US all these years, but I guess it is possible that he did not.  If it is true that he did not speak English, Ida probably spoke German as a second language, as her father was a German immigrant.  But it could just be that Erich had a very heavy German accent and the census taker was having a hard time understanding him.

Erich's death certificate shows that the principal cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage and arteriosclerosis.  It lists his occupation as painter.

Erich and Ida are buried at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Napoleon, Ohio.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday's Obituary - Lydia Elsner

This obituary for Lydia Elsner was in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette on Wednesday, April 8, 1936, pg.6.



                                               Mrs.  Zilla Gawehn, 1309 Sheridan
                                          court,  this  city,  received  word of the
                                          death of her sister, Mrs. Lydia  Elsner,
                                          80,  of  Princeton, Minn., Tuesday aft-
                                          ernoon  at  her  home.   Surviving  are
                                          four   children;   one   brother,    E.   J.
                                          Richter,  Napoleon, O.,  and her sister.
                                          Funeral services will be held Thursday
                                          afternoon at  Princeton.   She formerly
                                          resided in this city many years ago.

It looks like the information for this obituary was provided by Zilla Gawehn who resided in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It gives us another confirmation that Zilla and Lydia were sisters.  Zilla mentions Lydia's 4 children, but not Lydia's husband Albert, of Princeton, Minn., who is probably the one who notified her of her sister's passing!

The most exciting thing to find in this obituary is that Lydia and Zilla have a brother!  E. J. Richter of Napoleon, Ohio!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

This ad was in The Princeton Union on November 30, 1911.

From the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site:

F. T. Kettelhodt was the father of William F. Kettelhodt.  William Kettelhodt and Elizabeth Elsner married Sept. 22, 1913.

Frederick T. Kettelhodt
b. 7 Apr 1851 in Germany...came to USA in 1878
d. 19 Jul 1930 in Kanabec County, MN
m. abt 1882 to Ottilie J. Kriesel
Ottilie J. Kriesel
b. Sep 1863 in Germany...came to USA in 1880
d. 5 Jan 1920 in Mille Lacs County, MN

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Spending Thanksgiving with Relatives

I love reading the old Princeton Union newspapers and learning things about the town and the people that lived there. I especially love finding names that I recognize! 
I wondered what was going on in Princeton 100 years ago on Thanksgiving Day so I looked at The Princeton Union dated November 30, 1911.  I hoped to find something interesting. And that, I did!

On page 5 under the column "Items Of Interest from various sources" where they list all kinds of things like who visited who, advertisements, announcements, and such, I came across a couple of familiar names!

First I saw this add:

"Fred Elsner started on Monday for Red Wing to spend Thanksgiving with relatives."

and about 4 items later I saw this one:

"Miss Rena Winsor of Wyanett departed on Monday for Zumbrota to spend Thanksgiving with relatives."

Fred Elsner of course is Albert & Lydia's son and he and Miss Rena Winsor would marry 2 years later on April 30, 1913.

There are a couple of interesting things about these two small statements. First, who are the relatives in Red Wing that Fred went to visit? This is the fist I've heard that we had relatives in Red Wing, MN. So this is a new clue that I will investigate. I will let you know later what I find out about that.

Second, when I looked up Red Wing and Zumbrota, I found both cities are south of Princeton. Red Wing is 102 miles south, and Zumbrota is 112 miles south.  And Red Wing and Zumbrota are about 22 miles apart.

This leads me to wonder if Fred and Rena rode together since they were going in the same direction to visit relatives.  Fred and Rena had already been dating for about a year at the time of this trip.  Or was it just a coincidence that they both left on Monday?

I think Fred would have picked up Rena at her home in Wyanett and taken her to Zumbrota.  After he dropped her off, he then would have headed to Red Wing to visit his relatives. 

Maybe I'll find something about their return to Princeton in The Princeton Union after Thanksgiving!  I'll let you know if I find anything.

The Princeton Union Newspaper information is from the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspaper site:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book recommendation

If you are interested in a firsthand account of what steerage was like, you should read Eliza Putnam Heaton's book: The Steerage: A Sham Immigrant's Voyage to New York in 1888.  She was an American author who wanted to find out for herself what it was like to immigrate to America in steerage.  She went to Liverpool and bought a steerage ticket back to New York so she could write about her experience.  I really liked it!  It is only 45 pages long, so it doesn't take long to read. 
You can read it on this website:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crossing the Atlantic as a Steerage Passenger

When Albert, Lydia, and Fred Elsner immigrated to America from Germany in 1887, Albert was 30, Lydia was 32 (and 7 1/2 months pregnant), and Fred was 1 1/2. They left from Rotterdam as steerage passengers on the SS Rotterdam on February 15, 1887 and arrived at the Port of New York, 2 weeks later on March 1, 1887. They passed through Castle Gardens and most likely took a train to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I wondered what the voyage to America was like for passengers that traveled in steerage so I have done a lot of research about it. The following is some of what I learned and what they might have experienced.

Preparing to emigrate to America was no small task. Many families had to scrimp and save for years in order to put aside enough money to pay for the fare. It often cost the equivalent of over one-third a laborer's annual income to bring an average-sized family to America. The cost was about $18 for steerage on a sailing ship, however, from the 1870's on, the price for steerage on a steamship rose to about $30.

They had to decide what to bring with them. There was limited space available on their voyage, and there was only room for the bare necessities. This often consisted of clothes, tools (if the family's livelihood came from a skilled trade), a family Bible or other family heirlooms, and basic provisions for the trip. Albert Elsner and his family took 2 trunks and 2 beds with them.

Before heading to the designated port of departure, emigrants bid farewell to their families and friends. This was hard because they knew they would probably never see them again.

The next step was getting from their home to a major port. This was often done on foot, but many traveled by cart, train, or river boat. Emigrants traveling by river boat could take the Rhine river to Rotterdam, the Elbe to Hamburg, or the Wesser to Bremen/Bremerhaven. Albert and his family left from Rotterdam, so it is very possible that they took a river boat down the Rhine river.

Once they reached the port of departure, they may have to wait several days, weeks, months, or even years before actually boarding a ship to America.

They had to pass a medical inspection before boarding the ship to ensure a certain level of health. This was to prevent the spread of disease while on board as well as to prevent diseases from being carried to the destination country. Physical exams and eye exams (to make sure they did not have trachoma, a chronic conjunctivitis) sometimes held up emigrants for days or even an entire week.

Up until the 1850's, most emigrants came by sailing ships, with an average voyage lasting 43 days. Steamships, which made sailing ships obsolete by the end of the 1870's, shortened the voyage to 12-14 days. Steamships began replacing sailing ships as early as 1850, although some emigrants continued to choose sailing ships for nearly thirty years because of the cheaper fare.

The majority of immigrants traveled in steerage because it was the cheapest way to travel. Steerage was originally the deck immediately below the main deck of a sailing ship. The name "steerage" came from the fact that the control lines of the rudder ran on this level of the ship. The "steerage", or between-deck, was often shortened to "tween-deck". The German term is "zwischendeck". On steamships, the term "steerage" was used for any part of a ship allotted to those passengers who traveled at the cheapest rate, usually the lower decks of the ship. Around the turn of the century it became more common to use the term "3rd class" for the low price accommodation, and some ships even had "4th class".

In the early days of emigration, the ships used to transport the emigrants were originally built for carrying cargo. So in reality, these passengers were placed in the cargo hold. To get down to the "tween-deck", the passengers often had to use ladders, and the passageway down between the hatches could be both narrow and steep. (Think about Lydia being about 7 1/2 months pregnant climbing down that ladder!)

Living conditions in steerage were often primitive. Space and privacy were both hard to come by. The ceiling height was usually 6-8 feet. The passengers slept in narrow, closely packed bunks set up along both sides of the ship and larger ships had bunks down the middle as well. There was only a small corridor between the bunks. The bunks were usually double-deck beds about 18 inches wide and 6 feet long. Sometimes, they were up to four rows high! The mattress in the bunk (if there was a mattress) was usually very thin and filled with straw or seaweed. Often times, the emigrant would bring their own mattress. The ship sometimes provided a blanket which was much like a horse blanket. There were no pillows, but a life preserver was on each bunk and sometimes the emigrant would use it as a pillow. There was one toilet for every 100 passengers and it was usually located above deck. The steerage passengers were divided into 3 different categories and accommodated 3 separate compartments. The front compartment was usually reserved for single men, the middle for married couples and families, and the single women were in a compartment as far away from the single men as possible. There were long tables located in the common space in each compartment where meals were usually served.

Food on board did not contain a great deal of variety. The crew would feed them lukewarm soup, boiled potatoes, and stringy beef. As the century progressed, various countries began regulating food on ships more closely. The British Passenger Act set some minimum requirements for food on board ships that included items such as biscuits, wheat flour, oatmeal, rice, tea, sugar, and molasses. The captain had to ensure that each passenger received three quarts of water daily. Passengers could bring additional provisions, and many did. The passengers had to bring their own bowls and utensils as these were usually not provided by the ship.

Seasickness was a constant companion for many travelers. Although some people adjusted to the constant rocking and bouncing of the ship, others spent the entire trip nearly bedridden with nausea.

Ventilation in steerage could be a problem, especially during bad weather. Most sailing ships were only ventilated through vents or portholes. During bad weather, the vents or portholes had to be closed to prevent the ship from taking on water. On many ships, these vents were also the only source of light, so if they were closed, it would be pitch-black down there. Because of the fire hazard, oil lamps could not be used during bad weather. Chamber pots were used because the toilets were above deck and could not be reached during a storm. And it did not help that most people got seasick in bad weather. Those who were not seasick were made sick from the stench of vomit and unemptied chamber pots. The stench in the "tween-deck" was so bad that the crew-members did not want to go there. To purify the air, the first mate would dip a red-hot iron into a pail of tar and the smoke and steam from the bubbling tar helped to deaden the worst stench. On some ships, air was cleansed with the steam from chlorine and vinegar.

Life was not all drudgery though. Reasons for celebration such as marriages and births occurred on board. In addition, travelers found time for fun, sometimes dancing on deck, writing letters home, or playing games. Despite the difficulties, many were excited by the adventure and the approach of their new home.

More than mundane food and cramped sleeping quarters were the life-threatening dangers encountered at sea. The most obvious was the possibility of shipwreck. Due to poor ship construction, shipwrecks were a very real threat, particularly in the early 1800's. In 1834, for example, 17 ships were lost at sea. By the middle and end of the century though, ships had become larger and safer, partly due to increased government regulations.

In reality, disease killed many more emigrants at sea than shipwrecks did. Illnesses often spread throughout the ships in epidemic proportions due to the crowded and unsanitary conditions. Typhys, cholera, and dysentery were some of the biggest threats.

However, for emigrants, the voyage to America was an important and memorable experience. It was not only the changes that arrival in America brought to their lives, but the very trip itself that made a lasting impression on their lives.

Once the ship reached New York Harbor, it was subject to quarantine inspections. Incoming ships were anchored near Staten Island. Passengers were examined and if any were found sick, they were sent to the quarantine hospital on Staten Island. If there was an epidemic problem on board, the whole ship could be quarantined.

After clearing quarantine, the ship would move forward into New York Harbor where first class passengers were let off at a pier and then to Castle Gardens where the steerage passengers disembarked. The steerage passengers were offloaded onto a barge that carried them to shore.

The complex that made up the Castle Gardens immigration center included outbuildings, a hospital, and offices and was enclosed by a large wooden fence. It was located across from the Statue of Liberty on an island off the southwest tip of Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886. So Albert, Lydia, and Fred would have seen her when they arrived in America on March 1, 1887.

At Castle Gardens, the immigrants reported their names and destinations which were checked against the ship manifest and they passed through customs. They could purchase train tickets, exchange money, seek out directions, learn about employment opportunities, and use other services. There was a telegraph office and mail service. Many immigrants had letters waiting for them containing money for the next step of their journey. There were two wash rooms, one for men and one for women. There was hot water, soap, and towels. There were no sleeping quarters, but the immigrants were permitted to sleep on the floor for a couple of nights until they got their bearings. Sometimes as many as 3,000 spent the night. These services were provided partly in an effort to shield them from the thieves and opportunists who hung around the harbor waiting to prey upon the ill-informed and sometimes desperate people that flowed into the country. Also, exams given at Castle Gardens served as a way to screen people and prevent those with contagious diseases from entering the country.

Many immigrants stopped in New York City, making this their home.  However, many more would make their way to the trains and boats headed westward.  No trains to the west terminated in Manhattan. They would have to get from Castle Garden to the train stations in New Jersey where Jersey City and Hoboken were the terminals for the trains headed west, northwest, and south. Eventually, there was a barge transfer from Castle Garden directly to Jersey City and Hoboken to the Erie Railway.  Albert and his family most likely went by train to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SS Rotterdam II

SS Rotterdam II
Photographer: John S. Johnston; Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

This is a photograph of the SS Rotterdam II that Albert, Lydia, and Fred Elsner came to America on in 1887.  She was built in 1878 by Harland & Wolff, Ltd., in Belfast, Ireland.  She had an iron hull, weighed 3,329 tons and was 389' long and 37' wide.  With a single-screw driven by compound engines, she was capable of 13 knots.  She had four masts and one funnel, and was originally designed as a freighter for British Shipowners Company and named British Empire.  She was later converted to a passenger carrier, able to carry 70 first class and 850 third class passengers.  In 1886 she was sold to Holland America Line and renamed Rotterdam (II).  Her first voyage from Rotterdam to New York was on November 6, 1886.  In 1895 she was renamed Edam (III).  She was scrapped in 1899 in Genoa, Italy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1887 Passenger List

I have always wanted to know more about Albert and Lydia's voyage to the United States. I had been searching for the passenger list that brought them to America for a long time. So I was very excited when I finally found it in September of this year.

It's a very delicate looking document. It looks like it had been folded up and forgotten! But now that it has been found, anyone with ancestors that came to America on this ship will be happy to see it!

Here is what this passenger list tells us: Albert, Lydia, and Fred set sail from Rotterdam, Netherlands. They arrived at the Port of New York on March 1, 1887. The captain's name was Vis and the ship's name was the SS Rotterdam.  They are listed on lines 36, 37, and 38 as Albert (age 31), Ludia (age 30), and Fritz (age 1 1/2) Elssner.  Albert's occupation is laborer, their country of origin was Germany and their destination was U.S of America.  They had 2 trunks and 2 beds with them.

The column with 'f compartment' in it refers to what section of steerage they were in. At the time of this voyage, steerage passengers were divided into 3 different categories and accommodated 3 separate compartments. The front compartment was usually reserved for single men, the middle for married couples and families, while the single women were in a compartment further aft (as far away from the single men as possible). On this list, I only see 'm' and 'f' so I'm not sure exactly what it means. I'm assuming that 'm' was for single males and 'f' may be for families and females? (I'll keep looking into this and let you know what I find later.)

This list did not give the date that the ship sailed from Rotterdam and I was curious to know how long this voyage took.  New York newspapers used to give details about the ship arrivals and departures so I decided to see what I could find in the newspaper. Since they arrived on March 1, 1887, I started with that date. The Shipping news in the New York Daily Tribune, dated Tuesday, March 1, 1887 lists the Incoming Steamers for that day and the Rotterdam, from Rotterdam, is listed as one of the ships expected to arrive. And on Wednesday, March 2, 1887 the shipping news listed the ships that arrived at the Port of New York on March 1, 1887 and the Rotterdam is of course listed. Here is what it says: "Steamer Rotterdam (Dtch) , Vis, Rotterdam 14 days, with mdse, 48 cabin and 332 steerage passengers to Funch, Edye & Co. Arrived at the Bay at 6:30 a.m."
So they must have departed about February 15th from Rotterdam.