How did Immigrants Pack to Leave Home Forever?

What would you pack if leaving your home forever? How would you feel if you did not have room for a favorite item?

Emigrants had to decide carefully what personal belongings to bring with them. Letters from their immigrant friends and relatives warned them that there was limited space available on their voyage, they only had room for the bare necessities. Items that families were able to pack often consisted of clothes, tools needed for a skilled trade, possibly a family Bible and a picture of their parents, family heirlooms, and necessary provisions for the trip. These items were typically packed in one trunk or perhaps a few suitcases to fit in the limited space that they were allowed. They stored their trunk in the ship’s cargo area. The early steerage passengers were given very little storage space near their sleeping area. They were allowed to carry only a few items that they could store on the beds. As the size of ships increased and sanitary conditions improved, shipping lines allocated more storage space in the steerage sleeping areas. Suitcases or carry-on items were stored in the sleeping area for the family to access during the trip.

Single males and females had accumulated less clothing and personal items to pack, but the selection process may have been difficult because they had to give away a favorite item.

How would you say goodbye forever?

The emigrant was leaving home, possibly forever.  Many had been traveling outside of their parish and their comfort zone for the first time. They were leaving their friends,  siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They had to say goodbye as if they would never see them again. Some of the emigrants had thoughts of returning; an estimated twenty percent did return. However, most emigrants would never see their loved ones or homes again.

My grandmother, Anna Chmielewska, told my mother “that after I had received Hipolit’s letter telling me to come to Camden New Jersey,  I cleaned and repaired the clothing that I was going to take with me, and I looked through my other things such as hair brushes, pictures and jewelry to decide what I wanted to take with me to New Jersey. The letters from Hipolit also included money that was used for the tickets and I also purchased a used suitcase for my things. When the day to leave came, Boleslaw put my bags on his cart and drove me the seven miles to the train station at Czyzew. We had waited about an hour before the train came for me to leave Boleslaw, my family, and Poland forever. I was crying, and he gave me his last hug and helped me onto the train.

As you write your family history, try to find the words that let your family feel some of the joys and sorrows that your ancestors felt. Exploring answers to some of the above questions will probably bring your ancestors alive.

1851 Polish-English Dictionary on Google Books

When trying to interpret the older Polish documents, an older Polish-English dictionary should be used. A modern dictionary will not be useful because word usage has changed over time.  I have found an 1851 dictionary on Google Books that can be very useful. Below is the web address where you can view and download a copy. I recommend downloading the dictionary in the PDF format.

Dokladny Slownik Polsko-Angielski 1851

https://archive.org/details/dokladnyslownik00chodgoog

polish-engish-dictionary

New Book Published

My new book on Polish Immigration to America is now available on Amazon.com.  This is more of a history book than a genealogy research book but it will give you insights about your immigrant ancestors for your family history stories.

Title: Polish Immigration to America: When, Where, Why and How

Description: When did your Polish ancestors immigrate, where did they leave, why did they leave, how did they get here? These are questions we all hope to find the answers. This book discusses the history of Poland and gives some insights to possible answers to the questions about your ancestors’ immigration. All three Polish partitions are covered, and the material will hopefully clear up your confusion why your Polish ancestors listed that they were born in other countries on early U.S. documents.

The book also presents brief histories of most of the ports that were used by Polish immigrants for departure from Europe and the ports where they arrived. Also covered are details of life in steerage during the voyage and the process of examination of the immigrants to gain admittance to the United States.

 

PUSH/PULL factors in Immigration

In the last half of the 1800s and the early years of the 1900s, the forces motivating immigrants to leave their homeland can be divided into “Push” factors and “Pull” factors.

Push factors were forces that drove them out of their home countries such as:

  • poverty
  • a shortage of land
  • the military draft
  • political or cultural repression
  • religious discrimination

Pull factors were:

  • the promise of jobs in the new lands
  • cheap farmland in America and Canada
  • the magnetic pull of “chain “

Understand our ancestors; Possibly understand ourselves

Understanding our ancestors may help us understand who we are.  To gain this understanding, our genealogy research should go beyond the names, dates, family trees, and documents that are standard talking points in genealogy discussions. Review the facts and events that you find about your ancestors and ask Why? How? Where? When? You may not find the answers, but exploring their options may give you a better insight into the character of your ancestors. Review carefully the challenges that your ancestors faced and how it may have affected them.  Remember that some points of their character may have filtered down to you through the generations.

For my grandmother, I tried to envision her early days in Poland. I sought accounts of what happened around her village during World War I. What fears and challenges did she face during her immigration to America. What did she find after she arrived to live with her brother? How did she react and overcome the challenge of an arranged marriage and making a new life in America in a town where she knew no one.

My grandmother had a significant influence on me. When I was able to relate the challenges in her life to the points of character that I saw in her, I was able to understand how her accomplishments had silently influenced my character.

Try this process for one of your ancestors and you may be amazed by what happens.

Book Launch

I revised my book “Finding Grandma’s European Ancestors”. The revised edition includes more countries and more details. You can find more details about this new edition by clicking on the Book Launch tab in the above toolbar.

Cover 2

Get your Genealogy Organized

The focus of organizing your genealogy research should be to make it easy to find your information when you need it. Most people interpret this to mean you need a fantastic filing system for your papers. I have a different viewpoint and believe my system makes my research more efficient.

My system is based on compiling the information found on documents into summaries for individual direct ancestors which require one summary per direct ancestor. I generally try to download electronic copies of documents and scans of the paper documents that I find.  These electronic images are then embedded into my summaries in order to have them available if I need to double check the information at a later time.  This places all the information for each individual in one place and makes it faster to look up the information that I need for  the next search.

All of my information and images of documents are saved on my laptop. I only print copies for ring-binders when they are needed for family gatherings to allow family members to read. The ring binders are not part of my research efforts and their only purpose is to share my results with the family.

There are more details for my system but you will find that creating electronic summaries and saving electronic images of the documents will make your research more successful.  I strongly recommend that you create a summary for a few of your ancestors to see how simple and easy this system is.