She would not keep a diary about the trip as she could not read nor write. She would not leave behind parents with tears running down their cheeks when she departed as she was an orphan. She would not daydream about returning to this village one day as she was never going back. It was spring 1906, and she was walking to a train station. That train would lead her to a ship. That ship would lead her to her brother and to her new home in America.
There would be four girls from her Polish village who would be traveling together. She was named Anna, and her three girl friends all had the first name of Franciszka. One man named Jan, age 23, traveled with them. The girls claimed to be 16 years old, but Anna was actually 14 years old. Who had paid the $10 each for their tickets? Had Anna’s older brother Antoni sent it to her from America?
From their village, the quintet traveled to a train station to head for Trieste, Italy. They carried their belongings. Perhaps, they walked the part of the way to the station. Perhaps, they went by wagon. Perhaps… How many days were they on the road, so to speak? Train schedules did not coordinate with ship schedules so waiting and praying must have been part of their journey…there would be much waiting.
Once they arrived in Trieste, they would be subject to two weeks of medical and mental examinations…two weeks of observation…two weeks of waiting and praying. Shipping companies were required to look after their future passengers during that time. Meals could be bought along with bunk spaces for the nights. They would handle their money wisely. As part of their preparation, the shipping company would list each person on a manifest (list). Each would be asked 31 questions: sex, age, marital status, literacy, occupation, former residence, quality of physical condition, mother county and tongue, cost of ticket along with the name of the person who would meet them in America. My Anna stated that she was a labourer, and she was illiterate. She was listed as being in good physical condition.
On Monday, 30 April 1906, Anna and her friends boarded the S.S. Georgia to take their place in steerage. They would be crowded into unsanitary, foul-smelling, cramped, noisy quarters. Bunks provided little room on which to sleep. Food was distributed from large kettles. There was no privacy. The journey would take 25 days…25 days of waiting and praying. Did the girls talk among themselves to dispel each other’s homesickness and anxiety? Did they stay close together for protection and safety? My Anna, only 14 years old, must have clung to her beliefs in God to remain resilient.
On Thursday, May 24, 1906, she and her friends saw Lady Liberty in New York harbor for the first time. What this lady sacred to her? Did she cry knowing that she would soon see her older brother? Did she fear what lie ahead in the great halls of Ellis Island?
As the girls entered the great hall of Ellis Island, their ears would be bombarded by many voices and many languages. Many hands would examine and prod them. Many strangers would look into their eyes to determine if they could leave or be detained. Were their hearts pounding as they waited and prayed? Did they fear being separated from one another as they met family members?
At last, Anna would depart for the final part of her travels: her brother Antoni would claim her. She would be traveling with him to a strange place called Connecticut. For this time, her waiting and praying were over. What lie ahead for my dear Anna?
Anna Mroz would become my father’s mother and my grandmother. I have searched the 1910 census for evidence of her time spent with her older brother in Greenville, Connecticut, before her marriage. I have found no hint of her for that time period. I have searched immigration records and census records in looking for Antoni…no trace of him. No family members heard Anna speak about a brother or know of his contacting her. Perhaps…after waiting and praying…he will travel through time to me.
2 thoughts on “52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Travel”
A fascinating story, compellingly told! Thanks for sharing.
All your “what if’s” sound very plausible. More evidence is found the more we look, so you will probably find your documentation eventually!