My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Thursday, July 4, 2013

THURSDAY'S TREASURES - Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

On this, the 237th birthday of the United States of America, it seems the perfect time to celebrate not only our country's birth but also the gifts that were passed down to us from our ancestors who made it possible for us to celebrate as Americans.

Irish Immigrants Leaving Queenstown Harbour
The Illustrated London News, September 1874

For each of us there were great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers who left their homeland, their neighbors, the culture and very often their own families to take a chance in this new country of which they knew very little. They gathered up all they could carry with them, said good-bye to their friends and families, and left the only home they had ever known and most likely one they would never return to. They travelled by cart or by foot to a sea port where they would board a small packet ship. Once aboard they would climb down into the hull of the vessel with one hundred, two hundred, or more strangers to travel for several weeks across the Atlantic Ocean. With all of the multitude of people stuffed into the ship's steerage area [see post "Packet Ship Gladiator", January 1, 2012,  for more information about steerage] they all shared one common dream - a better life in America.

Many left behind poverty, with little chance to ever change their circumstances. Most left countries with governments that held a tight rein on their individual rights and freedoms. Towns where they weren't allowed to speak, or protest, or gather freely. Where they couldn't vote to choose their own leaders. Where their children faced forced conscription into the military. Where the right to practice the religion of their own choosing didn't exist.

"Irish Immigrants Leaving Home"
Harper's Bazaar, December 1870
They each knew that a better life existed - for themselves and for their children. And for their children's children. They wanted more for their life and for their family. They wanted to be free to choose their own path in life, and be treated as human beings with God-given rights. They wanted to work hard and be rewarded with just compensation. They wanted to have a say in their government and in the laws they lived under. They wanted to freely practice their faith. They wanted the freedom to have a dissenting opinion about their leaders, share it openly, without the fear of reprisals. They wanted this for themselves. But most of all they wanted this for their children.

"From the Old to the New World"
German Emigration
Harper's Weekly, November 1874
They left everything behind for a promise of a better life. They sailed on a ship across a wide ocean, not knowing if they or their family members would survive, or if the ship itself would make it safely. They landed in a port where they couldn't speak the language, maybe had no one waiting for them, had little direction on where to go or what to do next. But they paved the way for each one of their children, each one of their grandchildren - each one of us - to enjoy those unalienable rights we each possess, endowed for us by our Creator.

Among these - Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

America wasn't perfect then and it isn't perfect now. But it's the best there is. And we have our ancestors to thank for giving us the opportunity for a better future. So it's nice today to remember those that made it possible:

Patrick McCloskey (1810-1855) who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1838, at the age of 28, from his home in Ireland. His wife Mary Ann (1805-1871) also immigrated from Ireland, date unknown. They are my 4x great-grandparents.

Thomas McCaffrey (1799-1890), arrived in New York Harbor in June 1825 from his home in County Tyrone, Ireland. His wife Susan (1793-1869) also immigrated from County Tyrone, date unknown. They, too, are my 4x-great-grandparents.

Johann Eckard Horst (1802-1852), my 4x-great-grandfather, arrived in August 1846 in New York City Harbor at the age of 43 with his second wife and five children. This included my 3x-great-grandfather Martin Horst (1830-1878), who was just 16 years old when he arrived. Later my 5x-great-grandfather Johan Conrad Horst (1780-UNK), Martin's grandfather, also arrived here, in May 1860. He was 80 years old when he arrived. They were from Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany.

"Irish Emigrants Leaving Home - The Priest's Blessing"
The Illustrated London News, May 1851

Apollonia Weinschenk (1829-1908), my 3x-great-grandmother and wife of Martin Horst, arrived in the port of New Orleans around 1843, at the age of 14, from her home in Forst, Bavaria, Germany.

 My great-great-grandfather Patrick O'Donnell (1823-1911) arrived in this country in December 1849 from Ireland, along with five of his 7 brothers. He was 26 years old. His wife Bridget Kennedy (1838-1893) immigrated from her home in  County Tipperary, Ireland, sometime in the early 1850's.

Phillip Huber (1847-1901), also my great-great-grandfather, arrived in New York in June 1867, at the age of 19, from Florsheim, Hessen, Germany.

My 3x-great-grandparents, John Michael Baptiste Brunett (1818-1863), and Barbara Frisse (1822-1893) traveled onboard the same ship, from their homes in Seingbouse, Moselle, France, arriving in the port of New Orleans in July 1846. Traveling with Barbara were her parents (my 4x-great-grandparents) Joseph Frise (1796-1864) and Marguerite Lang (1802-1868), as well as several siblings. Marguerite was 44 years old; Joseph was 50.

[NOTE: My Fortier and DeGruey ancestors arrived from France to Canada and then settled in Louisiana before the United States was formed. I have no information yet as to when my Flemming or Jackson family ancestors arrived in America.]

"Immigrants Behold the Statue of Liberty"
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 1887
None of these ancestors arrived as we might imagine - coming into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty, stepping off their steamship onto Ellis Island to be officially inspected in long lines. [The Statue of Liberty wasn't dedicated until 1886.] None of these ancestors settled on the east coast - most made their new homes in southern cities. And somehow, through happenstance or through fate, their offspring met other offspring of these immigrants and eventually, over time and over years, my mother and her siblings were created from a combination of all of these immigrants. And that made it possible for me to sit down, in my home in Birmingham, Alabama, and celebrate Independence Day and my great-grandparents' dreams for a better life.

No comments:

Post a Comment