Sunday, February 5, 2017

Family History Writing Challenge Day 5

Generally when a Swiss citizen applied for a passport in the 1800s, it meant that they would soon be leaving the country. As Vinzenz made his application in February of 1854, it is assumed that he sought passage to America that year. From a death notice of Joseph Kübler, son of Vinzenz and Carolina, it is mentioned that the family entered the United States through the port of New Orleans. As the notice also contained an incorrect birth year for Joseph, and stated that he came to the United States in 1852, the accuracy of entry to the country via New Orleans is suspect.

Many of the passenger records from New Orleans have been lost or destroyed, so to date a listing of the family has not been located, despite looking at surviving records from 1850-1859. However, if the family did indeed arrive through New Orleans, then it is possible that they sailed from the port of Le Havre in France. The distance from Büsserach to Le Havre is less than what the family would have needed to travel to sail out of the ports in Bremen or Hamburg, Germany. Even then, the distance they would have traveled to Le Havre exceeded 476 miles. The train system in France, particularly in the eastern part of the country, was not fully developed.

The family would also have had the choice of traveling 506 miles to the port of Bremen, or 521 miles to the port of Hamburg. Even with the more advanced rail system in Germany, it would not have been an easy or direct trip for them. Most likely they would have traveled with just their clothes and perhaps a cherished personal item such as a bible due to the limited amount of space they would be allowed on the ship. Vinzenz and the rest of the Küblers would have told their families and friends good-bye, knowing they would most likely not see them again. Perhaps they took one last walk around the village to bid farewell to the only life they had ever known.

Once they arrived at their port of call, it might have been days or weeks before their scheduled ship arrived in port. In the meantime, emigrants were subjected to physical exams, including eye exams, to ascertain if they were fit for the voyage.

Until the 1860s the majority of the ships were sailing ships. Many immigrants sailed on packet ships, which were vessels designed to carry mail, cargo and people. (Even when steamships began to accommodate passengers, many immigrants traveled by sailing ships due to the differences in cost.) It would have taken over a month for the immigrants to travel from Europe to America. If the Küblers traveled from Le Havre, the cost would have been around 80-100 Swiss francs, depending on the number of passengers on the ship. Food could be purchased separately for around 40 Swiss francs, and might have consisted of biscuits, flour, butter, ham, salt, potatoes and vinegar. The steerage passengers would then prepare their own meals. The Kübler family would have also had the additional expense of transportation to Le Havre, which might have run about 60 Swiss francs. Of course, all of this is assuming the emigrants enlisted the aid of a reputable company. An unscrupulous one would result in extremely poor conditions on board the ship, along with insufficient provisions.

The passengers in steerage slept in narrow, closely packed bunks below deck. The cramped living quarters meant there was little privacy, and illnesses were easily spread. In nice weather, they might have been allowed to go up on deck to get some fresh air. In poor weather conditions, they were stuck below.

Vinzenz did not bring his mother along when he left Switzerland. Perhaps she was in ill health and unable to make such an arduous journey. Whatever the reason, it must have broken Maria Anna's heart to lose her final son and his family - this time to a new world. Meanwhile, she remained in Büsserach where she would live the rest of her life in one room of the house that had once been hers. Swiss law was such that when a home was sold, the widow was allowed to remain there in a designated room until she died. Did she know the family that purchased the farm? Was it awkward to know she was essentially a guest in her own home?

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