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Crossing the Atlantic

For many of us, ship travel was the way that our families came to America. These stories from our customers indicate that it wasn't always smooth sailing.
This person's ancestors only made it to America by chance:
As the story is told, my father's father, Henry Francis VanNieuwenhuyze, and his older brother, were planning to come to America from Belgium aboard a steamship when my grandfather was approximately 16 years old. They knew of a couple that was also planning a trip to America, but whose tickets were for a different ship, which was to leave from Belgium a few weeks earlier than my grandfather's ship. Something came up with the other couple and they were going to have to postpone their trip or give up their tickets, so they switched tickets with my grandfather and his brother.

My grandfather and his brother arrived successfully in America. My grandfather became a very successful contractor and a minister in his own church, and lived to be 97 years old. He had 8 living children -- the youngest one of them was my father. I am thankful that my grandfather and his brother switched tickets with the other couple, or I would not be here today. You see, their original tickets to America were for passage on the Titanic!


Lynn Chroust told us this story about her great-great grandmother's crossing of the Atlantic:
My great-great grandmother, Margaret Williamson, followed several of her siblings and left Ballybay, County Antrim, Ireland for the United States in 1848. During the voyage, the ship encountered very stormy weather, which damaged the ship. The damage was so bad, in fact, that they were essentially shipwrecked at sea and drifted for several weeks. They finally did manage to make it to the United States however, landing in Norfolk, Virginia, after 14 weeks on board.

Margaret was just 20 years old at the time of her passage to America, and the storm wasn't the only excitement that she had on board. She also had a proposal of marriage -- from the young captain himself. Margaret declined his proposal, however, and got a job in Norfolk, working as a seamstress for the wealthy Harris family. She eventually settled in upstate New York, marrying and raising a family.

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