Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hometowns and Bremerhaven

Hometowns and Bremerhaven Friday – Bremerhaven

Today was our longer ride on the train day to Bremerhaven. At this point in our trip we had seen how our ancestors had lived when we visited the Freilichtmuseum. For the majority of people who would become emigrants, they were not the ones living in the larger farm houses we saw. For those people did not have a reason to leave, although life was hard they had a home and income. But for those who were the tenant farmers, living in the Heuerlinge houses, probably shared by 2 families, there were not any opportunities for a better life. Especially if you were the 2nd or 3rd or 4th son. So when they heard of opportunities in a far off place, they overcame their fears and decided to leave for a new life. Some of us also heard the story told by Herr Brandt in Dissen, how they bought their tickets from the local Emigrant Agency and then how they made their way overland and then by the river to the Port City.So as we make our way to Bremerhaven, here is a little background on the port cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven.

Bremerhaven - Gateway to Overseas. This catchy slogan conjured p a very evocative image for many people. In the past as millions from all over Europe, hoping to establish a new and better existence for themselves and their families overseas, departed for the New World from this seaside town. By the mid-19th century, Bremerhaven had grown to become Germany's most significant port of emigration. By the late 1840's, far more than 30,000 emigrants were already leaving their homeland every year by way of Bremerhaven, a seaport town whose population at the time numbered less than 4,000 inhabitants.
As of the 16th century, the sanding up of the Weser River forced ships sailing into the Port of Bremen to land at down-river ports outside of Bremen's territorial waters. The two ports of Brake and Vegesack took on the task but soon Vegesack was plagued by the same problem so that larger ships were no longer able to land there. With the Weser blocked by the build up of sand, Bremen ceased being a port city for quite some time. A new port in deeper waters at the mouth of the Geeste River was needed, particularly to put an end to the constant quarreling with the Oldenburg province rulers. Construction of the locks and the harbor basin began in 1827, and on September 12, 1830 the first ship, the American schooner Draper sailed into the new port of "Bremerhaven".

So when we landed in Bremerhaven our first stop was our own 3 masted sailing ship, The Seute Deern for lunch. Luckily for us it wasn't moving and we enjoyed lunch before heading to the Emigrant Museum.

Then we headed to the Emigrant Museum to learn what it was like when our ancestors left their homeland for parts unknown. I always imagine there was lots of sadness, they knew they probably would never see their homeland again and family members that were left behind. No quick way to communicate but then again maybe the life there had not been good to them and they were leaving with some excitement as to what the future would hold. Still the journey was not easy. I can’t imagine spending weeks or months on a creaking, smelly, rocking ship, especially with children all cramped into a very small bunk. Thank goodness for us they were a hardy lot and we now enjoy a good life thanks to their determination.

Then we all waved good-bye to Bremerhaven.

Thursday, Free Day

Today was another free day for folks to go and visit their hometowns. I think everyone had a good day, here are some of the stories I heard:
Elze – This is a town about an hour south of Hanover. Clarence and Jeanette Sehrt were met at the train station by a lady who is a historical guide in the town of Hildesheim but she lives near Elze. She met them and took them to the Mill which is now the town Heimat Museum but had been the Mill that Clarence’s ancestor had rented in the 1830s. They also visited their church and Clarence, who is the organist for his home church was able to play the organ at his ancestor’s church. How awesome!
Schortens – This is town way, way up north of Germany. Fred & Shirley DeLano were up for the train ride and were met at the train station. The ancestor of this town had been a baker and they were taken to the bakery he once owned (I think I have that right). They were given some bread that is baked from this bakery and I think they had coffee and cake there. They also were given pictures of the old bakery and documents for their family line that took them back to the 1600’s. Well worth the long train ride I guess. They also visited the church and were given some obituaries for the family.
Frotheim – This town was not so far away from where we were staying. Myrna & Ralph Weiland went here to track down ancestors. And like some of the others had a successful day. They got to visit 2 of the homes their ancestors lived in and also walked through a chapel and church they had attended. Also on the agenda was a trip to the Heimat museum which holds the history of the town and luckily for them one of the people they met was a researcher who is on the site and he had done some research for them and gave them a large family tree of their family. So all in all, another success story. Oh, I think they will be in the local newspaper too!
My German helper/translator, Matthias and I and another couple, the Benings went to Hildesheim for a guided tour of this UNESCO World Heritage City. It was interesting but the day was rather cold and rainy and hard to concentrate because I was cold. Unfortunately for the town also, this was the week of their annual Wine Festival. They had set up tables and benches in the center of town but did not attract many customers. Now inside places selling anything warm was doing well. I think the Volcano must have affected the weather. I have been in Germany in May the last 3 years and never has the weather been this cool. Next year will be better. :)

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.