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Pathways Through Our Past

Leaving home

The emigrants were people of the land, and once they stepped aboard the ship they entered a whole new world. Nothing had warned them what it would be like. They found that the deck below their feet was always on the move, both forward but also up and down. It was hard to get their balance and many could not get over the sickness the constant movement caused. The children adapted to the movement a lot easier and in a short time were running all over the ship, checking out all the spaces for storage of their items, where the food was to be prepared and where the crew members would sleep.

The older generations grouped together and watched as the only land they knew disappeared from view. They still questioned if they had made the right move, but it was to late to go back. For those who had sold their land the future looked a lot brighter. They would have money to purchase seed and other supplies once they found their land. For those whose land had been foreclosed on, their only choice was to find work once they reached America and try to set aside some money each month and hopefully find a place within a year or so. Even their crossing had to be paid for by working for the shipping line. Many emigrants reached their promise land this way.

Many of the ships that carried passengers to America were old, smelly and in need of constant repair as salt water was hard on the wood and metal. Men and older boys were installed on one side of the ship while the women and young girls were on the other. Grandparents all the way down to nursing babies made up the passenger list. Some ships had a third department for married couples. Not everyone would make it to the shores of America but that was one of the chances they took. There would be babies born aboard and there would also be some burials at sea. Such was the way of transporting a shipload of foreigners. No grave markers for those who died, just a note in the family bible.

There were no porters to carry your things, food was served of huge pails and by the end of the trip much of the food supplies had spoiled and dried meat and hard bread brought on board by the emigrants made up their diet. No vegetables and little drinking water as the water was usually rationed. Injures were taken care of by the families and keeping clean and healthy was important as if someone was sick or even looked like they might be they would be sent back to the country they came from.