Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ellis Island

Grandma's high school graduation photo

In 1903, on a ship called the SS Rotterdam, my grandmother entered the United States.

Grandma, at six years old, was the youngest person in her large family to be passing through Ellis Island.

Ellis Island around the time they came through.

This is a small copy of the ship's manifest. As the print is too small to read from the photo, let me transcribe a bit of what it says about my family.

Redder, Josef M
55y Widowed
Germany, German

Redder, Anna F
21y Single
Germany, German

Redder, Josef M
19y Single
Germany, German

Redder, Anton M
17y Single
Germany, German

Redder, Tranasta F
15y Single
Germany, German

Redder, Heinrich M
10y Single
Germany, German

Redder, Adam M
8y Single
Germany, German

Redder, Maria F
6y Single
Germany, German

The SS Rotterdam had sailed from the port of Rotterdam and arrived on the 21st of July.

The manifest says that the final destination of this family was Cherokee, Iowa to meet my great-grandfather's brother, Anton Redder. Josef Redder, my great-grandfather and the father of these seven children had $1,000. They were to list the amount of cash they were bringing into the country.

I am told that Josef Redder was a baker by trade. From a photo that my cousin Susan has, you can see that he had piercing blue eyes, even though the photo is in black and white. You can just tell. His wife, my great-grandmother Anna died when my grandmother was four years old of tuberculosis. I don't know if they were planning this move to the America before she died but I imagine it would have been heartbreaking to leave her grave in Westphalia.

One of the interesting things about looking at the ship's manifest is looking to see who else was on that ship. The other passengers were predominantly Russian, Polish and Romanian Jews (or as stated on the manifest, Hebrews).

I've done some searching and the small town or village of Altengeseke was incorporated into the town of Anrochte in 1975.
I wish with all my might that I could have talked to grandmother about this. Imagine being a small girl of six arriving by ship to that massive place! From what I understand about Grandma, she never spoke of it and she didn't have a hint of a German accent, not even when she was mad.
All the information I discovered about Grandma's crossing was found at The Ellis Island web site. Darn good it is too. I recommend having a look. If you've got somebody in your past who may have been through Ellis Island, do a search! Let me know what you find!


UKBob said...

That would be an awesome thing to do back in those days. I wonder if they looked forward too it, I guess that would depend on whether they jumped or were pushed.

Xtreme English said...

What a nice blog on my mother, your Grandmother Dwyer! Here's a few related items you might find interesting. Mom was 3 when her mother died (January, 1900), but she herself told me she was 2. It's hard to remember when you are so small and the ground breaks beneath your feet.

The person the Ellis Island website identifies as "Tranasta" Redder is my Aunt Frances. If you will magnify the ship's manifest, you will see that her name was written--and misspelled--as "Franciska" (which someone misread as "Tranasta")...it should have been "Franziska," as she was named after Grandpa Redder's sister Franziska. (Susan, I think, has a photo of Tante Franziska, which is really wonderful. Her grey hair is braided and pinned up, and she is wearing a long black dress with many small buttons down the front, much like a priest's cassock.)

Mom never spoke of the trip, although she did say once they had to get my uncle Joe drunk to get him on the boat--he didn't want to go because he had a girlfriend in Altengeseke. And she always had lilies of the valley planted on the north side of our house in Fargo because she remembered them from Germany...she said they covered the valleys and she loved the scent, which was very sweet and wonderful. That was pretty much all she ever said about Germany. After the family arrived, the US went through two world wars against Germany, and they lost their Germanness fast to escape being ostracized or worse. My Uncle Joe, in fact, was drafted in WWI and shipped back to Germany to fight against his former countrymen.

Interesting that you would blog this today...yesterday, October 2, was the 31st anniversary of your grandmother's burial in Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. She's buried next to your grandfather Dwyer, who was a WWI veteran.

Jay said...

That's really great. Have you gone to that town in Germany where they came from to look around any?

My mother's grandmother came from Middlesbrough England. Beyond that the family goes to back to Ireland. I'm dying to go there to find the place where their house stood and all that stuff.

J-Funk said...

Wow! how neat-o. I can't imagine how tough that would be for all those kids to uproot and head out like that - back when it was so difficult, too! And then to fight in a war against their own country, I can't imagine. What a brave family.

Peggy said...

I know what it is like to move to a new country with small children. I can't imagine doing that with seven in tow! Granted, most of Grandpa's children were old enough to manage the little ones.

Jay - I've never been to Germany. I may go sometime now that it is so easy to get there from here.

J-Funk - Yes, we ARE brave. Good looking too. ;-)

Joy said...

What a beautiful picture of your Grandmother, Peggy. I love reading your mom's further explanation of the time, with a little more insight to your grandmother. Nice post.

susan said...

My grandfather came from Germany as a young man. He apparently wouldn't talk of the trip either. Nor would he speak his mother language again.

I love reading your history.

Xtreme English said...

More interesting stuff: before Josef Redder arrived in the US, his name actually was Josef Redder-Piek, but they dropped the Piek when they got here. I later learned at the Holocaust Museum here in DC that Piek (or Peik, either way it's spelled) is a German Jewish surname. And one of Mom's favorite suppers was what she called simply "potato pancakes," grated potato and beaten egg--one egg and one potato per person, and one each for the pot--or what many people call latkes. Whole Foods has plenty of potato latkes for sale these days since Sunday was Yom Kippur. They always remind me of Mom.

Bob said...

What a great post Peggy I love the photos, that's another little piece of history added to the internet

Anonymous said...

My grandmother came to the U.S. in 1915 on the Lapland, which she boarded in Liverpool. Her residence is listed as Burnley, England, and her destination was Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she was met by her "friend", E. Wilson, whom she married. These Ellis Island records are very interesting, once you learn how to navigate through them, and if you know some details about the relative you're searching for.

Betty at bettysnewtrick.blogspot.com

Peggy said...


If you ever get over here, Liverpool has a wonderful Maritime Museum (and everybody talks how the Beatles used to talk). I'm going to visit it the next time I'm down there.

Joe said...

It looks like the Redders came from about 70 miles away from Ochtrup, where the Schoenemans came from - the ancestors that I have the best handle on. We got out a bit sooner, say, 1847. But hi, neighbor!

gawilli said...

Very cool that you are able to gather all of this information. More than that - your mom shares it all with you so you don't miss a stitch. How very lucky you are to have such a rich history come alive for you.

saz said...

Peggy - I never look back at my family history much - at least not my grandparents since I didn't know them . I don't have children either so I have less incentive to do so BUT this post makes me want to do a little searching! I really enjoyed it as well as your mom's additions.

Kathrin said...

Hello from Germany!
I live in the small village called Altengeseke.
I will have a look in our little history book...
Perhaps I will found out something about your grandmother.

Peggy said...


This is wonderful. Please let me know what you find! You can contact me through my e-mail address. You can find that by clicking on my profile.

Sarah Larson said...

This is a very old post, but I found it looking for information on my family. I guess I am a very distance relative of yours. I am descended from Josef (older and younger) as well as Heinrich (Joseph Jr.'s son Anton married Heinrich's daughter Frances and had my grandmother, Catherine.

Ole Phat Stu said...

Hi Peggy,
I'm a of XtremeEnglish who lives not far from Altengeseke. I just wanted to let you know that the baker's shop there is still labelled Redder.
The address is J├Ągerstrasse 1, should you want to write to them.

Amanda Rosario said...

I just happened upon this post. I am Frances Redder's great-granddaughter, and the elder Josef Redder's great-great granddaughter! My grandpa, Bob, was Francis' youngest child. I am so glad I found this, and the comments from your mom. If you happen to see this, I'd love to see what you have for pictures!

Peggy said...


Please send me an e-mail. :-) I can be found at peggy.race@gmail.com