Saturday, February 7, 2015

52 Ancestors in 2015: # 3 Sarah Susanna Wisse

Sarah Susanna Wisse
Week 3 - Tough Woman

Sarah is my great grandmother on my mother's maternal side. Sarah was born on August 20, 1873 to Johannes Wisse and Maria Susanna van Uxem in Schoondijke, Zeeland, Netherlands.  She married Izaak Abraham de Visser on April 16, 1896.   I have selected her for Week #3's theme - A Tough Woman.

She gave birth to and raised 17 children to adulthood. Four of these children were born in the Netherlands, and she emigrated to America with them.  In the early part of 1900 her and Izaak decided to make the journey to America to improve their livelihood.  They were a farm family that was feeling the hardships many Zeelanders were facing.  The promise of a better life persuaded them to make the long journey.

In early months of 1900, she and her husband and their four boys left their home, family and friends in Schoondijke to make their way to the port in Rotterdam to board the ship that would take them to America.  It would be an expensive trip for the whole family to cross the Atlantic.  The family secured passage on The Ship Rotterdam.  The ship was part of the Holland-American Line built in 1897.  It could service 2350 passengers - 200 1st class, 150 2nd class and 2000 3rd class or steerage.  It would travel at 15 knots or 17.3 mph.  The trip from Rotterdam to NYC took about 15 days.

Traveling steerage class in the late 1800's and early 1900's was an adventure, especially with 4 young children.  Her boys were ages 4, 3, 2 and 10 months.  I can't begin to image what that trip must have been like.  I remember how hard it was to take my two out to dinner or the grocery store much less putting them on a ship and traveling across the ocean to a land of so many unknowns.

Steerage passenger accounts of those that took the voyage state that it was trip without any luxuries.  It is described as an improper and indecent environment for women and children.  There was limited space, no soap or water and the marriage quarters where the children were was especially ill smelling.  There was vile language, crying children and everything was dirty and sticky touch.   Each passenger was given a six foot long, two foot wide personal space with only two and half feet above them to sleep, maintain their belongings and baggage.  In this space they all of their worldly goods and the necessities for the trip.  It was in this space a mother would need to entertain her young children and protect them from the vulgarities that surrounded them.

Once arriving in NY she had to not only worry about herself going through the Ellis Island experience but also had to think about her young boys.  The uncertainty of what was to come and the fear they wouldn't all be allowed to enter the United States must have been incredible.  All members of the family were successfully processed and they ventured on to their final destination.  They took the train through New York headed for East Palmyra to find family that had already settled here . The family had $2.00 when they arrived at Ellis Island.

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