Darlene Foster's Blog

When Your Ship Comes In

Posted on: December 2, 2019

During my recent trip to Canada, I stopped in to see my Great Aunt Meta and Great Uncle Lex at their new apartment in an assisted living complex. Aunt Meta is the last of my maternal grandfather´s siblings. They are both doing remarkably well considering they are in their mid-90s. As I was about to leave after an enjoyable visit, I noticed a black and white picture of a large ship hanging on the wall beside the door. I leaned closer for a better look and saw it was a German ship called The Kronprinzessin Cecilie. Uncle Lex said, “You know what ship that is, don’t you?” Then it hit me, it was the ship that brought my great grandparents over to North America in 1911. I was so excited, I had to take a picture of it.

My Grandpa Mehrer had often mentioned this ship. He would have been 4 years old when they made the journey. Years later, he named his fourth child, Cecilia, after the vessel, Kronprinzessin (Crown Princess) Cecilie.

My cousin (Aunt Meta´s daughter) had been in New York and while doing a tour of Ellis Island, looked for the Mehrer records in the research area, where she found information about the ship and the ship´s manifest. She ordered a copy of the picture of the ship and the manifest for her parents. Some very interesting information was included in the manifest. When she learned of my interest, she sent me the link to the website. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to see the names of my great grandparents, my grandfather and his three siblings listed on the ships manifest. It gave me goosebumps.

Here is some information I found about the Kronprinzessin Cecilie from the website. The ship was built in Germany in 1906 and carried 1,970 passengers (558 in first class, 338 in second class and 1074 in third class). The ship sailed under a German flag from 1906 until 1917 when, during WWI, it was seized by the United States Government. Under the American flag, it was renamed Mount Vernon and was used for the US transport service. It was scrapped at Baltimore in 1940.

Just think how many immigrants were brought to the new world on this vessel in its early days. The Mehrers, a German family originally from Johannathal, Russia, sailed second class from Bremen, Germany in 1911 with four children ages 4 years to 6 weeks. Because they traveled 2nd class they would have had their own cabin and were not processed through Ellis Island. US Immigration would have boarded the ship and processed them there and they would have been free to catch the train for the Dakotas as soon as they disembarked.  (This information from the manifest was given to me by my cousin Jean Saunders)

From North Dakota, they proceeded to Canada to their homestead where they eventually had 8 more children.

Andreas and Katharina Mehrer after settling in Canada and raising 12 children. My grandfather, the oldest, is sitting on the far left.

I recalled that my father’s family also landed in New York before they came up to Canada. I found their ship, The S.S.Scotia, and its manifest with their names on it as well. It is such an amazing site. If your ancestors came to North America through New York harbour, you will most likely find the name of the ship and the ship´s manifest. Keep in mind, the spelling of names was often incorrect so if you know the year they arrived, that will help. https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger

The manifest of the S.S. Scotia listing my father´s family who immigrated in 1891

How exciting it must have been for my grandfather, a four-year-old, traveling on a big ship to a new country. I only wish I had asked him more about it when he was still with us.

I have blogged before about my amazing great grandmothers here and about my Mehrer great grandparents here. I consider myself blessed to have had ancestors with the fortitude and vision to embark on a voyage that changed the course of history for our family.

76 Responses to "When Your Ship Comes In"

What a terrific story! Bravo for having such a thorough knowledge of your family’s arrival in America…sad that we aren’t open to welcoming others any longer…

Except for the indigenous people, we are all immigrants in North America. I am so pleased to have all this history.

What a great story Darlene. If you ever need documents to translate from German into English, I be glad to help you.

Thanks so much. I’ll keep that in mind. Not many of us are well versed in German anymore.

Darlene, it must have been wonderful to visit your great uncle and auntie and learn more about your family history. So important to also be able to pass on the history to the next generation. I see many similarities with my own family history, as my grandparents sailed from Italy to Brazil to colonise a new world. They were such brave people, I love the black and white photos.

It was wonderful. I agree, it is important to pass this information on to the next generations. Bravo to your grandparents too.

Wow, that’s quite a story, Darlene. How wonderful that you’ve been able to find out so much about your family’s history. They sound like remarkable people.

They were quite something. I am so lucky to have learned more about them.

Amazing, Darlene. It’s wonderful you have found out so much. Imagine if you hadn’t noticed that picture on the wall!

I know, being an observant writer has its advantages. I´m also glad I took the time to stop in and visit my great aunt and uncle. The last of their generation.

Fascinating. Thank you for sharing this. We too, down here to your south, are a country founded and built by immigrants who sought a better life for their children. My country was once quite proud of that fact. I pray that will return some day soon.

We have much in common and much to be proud of.

Four children so young, even a day trip would be an adventure and we manged to lose our four year olds in shops, imagine on board ship! I love hearing about big families, do you know how many descendants there are?

I can´t even imagine travelling with four children under four, one a six-week-old baby! Tough women in those days. We get together for family reunions from time to time and there are often close to 200 that attend. It’s hard to keep track as there are always babies being born but I believe there are about 250 descendants. Most of us keep in touch too.

Loved the post! There is a story to write. Are you going back to record their memories. You have so much to work with. They were kids!

There is a story there. I just wish I had taken the time to sit down and talk to my dear grandfather about his experiences. The folly of youth. We always think we have plenty of time, don´t we?

I always find it fascinating listening to our elders and hearing their interesting stories to tell. 🙂

Me too, I just wish I had taken the time when I was younger to ask more questions and listen to their stories while they were around. Sadly, many are no longer with us.

Hi, Darlene – I agree that discovering information about our ancestors can be very exciting. My maternal grandparents sailed from Bremen, Germany in 1929 to begin a new life together in Canada. They sailed on a ship very similar to the one that your grandparents sailed on. My grandmother was 19 years old at the time. The courage and resilience that some of our ancestors demonstrated is incredible.

I know, there are many similar stories. Those women were so amazing. We owe them so much.

A fascinating post, Darlene. One of my husband’s earliest recollections of his childhood was accompanying his parents on a ship to Canada from China when he was 4 years old. He remembers his mother being sea sick pretty much the whole trip and spending time with his father. Again, were it not for that adventure, we would never have met.

Another great story. I´m sure your husband has told that story to your daughter. Did his family arrive directly to Vancouver? Lucky for you that they did.

Thanks, yes, he arrived directly in Vancouver, but his grandfather who’d made the journey three decades earlier, wound up in Victoria at first. He had to escape China on the first available ship and I’m not sure he even knew where he’d land.

Wow! Now that’s story begging to be written.

Wonderful Darlene and you must have been thrilled to find out so much about your great grandparents and their arrival.. lovely post.. hugsx

I was delighted with this information and seeing their names on the ship´s manifest made it all the more real. Pleased you enjoyed the post.

I enjoyed reading about how your great-grandparents came to Canada to establish a very large family!

And this is only 1/4 of my family. The rest have similar stories and all had large families! It was how the west was built. Glad you enjoyed it, Liz.

It’s so exciting to trace ancestry back to specific details like these. Thank you for sharing, Darlene. What a gift to your family (and your readers) to post this account with photos here. I am descended from Swiss/German people who emigrated from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1733 on the good ship Hope, a face recorded in my memoir Mennonite Daughter.

On a much light note: One of the friends has said, “When my ship comes in, I’ll be too tired to unload it”!

I am reading your book as we speak and thought you would like this post. Do they still have records from that long ago I wonder? It has only been a little over 100 years since my ancestors arrived. I love the quote from your friend. Made me chuckle. Thanks!

That family picture is a treasure!

I have always loved it. We are lucky to have a few like this in our family. Thanks for visiting, Michele.

Family histories are so exciting!

They are, aren’t they?

What an amazing journey. I can’t begin to imagine the hope, the worry, and everything in between. Kudos to your brave grandparents and so many others!

They definitely were brave. To travel with a 6-week old baby and three toddlers must have been quite difficult. And not knowing what lay ahead, worrisome.

Wonderful, Darlene. There’s nothing quite so fascinating as tracing family history.

So true. It helps us know ourselves better. Thanks, Ruth.

What a lovely outcome to your visit. Fragments like these bring the past to life, and there are always so many more questions we wish we had asked. You’re Grandparents and Great-Grandparents sound very adventurous.

They were adventurous but also recognized a good opportunity when they saw one. Perhaps they could see what was coming in Europe and because of their foresight, their descendants did not have to live through two devastating world wars. I will be forever thankful for their decision.

This is a lovely story. As a genealogist I share your excitement at being able to see thin information

Pleased you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

What a fascinating family history and how exciting for you to have found it, Darlene! Fortune favours the brave and your ancestors certainly were.

Thanks so much. That quote does sum up my ancestors.

How neat! -and 12 kids!! Wow!

I know but they needed all that help on the farm. Two of my great uncles lived on the original homestead until they passed away a few years ago. They actually had 13 children but one passed away as a baby.

What a wonderful story! How fortunate that you saw the ship photo hanging in their apartment. It’s one thing to hear the story, and another to put a visual to that story. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to make that great journey, especially for a child. I remember the family photo. It’s a treasure! Thank you, Darlene.

I know. I almost missed it. So glad I didn´t. It has stirred up some great memories and conversations in the family. So pleased you enjoyed it.

This puts truth to “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

It’s always fascinating unearthing facts from the past, especially your own ! And to see your forebears names on a ship’s passenger lists must have brought them into focus and provided a thrill. When I wrote my memoir and started digging, I uncovered a few unusual facts about my mother’s family and would urge anyone to press on if they ‘get that itch!. x

Yes, it is very satisfying to delve into the past. This was a great find.

This is so interesting! What made them choose Canada, and were there other people in the area that spoke their language?
It would seem overwhelming to me!

Canada was giving land away for a dollar in order to settle the prairies. The land was very similar to the part of South Russia, the steppes, they had been farming until they were forced to leave for political reasons. Since they had no holdings in Germany and would have had to start over, Canada was a viable option. Whole villages moved to the same area so yes they would have spoken the same language and in some cases already knew each other. It is an interesting part of Canada’s history. Thanks for your interest.xo

I love history and especially family lineage type history! How awesome to have caught the picture and then ask about it to get all this information. We have traced back the history and immigration of both my mothers family and my fathers family. Very similar stories, earlier time frame “pre US Civil War” for my dad’s family (England and the Tisdale name is a version of an area of England)…my Mom’s family came about same time as yours from Norway…changed whatever their Norwegian name was to Olson). I admire the strength, determination and courage for all of the settlers immigrating to this vast North American Continent to start a new life!!

It is fascinating. I think many people came across from Europe in the early 20th century as there was quite an upheaval in Europe at the time. The Russian Revolution and the rumblings of WWI made folks want a better place for their families. I for one am so glad they did. When I studied the manifest the people on the ship came from many different European countries. It’s great that you have a lot of info on your family.

Wow, such fascinating history when we look back on our ancestors. And you’ve done a wonderful job of searching out your heritage! ❤

It is fascinating. Sometimes I would like to time travel for a day and ask some questions.

No kidding! Lol 🙂

What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it. My father’s family sailed from Europe to Canada and I haven’t found (yet) the name of the ship or the manifest. But I will keep looking. It’s such a blessing to be able to find things that connect us to our families’ s pasts.

I do hope you are able to find it. Did they sail into Halifax as many did? Perhaps there are records there like in New York. It is such a great feeling to learn about our past. xo

Just seeing this now, Darlene. I think they may have sailed into Halifax, but that will require a bit more digging on my part. One of these days I’ll get to it…

How lovely to have discovered all this amazing information about your family, Darlene. A fascinating story.

I was so excited when I found this information!

That’s a wonderful story, Darlene. I’m a genealogist, so I understand the pride of knowing where your ancestors came from and how they got to Canada. Like you, I wished I had asked more questions when I was younger. While I got into genealogy early (by the time I was 20), my grandmother was 92 when she died and I was only 11, so too early to ask the hard questions. My grandfather died, age 85, two years before I was born. They were born in the 1880s, so I would have had lots of interesting stories. My mom’s parents didn’t live in this province, so I didn’t have the conversations I could have.

I thought you would like this story. I was fortunate to have known all my great grandparents on my mom´s side. We lost the last of the four when I was 12 years old. We do have good records and are a family of storytellers but I so wish I had asked my grandfather more questions when he was here with us.

Hi Darlene. Thanks for sharing this story. Opens up one’s worldview/ Also made me think of my own family history. Yes it is rewarding to remember how much true grit flows in our blood.

Thanks so much. It helps when we think we are having a bad day, to remember what our ancestors had to go through to survive. xo

That is fascinating Darlene. Imagine if we had been just a few generations earlier. I often mention to Dave how grateful I am to have been born when I was. Can you imagine the hardships endured coming to a new country? Adventure yes but oh my it must have been arduous in rural areas.

I have often said this myself. They paved the way so we could have a good life in a wonderful country. And I have always been grateful.

[…] A lovely bit of history coming to life via When Your Ship Comes In […]

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