Monday, March 21, 2016

Charles Hovick: Arrival in New York


My grandfather, Charles Hovick, born Tjerand Torbjørnsonarrived in America at the age of 14 on June 23, 1888 aboard the SS Alaska.


SS Alaska

Built in Glasgow in 1881 for the Liverpool and Great Western Steamship Company (commonly known as the Guion Line), it won the Blue Riband in 1882 for being the fastest liner on the Atlantic. Mostly known for carrying immigrants across the Atlantic, she carried 350 first-class passengers and 1,000 in steerage. Among her to-become-famous steerage passengers was Hugh Simpson Rodham, grandfather of Hillary Clinton. 

The Journey to America

Like so many, poverty drove my family to abandon their life and come to America. My aunt Mildred, in her memoir, Remember, wrote about what led her father, my grandfather to leave:

"Seven years ago [1881] his father Torbjørn [Andorson Håvik] had become desperately ill and died suddenly of what they surmised later was a ruptured appendix. Times had been very hard and cruel and after his father's death even more so. His mother, Inger, was left alone to provide for her seven children, Hilda, Esther, Nils, Andrew, Tom, Ida, and himself, and it seemed they were always hungry.

"Emigration from Norway to America increased rapidly as letters arrived from relatives already settled in the new land telling of all the plentiful food, work, land to farm with a chance for a decent livelihood. Any sacrifice such as leaving parts of the family was worth making to better the conditions under which they had lived all these years.

"With this in mind Hilda [born Brønla], his oldest sister – 23 years old, decided to become the family scout to see for herself if these promises of plenty were true. She packed her few possessions and boarded a ship – all by herself – to accept the hospitality of her mother's brother, Barney 0rsland [born Bård Oritzland] living on a farm near Linn Grove, Iowa. The year was 1886."

So my gutsy great-aunt Hilda left by herself to explore America. Hovick women – they're a formidable lot!

And two years later, my grandfather, along with his brothers Nils and Andreas, and their aunt, Tante Inga Niilsdatter Øritzland, were the next wave to leave Norway. They left their home on the Håvik farm and went to the nearby town of Haugesund.


From Haugesund they caught a boat to Hull, England, and from there, a train to Liverpool. 


Trans-Atlantic Voyages of the SS Alaska 1881-1888
In Liverpool on probably June 16 or 17, 1888, they boarded the SS Alaska, and one week later, on June 23, they arrived in New York. Two days later, on June 25, 1888, they were processed in the Immigration Center at Castle Garden. 

In Search of the Passenger List

For a few years now, I have been searching online databases for the Alaska's passenger lists from 1888. And today... SUCCESS!

Here, on line 8, is my grandfather, "Tjerand Torbjornsen." 


8. Tjerand Torbjornsen, age 14, male, farmer, Norway 

HOWEVER, when this record was digitally transcribed, his name was entered as "Flerand Joebjorkson." No wonder I hadn't found him until now!


And later in the record, here are the family members with whom he was traveling:


6. Nils Thorbjornsen, age 20, male, laborer, Norway
7. Andreas Thorbjornsen, age 17, male, laborer, Norway
8. Inga Thorbjornsen, age 30, female, spinster, Norway


My aunt Mildred writes:

"Standing along the rail of the ship ALASKA scanning the horizon for the first glimpse of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, with her welcoming open arms to all immigrants, Tjeran (Charley) Hovick felt in his pocket again to be certain his immigration permit from his church parish was still safe." 


NOTE: While seeing the Statue of Liberty was indeed a profound memory of my grandfather's, the destination of the Alaska was not actually Ellis Island, but rather Castle Garden. Located on the Battery in Lower Manhattan, it served as the country's first Immigration Center from 1855-1890. Ellis Island didn't open until 1892. So Castle Garden is where my grandfather first stepped onto American soil.



Aunt Mildred continues:

"Inga, his Mother's sister, and his two brothers Nils and Andrew were still below deck packing their few belongings. The two weeks' journey was coming to an end. Only [fourteen] years old, this tall, handsome, dark wavy-haired youth stood with mixed emotions of relief, joy and sadness. Joy at seeing his oldest sister Hilda again and grief over leaving his Mother and other sisters and brothers back home in Norway.

"Evidently things went well financially because in a year's time they were able to send passage money to Mother and the rest of the family to join them in Iowa. Mother Inger with Esther, Ida and Tom packed and left Norway in 1889 leaving by ship from the Haugesund Harbor going on to Stavanger across to Hull, England where they boarded a train taking them to Liverpool The ship ALASKA which had transported the earlier immigrants was waiting to take them on to New York and from there they continued by train to Iowa. The family would soon be complete again."

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