The Voyage to America


This was my ancestors "Sweden Trunk" brought to America in 1869. So many Swedes used trunks like this.

. After arriving in America, the trunks were kept for storage and served as working pieces of furniture, particularly while furniture was still scarce. More than a few of these old trunks still remain in the families of descendants of those who dared to sail to America

The voyage over the Atlantic started for most in Gothenburg. From there, the emigrants traveled by boat to Hull , England . They then took a train to Liverpool , England , where they ultimately boarded a larger vessel that took them to New York . Of course there were other routes, but this remained the most common until the Swedish-American Line began direct travel from Gothenburg to New York in 1915.

The most common ports Swedes left from were:





The arrangements on board were very primitive. On the beams was laid a deck of planks with hatchways down into the hold where all the baggage was stowed away on top of the cargo. Two rows of bunks of rough boards were built up, one above the other, the whole length of the ship . Between these open bunks there were often put up special berths reserved for emigrants whose demands were greater. Everything else was used in common and no separate rooms for men and women. Light was let through open hatchways and partly through skylights in the deck. There was canvas in the hatchways, but during storms and rough seas these often had to be covered, and if this continued for any length of time the air in the room below occupied by the emigrants often became terribly stale and bad. There was no first or second cabin. Each passenger paid twenty-five dollars for his passage, but had to supply himself with bedding and food for the voyage.

Cholera was the biggest threat to the emigrants. It claimed many lives on the voyages to America . The cramps living conditions were perfect breeding grounds for the disease. Those that died on board were covered with sheets and thrown overboard with a sprinkling of Swedish soil on them. The Captain would carry a bucket of Swedish soil with the ship just for those occasions.

For most immigrants New York was just the half-way point. In the early days the journey continued by paddle steamer up the Hudson River to Albany . Before the railroads were built the Erie Canal , completed in 1825, served as the link between the Hudson River and the Great Lakes . From Buffalo the emigrants were taken by paddle steamer over the Lakes to Chicago, Milwaukee or Duluth . The last part of the 1-3 month long journey was spent on horse carts or walking through the bush. This travel was changed by the railroads, which from the 1850s brought the emigrants straight to Chicago

In 1850 it could take as long as six weeks for the voyage. When my ancestors came in 1869 it took three weeks.

From: Wini Caudell

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Illinois Ancestors