Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ellis Island Immigration Journal- John Peter Bowden Roberts 1915- Leeds, England to Beverly, Massachusetts

A scanned image of John Peter Bowden Robert's Immigration Journal

Although I have many ancestors who came from England on the Mayflower or with the Winthrop Fleet, I also have some ancestors who came to Massachusetts via Ellis Island in 1915. My grandmother, Bertha Louise Roberts, was just nineteen years old at the time, and she traveled from Leeds, Yorkshire with her parents and her older brother, Horace.

My great –grandparents were John Peter Bowden Roberts and his wife, Emma Frances Warren. John Roberts had a job as a stationary engineer in a brewery in the city of Leeds. His younger brother, Harry, had removed to Beverly, Massachusetts sometime in the early 1890s. His eldest daughter, Hilda, had married and removed to Beverly in 1911. Her letters home to her parents described Beverly as a lovely seaside town, and so they decided to sell everything they owned and join her.
Since my grandmother was a young woman during her voyage, when I was growing up she was able to tell us quite a bit about her trip. She remembered having her first romance on board, with a young man who unfortunately traveled on to settle in Seattle. She remembered the music that the band played, and the clothes she wore with vivid detail.

As a child I could almost picture her on the trip.One detail I used to love to hear was about their trip from the train station in Liverpool to the dock that held their ship, the Orduna. It had been only about two months since the Lusitania had been sunk in the Irish Sea, and only a few years since the sinking of the Titanic. Everyone they met in Liverpool told them not to board the ship. People were lined up on the sidewalks by the ship begging them not to sail. It must have taken all their courage to climb the gangplank to board the Orduna.
I recently found that John Roberts had written a journal during his voyage to America, and it was in the possession of my cousin in Maine. I was allowed to photocopy the journal and transcribe it. Written by an engineer, it describes his voyage in quite unimaginative language. Unfortunately, it does not contain all the colorful details my grandmother used to relate to her grandchildren, but it is interesting nonetheless (especially the spelling!)

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John Peter Bowden Robert’s Immigration Journal
In the possession of Susan Wilkinson Parker, his great-grandaughter, of Bradford, Maine

“My First Sea Voyage”
Commencing from Leeds on August 7th, 1915

After taking leave of our friends for Liverpool when we boarded the S.S. Orduna for U.S.A. Setting our course by the North of Ireland to escape the submarines. Started out of dock 6 p.m. we was in the danger zone until late on Sunday 8th.

Sunday 8th
After having a good nights rest we went on deck and had a good look around. We have just finished the 1st Lifeboat drill everyone on board had one and the signal blown we was informed that would be the signal each passenger had a ticket given with the number of lifeboat not a very pleasant thing to sleep against our lifebelts however we was told we was out of the danger zone.

2nd day 217 miles

Mon 3rd day
Rather rough this morning a heavy swell but the morning is fine. The boat rocks as she is lightly loaded (water ballast) there is a good deal of sea-sickness today. 336 miles

Tues 10th
5-30 I am on deck there is a great sea this morning spent some time walking just finding my sea legs went down to breakfast but was soon back on deck the sun is shining beautiful and the sea is calm and all kinds of sports are taking place later on in the evening it was cold and squally altogether a pleasant day was spent

327 miles

4th day Wed 11th
A rough sea and a stiff breeze and every appearance of a fine day the day has been spent very pleasantly plenty of amusements 5th day 377 milesAug 12th A fine morning and a calm sea promised to be a real good day most of the passengers are card playing, singing, and games a consort was held on board at night and some good songs was rendered and another good day was spent.

372 miles

6th day 13th
The morning is very dull a mist over the sea at 5-30 a.m. A large iceberg appeared at Breakfast time we had a good view there was also during the day a lot of vessels in sight one bearing the French flag we are now nearing the banks of Newfoundland the afternoon is fine and clear and lots of large fishes darting out of the water. The ship is going so steady you can hardly imagine you are on a ship. The Orduna is a most splendid ship.

The early morning was very fine with a stiff breeze. Passengers coming and going on the deck. The afternoon is beautiful not a cloud to be seen the passengers seem to be having a fine and easy time a consort was arranged and a few songs was sung and a pleasant crossing was spent.

379 miles

Sun 15th
A glorious morning The sun is very powerful and the passengers are seeking shady places Discussions are taking place on various topics There was news posted daily. A very good day has been spent. Scarcely a movement a calm sea we are nearing the end of our journey The first experience of my sea life civility from the officer of highest rank to the lowest The food is excellent

370 miles.

A splendid morning we are near to the coast Several vessels are seen from the deck we arrived at New York 11-30 a.m. and finished our trip on the 17th arriving at Beverly at about 9-30 am

No. of crew 350
Passengers 260
Length of the S.S. Orduna 650 feet

To read more about the S.S. Orduna, click here:

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Copyright 2009, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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