Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Travel in Steerage - Websites to Learn More

Related image
The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz
Sophia (Meinzen) Kropp is the first person I've researched who was clearly identified as having travelled steerage class, but I suspect most of my British and German immigrant ancestors travelled "between-decks."

Steerage is a word I understood to mean a less than luxury means of travel in cramped quarters with no privacy and little fresh air, usually used by those without the means to purchase more expensive accommodations.  I was right but my understanding was narrow.  I decided to research and gain a better understanding of the experience of travel in steerage.

I found several excellent websites, some with detailed information, which will add another level of interest to the social history of my immigrant ancestors.

Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives, GG Archives, is rich with information about the immigrant experience aboard ship, primarily from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.
The website's major collections include:  Passenger Lists (1880-1954); Vintage Brochures; Steamship Tickets; Passenger Contracts; U.S. Immigration Archives; Passenger, Crew, and Voyage Information; Vintage Fashions; U.S. Navy Archives; U.S. Army Archives; and WPA Works Progress Administration.  My interaction with the site was primarily to learn more about immigration in steerage class accommodations.

In the section Steerage Class - The Immigrant's Journey are several sub-categories
●  Voyages in Steerage - Enduring Hardships
●  Steerage and Immigrants:  An Intractable Problem
●  Examples of Steerage Passenger Lists
●  Examples of Steerage Passage Contracts / Tickets
●  Examples of Steerage Passenger Documents

If you're interested in learning more about the steerage experience, you won't want to miss the three articles below.

Another site, Norway Heritage, offers a section about travel in steerage as well as other topics of immigration/emigration.

While their focus is primarily immigration from Norway the site offers several great articles about immigration in steerage and the ocean travel experience in general.  You'll also find passenger lists, immigrant ships, an image gallery, and more. 

Two great articles are Steerage Passengers - Emigrants Between Decks and By sail across the ocean - daily life aboard (which includes a list of ship rules).

And, of course, The Steerage at Wikipedia offers additional information, too. 

The more I learn about the living situations of my ancestors and the conditions they sometimes endured, the more I admire them.

If you know of other websites that provide information about travelling by ship in the 1800s, please share.  Thanks.


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  1. I picture the scenes from Titanic with immigrants making their own fun.

    1. From the accounts I've read so far it seems like those scenes were highly romanticized. I think the reality was far different and from fun. But I'm sure not every ship and voyage were the same.

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