Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ships of Dreams - Teutonic, Ryndam, Titanic and Laconia

"Titanic" Movie Poster - 2012
Yesterday Dennis and I took a break and went to the movies. We saw the newly released TITANIC (3D). Yes, we saw Cameron's original release in 1997, and before that we saw 1953 version of Titanic and the 1958 docudrama A Night to Remember. But yesterday was different and not just because we were wearing 3D glasses. You see it was more about why we are fascinated with this 100 year old historical event. I cannot really speak for Dennis, so today I will just speak for myself. It is like you are drawn to the story, not just because it tells the beginning of a beautiful love story, but because you can actually imagine how that fateful trip must have been for both the survivors and the lost.

When I left the theater it occurred to me that six of our grandparents (and a few great-grandparents) immigrated to the United States via a transatlantic crossing. I thought about how the White Star Line promoted the Titanic as the "Ship of Dreams" and how perhaps each ship that carried hopeful immigrants was most likely considered a Ship of Dreams...

When I first started college I was a history major. I love history. But the one most important thing I learned from Father Smyth was that being an historian is HARD work. It entails hours and hours of research, checking details and subtle hints, comparing sources and then hoping that whomever was keeping the records or making the records was hearing and seeing the real facts.

I belong to Ancestry.com. It is a great site, but it can literally suck you in for hours and then you realize that most of what you find is by luck.  This happens because many of the records document split seconds of time and how you spell a person's name today may not resemble anything close to what was recorded on the ship's manifest or list of alien passengers for the United States!  Just like Rose in the movie when the record keeper approached her as she sat aboard the RMS Carpathia. He asked her name and she responded Rose Dawson (aka Rose DeWitt Bukater).

Joseph Helfand
Meet Josef Elefant. Josef arrived from Liverpool aboard the SS Teutonic on July 10, 1902. By the time the 1910 US Census was being taken he was known as Joseph Helephant and going forward his five children used the last name Helfand! Josef was Dennis' fraternal grandfather. The photo you see here is circa 1944.

Someday I hope to share with you much more about Joseph. But first I have to research his story. I want to understand more about why and how he came to America. Did his parents come before him? Or did they come after him?
Jacob Meisler

Next I would like you to meet Jankel Meisler. You might remember meeting him when I wrote my post Jacob Meisler September 22, 1891 - March 23, 1989. Jacob set sail from Rotterdam, Holland, on July 31, 1909. He sailed on the SS Ryndam. He was listed on the manifest as Jankel Meisler, Austrian, Hebrew, from Belatyn, Austria, 18 years old, single. His next of kin was listed as Aron Meisler. His occupation was listed as tailor. He was held for "special inspection" because he "squints".  He had 25 dollars and he told the inspectors he was going to live with Isaac Strum at 150 12th Street, New York, NY.(Isaac was married to Lena Meisler - Jacob's sister). He arrived at Ellis Island on August 10, 1909.  He was really from Delatyn (located in the Carpathian Mountains) and we all knew him as Jacob or Jake or Jack. And for the record, he married Rose. That's right the same names of ill-fated lover's from Titanic - Jack and Rose.

Humphrey Lynch
Finally, meet Humphrey Lynch. He is my maternal grandfather and I am only beginning to know him. He was born December 23, 1895 and died January 25, 1941(8+ years before I was born). He was one of 12 children and the first of his family to immigrate to the United States and I have learned recently his nickname was "Free." He sailed from Queenstown (the last port of the Titanic) aboard the SS Laconia on July 8, 1914. He arrived in Boston mid-July (the date is smeared on the manifest). I always had the impression he set off on his own, but it turns out he was traveling with a cousin by the name of William Mahoney. The manifest of alien passengers (steerage class) indicates they were both going to Butte, Montana and would be living with Timothy Mahoney. He listed his mother, Julia Lynch, as next of kin in Ireland. In the 1920 Census his name is scratched through and it is hard to know if it says Humphrey, while in the 1930 Census he is listed as Humpery Lynch and his place of birth is listed as Irish Free State. One final thought about Humphrey's passage to the United States: the SS Laconia made her maiden voyage January 20, 1912, only three months before the Titanic.  I can't imagine how brave and daring the 20 year old Humphrey must have been to decide to sail only two years after the Titanic sank. 

Tonight I will watch the National Geographic Special about the Titanic. I want to learn more about how and why this event happened and why we are so interested, even after 100 years.  For myself, I think about the fact that my mother-in-law, Bertha Meisler Helfand was born in 1912, six months after the sinking of the Titanic. I also think about the fact that it was the RMS Carpathia that came to rescue the survivors of the Titanic (could it be the Carpathia was named for the Carpathian Mountains, where Bertha's parents were born and raised?).  I think about after all these years, now that I am 62, I am finally getting to know about my grandfather's nieces and nephews that live both here in the United States and in Ireland.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Joseph, Jacob and Humphrey - three men that set sail in steerage class and made it to America. They didn't let go...


Titanic Theme Song • My Heart Will Go On...

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

How about you? Do you have ancestors who sailed across the Atlantic? What have you learned of their story?
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2 comments:

Cheryl Bremson said...

Judy,loved your "Ship of Dreams" writing. I, too, have always been fascinated by the Titanic and always find some way to teach about it either in English or HIstory. I always add a book or two to my collection and there have been lots this year because of the 100th anniversary.

Judy Helfand said...

Cheryl,
I am so glad you stopped by to read this post. It is such a captivating story. Dreams that there can be better days ahead!

Judy

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