Crossing the Atlantic Ocean compiled by S. Duane Kauffman

Posted by Daniel Mast on

ship crossing atlantic ocean imigration

    The Atlantic Ocean crossing was certainly very challenging for most of our immigrant ancestors. The desire to come to America must have been quite strong to cause our immigrants to take such huge risks. Not only were they leaving their homeland probably forever, they knew that some of their family members might die enroute.
    A note thought to have been written by 1739 Immigrant Hans Lantz gives an ominous warning: “If you are in Germany, Switzerland, or Strasbourg, and have not the opportunity to follow our sect because of the government and you care for the salvation of your souls, I would advise you to come to me for perhaps you are poorly off in worldly goods, and in the country is a very good living. I would assist you as much as my means, yet I would not bid you to come, for, should it go badly with you on your journey, you would blame me.”

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    A good example of the dangers of sailing on the ships was found in a journal, likely kept by Hans Jacob Kauffman, a passenger on the 1737 Charming Nancy.   This ship has been called the Amish Mayflower because it was the first ship to bring a larger group of Amish passengers to the New World. On the passenger list, thirteen are positively identified as Amish and perhaps another five are also Amish as well. At least ten moved to the Irish Creek-Northkill settlement in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
    The writer of the journal written on a Swiss calendar noted the deaths of 24 children—four of whom were his own children. There were also two adults who died. A news report in a Philadelphia newspaper cited 30 deaths on the 1737 Charming Nancy.
    Widow Barbara Yoder and Widow Maudlin Stutzman also likely lost their husbands on the way over to America.
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    In September 1827, Preacher Peter and Jacobina Nafzinger and their seven children started to America on the ship Henry Clay. Sadly, both Peter and daughter Mary died on the way. After Widow Jacobina Nafzinger and her remaining children arrived in Philadelphia, they found their way to the Christian Zug residence in Chester Valley where they were given shelter in the upper loft of the Zug springhouse.
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    Even though the ocean voyage was extremely hazardous, it seems that several who were already in Pennsylvania went back to Europe and then returned to America again. According to oral tradition, after the death of his wife, Abraham Kurtz returned to Europe and married again and returned to Pennsylvania bringing other Amish friends along. Although this is not generally accepted, there is a persisting story that immigrant Christian Zug sailed back to Germany to find his third wife and then returned with her to America.
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    It is said that teenager Adam Reichenbach, who lost a sister at sea and his mother in the port of Philadelphia after arrival, bravely made two trips back to Europe to obtain a financial legacy to which his siblings and he were entitled.
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    Casper Schirch and his wife and small child sailed on the May 1731 Love and Unity ship. Twelve days after their departure, the Captain assured the passengers that they had gone half the distance. A violent storm blew them off course; and, after eight weeks at sea, water and food were rationed; and for six more weeks, no bread and only a meager amount of water was available. Crew members sold rats and mice to the passengers to eat. One survivor related that Captain Lobb, thinking the passengers carried valuables, actually meant to starve them and steal their possessions. May people did die and their unclothed bodies were thrown overboard. Passengers’ trunks were broken into with contents missing. One week before Christmas 1731, after the passengers had seized Captain Lobb and the crew, the ship finally landed in Massachusetts. Of the 156 passengers who had left Rotterdam, only 48 survived.


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