Germans to America

When I first got interested in the family history, I didn’t have much information about my Maternal ancestors. For the most part, all I had to start with were some names and dates for my Great-Great Grandparents. We knew that some of them came from Germany and some from Croatia. That was about it. This was well before many databases had been made available on the internet.

I can’t remember exactly how, but I found the name of a collection of books, Germans to America: Lists of Passengers Arriving at US Ports 1850-1897, edited by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby, and located it at a library a couple of hours away. My Mom & I took a trip there and looked at the books. Immediately we found the name of one of the families and the name of the ship they sailed to America on. It was fun to see our ancestors’ names in print! Since then I’ve found a few more tidbits on this family in the U.S.A.

According to the Germans to America reference, the Beiersdorf family, August, “Justine” and their sons, Friedrich, August, Wilhelm and Gustav arrived in the United States October 22, 1889. They came over on the ship, Taormina. They came from Prussia. Now, I had information that August’s wife was named Augusta & not Justine, but I figured it was still the correct family.

Since the original find of the family in the index, I found the passenger list for the Taormina in the New York Passenger list collection of It indicates the family’s destination as Wisconsin. They actually settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The Hamburg passenger list collection indicated that the family was from Woltersburg, Pommern. August was 30 years old when he arrived in America, his wife was 26, son Friedrich was 6, son August was 4, son Wilhelm was 2 and son Gustav was only 9 months old. As for the name “Justine,” I can’t really explain it, but my assumption is that it was a shortened form of Augustine or Augusta. There was another “Justine” on the same page of the list.

I searched for the ship, Taormina, and on the website, found out that it was a single funnel ship with 3 masts & a single propeller. It carried 600 3rd class passengers. It docked in New York on October 22, 1889 at 8:00 a.m. It took about 17 days to cross the ocean. The immigrants were possibly processed at the Castle Garden Immigration Depot. (Ellis Island did not become the Immigration gateway until 1892.)

I met August’s Granddaughter, Gertrude Schwalbe (1916-2008), in the early 2000’s. She was the daughter of August C. She shared some of what her father had told her about the trip to the U.S.:

They travelled in Steerage class down below, providing their own bedding, cooking kettles & food, sharing a spot in which to prepare their meals with other immigrants. The air was heavy with the smell of cabbage & potatoes & I’m sure the smell of so many unwashed bodies didn’t help it any. Once a day they were allowed up on deck for exercise and fresh air. Dad remembers his Father taking him up on deck and holding his hand as they walked. Suddenly a gust of wind blew off my Dad’s new cap & carried it out into the Atlantic! That was Dad’s most vivid memory of his trip to the U.S.A.” So I guess passage on the Taormina was definitely a “no frills” trip.

She said a relative helped pay for their passage. They took the train to Sheboygan and stayed in a “house at the side of the Sheboygan River known by the men of Sheboygan as the Green house, a sporting, you guessed it, whore house!” August got a job with the Reiss Coal Company and shoveled coal by hand from the hold of a Coal Boat. After he got his first pay check, the family moved to a house on Indiana Avenue. They lived in Sheboygan the rest of their lives. They were members of Immanuel Lutheran Church. As far as I know, August and Augusta did not become U.S. Citizens, but their sons did.

Augusta was actually August’s second wife. His first wife died after the first 3 sons were born. He then married her sister, Augusta. (I still have some research to do to verify the name of the first wife & if she truly was the sister of Augusta.) August and Augusta had 7 more children: Gustav, the little baby on the trip, died in 1890; Marie (1890-1973); Albert (1892-1977); Herman (1895-1983); Otto (1896, stillborn); Ewald (1898-1971); Frieda (1900-1974). August died in 1903 at the age of 44, Augusta lived 52 more years and died at the age of 87 in 1955. They are buried in Lutheran Cemetery in Sheboygan.

This is a photo of the family after August’s death. My Great-Grandfather is Herman, the young boy on the right.


Beiersdorf family

Back row: Fred, August C, Marie, William, Albert

Front row: Ewald, Frieda, Augusta, Herman

© MJM 2017

One thought on “Germans to America

  1. Interesting. Didn’t know you had that info from Gertrude Schwalbe. Really didn’t remember all grandpa’s siblings, just some of them. Liked the picture–particularly seeing the clothing of the era.


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