Thomas and Ellen's Brave Journey
The ancestors that brought my family from Scotland to America were Thomas and Ellen Mitchell. They have been the pivotal generation in my genealogy research because of their brave move. Thomas MItchell and Ellen French married in June, 1886. They soon had 2 children, Robert born September, 1886 and Margaret born in June, 1887. Soon they made their decision to leave their homeland and travel to America. My research changed my perception of this immigration. In the early stages I had a picture of them picking up whatever they could carry, walking to the ship, crowding into its belly and enduring a 3 week journey in steerage, hopping off the boat in New York and wandering the streets looking for lodging, then employment. Living hand-to-mouth for months until their fortunes improved. Haha! The reality I discovered is much different!
Thomas' Job as a Laceworker
Thomas had worked in the lace industry for most of his life. The lace industry in Ayrshire had changed from a cottage hand-weaving industry to the mechanized looms clacking away in huge factories. This first lace curtain machine came to New Milns (near Galston) in 1876 and the industry burgeoned. Think "Victorian lace curtains"- this was the popular product they made. However, the machine made great quantities of products, but didn't improve the workers' living. Mass produced goods were produced by hard labor, low wages, long hours, and the fortunes were made by the owners, not the workers. Thomas was young and able and went to work at one of these factories. He was probably quite successful, but didn't necessarily improve his station in life. At the same time in America it was post-cival war, industrialization was also happening everywhere and this increasing middle class loved those lace curtains too! Cotton was grown in the south, so the raw product was readily available. The American lace industry in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania sent scouts to find experienced workers from Scotland back to America to help run their factories. It is probable that Thomas was scouted in such a way. Soon he was heading to work in Paterson, New Jersey.
Thomas' Journey to America
Thomas boarded the steamship "S.S.Furnessia" at the Port of Glasgow on September 27, 1888. The ship stopped once at Moville, Ireland to pick up more passengers. He landed in the Port of New York on Oct. 7, disembarked on the 8th. Thomas was carrying 2 bags. Ellis Island and it massive intake of emigrants didn't exist yet. From the dock, he would have found a ferry to take him across to New Jersey. His first job in the new land was at the lace manufacturing company in Paterson, N.J. He's listed as a weaver in the Paterson NJ phone directories of 1891, 1892, 1893,living at 108 4th Avenue .
Helen follows with the bairns
Helen was unable to come at the same time as Thomas. It may have been the plan for Thomas to checkout the situation, find a place to live and save up the money to pay for the journey. Another reason could have been that Ellen's father died March 5, 1889- she may have been loath to leave him in his last days of life. On the passenger list are Ellen 26, Robert 2, and Margaret 9/12. They are passengers #56-58, travelling in a 2nd class cabin and carrying 3 bags. Would Thomas have been able to get off work to come meet them or did they make the journey to Paterson on their own? I have doubt that Ellen had the most difficult journey in charge of 2 small children in diapers!
View Larger Map Welcome to your new home at 108 4th Street in Paterson, NJ (there may have been an initial lodging before this one!)! What do you suppose the sights, sounds and smells meant to the new arrivals? And, oh, to be welcomed by Thomas after a 6 months separation! But what homesickness for their homeland and family left hebind...