I grew up on the road - most of my early memories involve some version of piling into our family van and staring out the window for hours, watching the landscape slowly evolve. I've had the privilege of passing through nearly all of the states, and have visited Mexico, Canada, and several European countries. I'm always thinking of the next place we will go (which usually includes a family visit, or more often now, a graveyard visit!), and have raised my kids with the expectation that we will travel whenever we can swing it.
That said, the concept of traveling for pleasure is still fairly new in the history of my family. Even my grandparents, who had the means to travel, usually went on trips to visit their far-flung children and other relatives, not on pleasure cruises or to explore the world, just for the thrill of it. Beyond that, nearly all of the travel stories throughout my ancestry are the stories of immigrants - they tended to book one-way tickets.
Because I come entirely from Mormon pioneers, most of their stories have a similar pattern: Living in another State/Country, Religious Conversion, Preparing to Leave, Meeting in the Middle (Ohio/Missouri/Illinois/Nebraska, arriving by boat or wagon), Traveling West (by wagon/handcart, and later, by train), and Arriving in Utah. The majority arrived in the 1850s, and all of my family was in Utah by 1874.
Most of these stories include some element of danger, such as illness, accidental death, animal-related adventures, encounters with Native Americans, and so forth, but others are a little more light-hearted. I shared one of my favorite immigration stories earlier - remember my ancestor who traveled with a goat? I thought I'd share another favorite story here:
My great-great-great-grandmother, Helen (AKA Ellen) Blackwood Russell, traveled with her family (which included her husband, John, and nine of their eleven children), from Scotland, arriving in New York City on the S.S. City of Manchester, on 13 June 1862. The story goes that she suffered from sea-sickness, and was not feeling well throughout the long journey. After the ship landed, her husband went off to find some fresh food to assist in her recovery. He came back with a nice, red apple for her to eat. After one bite, she handed it right back to her husband and told him to throw it away, stating "That apple's been poisoned!" The "apple," they learned later, was not an apple after all, but, in fact, a tomato - they had never encountered one during their time Scotland!
One of the things I love most about traveling is discovering things which seem mundane to the people living there, but are very new to me. I'm not sure that Helen felt the same way?!? But seriously, the poor woman! She went on to help deliver the babies of sixteen women during their trek West, without any training as a midwife. I can't help but think how brave she must have been to leave her homeland, to raise all those children (and losing a couple to accident and disease), to travel into the untamed West, and to create a new life in a strange land. Even now, with all of our modern luxuries, it certainly takes a fair amount of courage to embark on a path to new places, regardless of whether you are holding a one-way ticket, or plan to return to the safety of your home two weeks later. So here's to Great-great-great-grandmother Helen - I think of her whenever I bite into an apple!
1. "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," database with images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 July 2018), entry for Hellen Russell, aboard S.S. City of Manchester (Liverpool to New York), arriving 13 June 1862; citing National Archives microfilm serial: M237, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, roll: 220, line: 44, list number: 549; Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36, National Archives at Washington, D.C.
2. "Catherine Russell Hinchcliff," by Winnifred Riley Lamb, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/2688858 : accessed 14 July 2018); citing an earlier version written by Hattie Hinchcliff Riley and submitted to Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1926.
3. "Catherine Russell Hinchcliff," by Winnifred Riley Lamb.
I'm Ginger Ogilvie, and I am absolutely, hopelessly hooked on genealogy!
© Keep Family History Services 2023