Sunday, May 17, 2009


Several weeks ago I posted the company flag for Grinnell & Minturn's Red Swallowtail shipping line, the company that operated the packet ship, London, on which my great great great grandparents sailed the London to New York leg of their 1855 emigration from East Brandenburg in Prussia to Wisconsin.

A recent visitor to my blog found my post through a Google search for the terms "Grinnell & Minturn swallowtail line". The visitor didn't post a comment or send me an e-mail, but there was no real need to do so. Sitemeter records the URL for the sites from which my blogpost is accessed and in Google's case the search terms the visitor used. One of the search results listed on that page was a webpage headed Ship Yorktown, which is one of a number of pages that are part of the Forster Family Genealogy website.

It seems the first Forsters to come to America in their line arrived on the Yorktown in 1852. The Forsters weren't able to locate a portrait of the Yorktown, but they were able to find a painting of her sister ship, the London, built by Webb & Company at the same time and in the same location at the East River shipyards in New York. The two ships, according to their webpage, were identical in all but a few small details.

If you look carefully at the painting of the London you can see the Red Swallowtail colors flying from the top of the mainmast. You can see it up close if you click your mouse once on the picture.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Red Swallowtail Line

A year and a half ago I found the passenger manifests for the ships on which my German ancestors arrived in New York at Castle Garden in 1855 and 1856. I posted about that find on this blog and shortly after wrote another post about the New York Marine Register and the online information I had gleaned at Mystic Seaport about the ships on which my ancestors traveled.

I mentioned then that my great great grandparents arrived from Hamburg on a ship called the Ann Washburn in the summer of 1856 and that my great great great grandparents sailed the previous spring in 1855 from London on a ship called the London. I think it's likely that they would have all traveled together in 1855 except that my great great grandmother was about 5 months pregnant with my great grandfather at the time that the London sailed. I noted then that the owner of the London was listed as M. H. Grinnell and that the name of the ship's captain was Hubbard.

Since then I've located a little more information about the New York shipping line that transported some of my ancestors. It was called the Red Swallowtail Line and the symbol they used on their flag and sails is shown at the top of this post. The owner of the London, Moses H. Grinnell, was the youngest of three Grinnell brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts, who were partners in a New York firm called Grinnell, Minturn & Company. The company owned the Blue Swallowtail Line, that sailed packet ships between New York and Liverpool, and the Red Swallowtail Line, carrying passengers, freight and mail between New York and London for six decades, from 1823 until 1881.

I learned about it from a webpage put together several years ago by Michael Carolan, whose ancestor, Thomas Carolan, emigrated from Ireland by way of Liverpool during the Potato Famine. His ancestor, a blacksmith, arrived in 1847 on a ship called the Patrick Henry. The London was one of about a dozen ships in service on the Red Swallowtail Line and the captain on that ship in 1855, Sheldon G. Hubbard, was listed in 1851 as owning 1/16th of the Patrick Henry during the several voyages when he was skipper of that vessel. Click on the Grinnell, Minturn & Company link to visit the Thomas Carolan webpage. It's a truly dazzling portrait of a 19th century shipping firm.

I still haven't been able to determine how my ancestors traveled to London in 1855 from the banks of the Oder fifty miles east of Berlin or why my great great grandparents and their two small sons booked their passage one year later from Hamburg instead of London.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Das Buch

I'm always finding new things online. It's not that the book itself is new. In fact, it's been around for exactly one hundred years. What's new is that significant portions of it are now available online in English translation.

'The Book of the Germans in America' was published in 1909. It contains more than nine hundred pages and, starting around page 368 or so, the latter portion of the book is about particular Germans who either emigrated to America or spent enough time in America to have written and published poems regarded as a literary contribution to the German-American experience.

Things changed rapidly in the following decade, largely due to American participation in WWI, when laws took hold requiring schools in German-American communities to use English as their primary language of instruction. Consequently, the book pictured above never really found a place in the public school curriculum.

If you open the text to page 368 by clicking on this link you'll see the first four pages of a fifty page essay called 'German Poetry in the United States' written by a woman named L.L. Leser of Philadelphia, but you won't actually see that essay until after you've scrolled past the photo of Konrad Krez. The original text is all in German. The online edition includes page by page translations of much of the text. Short biographies are provided for a few dozen of the more notable immigrant poets, along with representative samples of their work. The placement of the photo of Krez and the caption beneath it make a fairly compelling case for Konrad Krez as a leading light of German poetry in the United States at that time.

I mention the book here because I've recently translated three Krez poems. My translations are available exclusively on this blog. Links to the archived posts of my translations can be found at AATIA, the Austin Area Translators and Interpreters Association, in my blogroll or at this link.

The poems I translated were written during or shortly after the Civil War and published in 1875. They describe New Orleans before the fall of Mobile in 1865, Brazos Santiago at the mouth of the Rio Grande prior to the march on Brownsville in August, 1865, and the Union occupation of Little Rock from August, 1863, until the end of January, 1865. My great great grandfather died serving in the regiment Krez commanded, the 27th Wisconsin, a fact that I discovered researching my family history online in the past five years.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Meadow Springs

The pictures above were taken in Jefferson City in Wisconsin in 1930. They were sent to me by my Aunt Vera at my request shortly before she died a year or so ago at the age of 90. Vera is the girl at the left in the upper right picture. The girl to her left is her sister, Eileen, and the three year old driving the toy car is my father.

I would guess their mother, Elda, was the photographer, but it could just as easily have been their father, my grandfather. He was a minister for seventeen years and Jefferson City was the last pastorate where he was able to perform his duties. He suffered a respiratory collapse later that year and remained an invalid until his death in 1932. The house in the lower right picture appears to be the parsonage where the family lived at that time.

A few days ago I was looking on at the 1930 Census for Jefferson City and I noticed something I hadn't seen before. The thing I had noticed previously was that the family's surname, Lubach, had been misspelled as Laubach, a perfectly understandable error on the part of the enumerator.

Frank Laubach had been a famous minister in that era, best known for his missionary work in the Philippines, where he had devised a system for teaching adult literacy. When the Spaniards ruled the Philippines as a colony, education had been a priority for only a few wealthy, elite families. The American colonial regime placed a strong emphasis on literacy and made sweeping changes to the educational curriculum, eliminating Spanish and replacing it with written English. School children in the Philippines were far more likely to progress rapidly in acquiring the English language if their illiterate parents didn't feel threatened by their children's proficiency with the colonizer's language. So adult literacy programs were the order of the day and that, along with unrestricted emigration to the U.S., made American colonizers and their exceptional military commitment to the Philippines very popular.

While I'm not certain if it's really a compliment to be confused by the government with someone famous, I did make a point of informing that this family listed in Jefferson City in the census really is my father's family and the enumerator really did misspell the family surname. Searches on now produce the same record in response to requests with either spelling.

That's what I noticed the first time I found the record, and believe me, the enumerator's spelling error, whether intentional or not, did not make finding the record any easier. The thing I noticed this time, though, is that the enumerator noted the name of the street for the households recorded in a vertical column along the far left margin of the page. So it's clear that the first four listings on the page were on the west side of Wilson Avenue, which ends where East Linden Street turns into East Linden Drive. The enumerator made a right turn at Linden Street and the remaining households on that page are all listed in the margin as located on that street. My guess is that all of the houses on East Linden were on the north side of the street because the Google map makes it clear that everything south of East Linden Street is on the Meadow Springs Country Club golf course, within easy walking distance of the clubhouse and the circular drive that provides access to the clubhouse.

In the pictures above there are some houses in the background. My guess is that the pictures were taken on or from the premises of the Meadow Springs Country Club. I did some Googling and determined that the course was built in 1920 and redesigned and remodeled around 1970. I also found a catalog of all of the architectural designs drawn up by Frank Lloyd Wright that were ever built. The catalog includes nearly 500 buildings, most of them private residential homes. One of them was built on East Linden Drive in 1950 on property opposite Meadow Springs Country Club.

I don't know if the parsonage on East Linden Street where my father and his family lived from 1928 until 1930 is still standing and in use. But I'm fairly sure the Frank Lloyd Wright house on that street is still there. I visited Jefferson City four years ago with my mother-in-law who is now 87 and still living in Milwaukee in the house that her husband built in 1950. I'll be visiting her again a few weeks from now as I understand she's starting to have some problems with her memory. The last time I visited Jefferson City with my mother-in-law we saw some churches and a few older homes that looked like they might have housed ministers. This time I'll know exactly where to look.