My Ellis Island Ancestor and Her Rather Tenuous Link to the Titanic
The American media has long romanticized the immigrant experience. But, as a Canadian whose European ancestors settled in Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan, I didn’t expect to have a personal connection with two powerful symbols of the American Dream – Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
That was before I visited Ellis Island last summer and searched the name “Kryhul” in their passenger lists database. To my surprise, I discovered a young woman by the name of Nascia Kryhul who arrived at the Port of New York on April 7, 1913, aboard the S.S. Amerika.
Since then, I’ve even discovered an interesting connection between the Titanic and the Amerika (see Two Ships That Passed in the Night, below).
I’d always assumed the Kryhuls had travelled directly to Saskatchewan once they’d arrived in Canada from Eastern Europe, around the turn of the 20th century.
Well, it seems that one young lady decided to try her luck in America instead. It’s been challenging finding information about Nascia Kryhul. But, thanks to the resources available at Ancestry.ca and the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation website, I’m starting to piece together an interesting story.
You can search ships’ manifests for free at EllisIsland.org. I searched “Kryhul” and found the “List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival.” The document lists steerage passengers arriving at the Port of New York on April 7, 1913. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
• Nascia was only 22 when she boarded S.S. Amerika in Hamburg, Germany on March 29, 1913. It’s difficult to decipher the handwriting in the Manifest. Her first name might actually be Vascia or Dascia.
• Nascia was single and her occupation was listed as “housemaid.” She was unable to read or write, however she was in good physical condition, had never been in prison and was neither a polygamist nor an anarchist, according to the Ship’s Manifest.
• Nascia was born in Jaworow, Austria and was headed for Rochester, N.Y., where she planned to meet her sister, Kacia Kryhul. Nascia carried only $18 and a ticket to her final destination.
• No family appeared to have accompanied Nascia, however she may have been travelling with Kataryna Luak who was also from Jaworow, was heading for Rochester, and had listed Kacia Kryhul as a friend.
Researching family history is like a treasure hunt. You’re always heading towards a larger goal, but there are so many gems to discover along the way. Here’s just one of mine:
Two Ships That Passed in the Night
The S.S. Amerika has two connections to the ill-fated Titanic, which sank in the early morning of April 15, 1912:
• Amerika was built in 1905 by Harland & Wolff, Ltd. of Belfast, Ireland – the same shipyard that built and launched the Titanic seven years later.
• Amerika was the first ship to warn the Titanic crew of icebergs. Amerika frequently travelled the North Atlantic route from Hamburg to New York and navigated the same waters as the Titanic on April 14, 1912, according to Wikipedia:
“On 14 April 1912, a ship’s officer sent a telegram message to the Hydrographic Office in Washington, D.C. reporting that the ship “passed two large icebergs in 41 27N 50 8W on the 14th of April” signed “Knutp, 10;51p[m]” This message was, coincidentally, relayed by the Marconi operator on Titanic to the station at Cape Race because the transmitter of Amerika was not powerful enough to reach Cape Race directly.”
Nascia Kryhul travelled those same perilous waters just one year after the sinking of the Titanic, which certainly must have been a wake-up call for even the most experienced seamen.
Read more about S.S. Amerika on Wikipedia.
Find out more about Ellis Island, America’s “Golden Door,” at the National Park Service website.
Photos of the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island building are courtesy of Elizabeth Real.