My great-great-grandfather John Hanson was born Jens Rasmussen near the seaport of Bergen, Norway on 26 Jan 1847. The story of his life, as recounted by his daughter Olga Hanson Schmidt (my great-grandmother) was posted here.
Prior to marrying his wife, Ovidia Kristine Olesdatter (Olson), Jens was a sea-faring man. As a teenager he worked as a seaman, first on smaller boats that carried freight from village to village, then on the large three-masted schooners which traveled the open ocean. He traveled to China, to Africa, and crossed the Atlantic seven times visiting Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Valparaiso, and San Francisco.
Family legend says that he made a trip to America about 1872, visiting New Orleans and “jumping ship” there. He got a job on a river boat up the Mississippi River to Prairie du Chien, then went up the Wisconsin River to Portage, to Stevens Point, and finally to Wausau, Wisconsin. He fell in love with the place. Years later when he decided to get married, he would bring his new bride back to Wausau.
Until now, I had always assumed that Jens had worked his way across the ocean as a crew-member of these vessels, and hadn’t really thought to look if I could find evidence of his travels. Then, this week, I found a document that really surprised me:
This is a passenger list for the “Galathea”, which left Bergen, Norway on 22 May 1870, and arrived in Quebec City, Canada on 10 Jul 1870, after a journey of 49 days.
The entry reads that Jens Rasmussen, aged 23 (born 1847), resident of Lindås, Norway, embarked at Bergen, Norway for passage to Quebec, Canada. Everyone on the page is listed as a “Farmer”. Jens was listed as a farm laborer in the 1865 census for Lindaas, Norway, so this voyage may have been among his first trips far away from home. His port of arrival is listed as “Qwebeck”, which is an odd spelling to be sure.
Obviously the name, age, and Bergen are correct for my grandfather, but there are a few other bits of information that line up also. Jens was born and baptized in Lindås, and his brother Rasmus Rasmussen Østrem (1852-1936) lived there until his death, so the town is right. We know Jens was living in Lindås in 1865 as he can be found there in the census. Additionally, my grandfather gave the year of his arrival in America as 1870 in the 1900 US Census, so I am nearly 100% sure this is the passenger list for one of his trips across the Atlantic.
According to NorwayHeritage.com, the “Galathea“, a three-masted sailing bark captained by L. Pettersen, was built at the Navy Shipyard in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1832. She was first used by the Danish Navy as a corvette. In 1862 she was bought by C. Mohr & son in Bergen, and had made a previous trip to Quebec in 1865. On the trip carrying my grandfather, there were 281 passengers on board, including a woman who gave birth during the voyage.
There is an interesting account online from one of the Norwegian families who traveled to America aboard the Galathea in 1865, and it mentioned many details I hadn’t considered:
They are now ready to leave Norway. Their household goods have been sold.. The trunks and chests were packed with the only possessions they had in this world. Food for their entire journey had to be provided to last a period of three to four months. There were boxes or chests of bread and flatbrød – casks of salted fish – cod, herring and halibut–others with salt pork, beef and mutton; boxes of cheese, butter, flour, sugar, salt and all the other spices that would be needed. Then there were trunks of clothing, “America Chests” they were called. All the clothing, not only for the journey, but for all their needs until more could be made: axes, saws, planes and chisels, hoes and spades, bedding, thread, needles, yarn, medicine, innumerable articles needed to establish homes in the new land. Last, but not least, the Bible, the hymn book and a Book of Family Devotions.
Then there were the farewells to be said. The leave-taking of friends, near and dear, with the knowledge that they would never see them again, must have been an ordeal in itself. Saying goodbye to relatives and friends, turning, as it were, your back on the old and facing the new and unknown world, not knowing what joys and sorrows are in store–takes great courage!