(I wrote this piece a few years ago. Except as noted, the links in the end notes still worked as of 2011.10.06)–WDH)
By the time I first became interested in genealogy, my paternal grandparents, my parents, and all my aunts and uncles had passed away. There was no one to ask about the rustic wooden trunk in our attic. When my mother gave it to me, she said only that Grandma Huuskonen brought it from Finland.
About nine years ago, I got the trunk out of the attic and took a close look at it. I could see it had several travel stickers, one saying Cunard Line Steerage Baggage; another saying New York, and yet another saying Aurania. Could these be clues to Grandma Huuskonen’s trip to America?
When I mentioned the trunk to my brother, Walfrid, he answered that he had obtained some information about the Huuskonen emigration from Finland while attending FinnFest 95, an annual gathering of Americans of Finnish descent. The information came from a database called the Emigrant Register, compiled by the Institute of Migration of Turku, Finland.
The Institute is funded in part by grants from Finnish-Americans and the Emigrant Register includes passport application records and passenger records of the Finland Steamship Co.1 Today, the Register has grown to include some 450,000 records of Finns who traveled from their Nordic homeland to America, Canada, Australia, and other destinations around the world between 1892 and 1950, and it is available in English on the Institute’s website.2
The data Walfrid retrieved in 1995 showed that Ida Maria Huuskonen emigrated from Vesanto in Kuopio Province with children Edith, Emil, Wilma, and Mary in July 1903.3 The passenger records further specified that mother and children boarded the SS Polaris on 29 Jul 1903 bound for England, and that they would continue their travels to New York on the Cunard Line’s SS Aurania.
The price of the tickets for Ida and the four children was recorded as $27. The fact that the price is quoted in dollars rather than Finnish markka suggests to me that the tickets were paid for in America by Ida’s husband, Evert Huuskonen, who emigrated the year before. The tickets were for travel to Houghton, Michigan, which is a hint that Evert may have been working in Michigan when he purchased the tickets.
The website of the Finnish Genealogical Society (www.genealogica.fi) explains that the Polaris was operated by the Finland Steamship Co.,4 which had a monopoly on transporting emigrants from Hanko, a port at the southern tip of Finland, to Hull in eastern England. The website also provides the following information on the Polaris: Gross tonnage 2,018, top speed 13.5 knots, 250 ft long by 35 ft wide. Passenger capacities were 80 in first class, 18 in second class, and 167 in third class.
Once the Huuskonen family arrived in Hull, we can assume that they followed the usual transmigratory route across England. A website specializing in Scandinavian emigration provides background on this route.5 “Most of the emigrants entering Hull traveled via the Paragon Railway Station and from there traveled to Liverpool via Leeds, Huddersfield, and Stalybridge (just outside Manchester). The train tickets were part of a package that included the steamship ticket to Hull, a train ticket to Liverpool, and then the steamship ticket to their final destination — mainly America.” The website further mentions that immigrant trains usually left Hull at around 11:00 a.m. and arrived in Liverpool between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.
Upon reaching Liverpool, the Huuskonens probably were housed in dormitory-type facilities owned by Cunard until they could begin the next leg of their journey on the SS Aurania. This ship, I learned by consulting The Ships List website, was rated at 7,269 gross tons.6 It had a top speed of 16 knots, measured 470 ft long by 57 ft wide, and had accommodations for 480 first class and 700 third class passengers. Built by J. & G. Thomson, Glasgow, it began service from Liverpool to New York on 23 June 1883.
My brother ordered a copy of our grandmother’s passenger manifest record from the National Archives, using the date and destination he obtained from the Emigrant Register. It listed Ida Maria Huuskonen, age 40 [?]; female; married; housewife; able to read and write; nationality, Finnish; last place of residence, Hango [Swedish spelling for the port city of Hanko]; destination, Jester, Ohio; possessing a train ticket; paid for by husband; possessing $10; joining husband, Evert Huuskonen, address Box 12, Jester, Ohio; in good health. It also listed the four Huuskonen children: Edith, 8; Emil, 6; Wilma, 4; and Marie [sic], infant. 7
Ida apparently had a traveling companion available to assist her with baggage. Nestor Karhu, age 28, male, single, a laborer, is listed on line 18 of the manifest, immediately following lines 13-17 listing Ida and her children.8 He was traveling to the same destination as Ida, and was also planning to meet Evert Huskonen [note alternate spelling], described as a friend. A search of the Emigrant Register reveals that Nestor was from Vesanto, as was Ida, and that he obtained his passport on 29 Jul 1903, the same day that Ida received hers.9
The manifest also stated that the Aurania departed Liverpool on 4 Aug 1903 and arrived in New York on Thursday, 13 Aug 1903. By doing some additional sleuthing, I learned some more details of the trip. In its daily Maritime Report for August 13, 1903, The New York Times stated that the Aurania made one stop in Queenstown, Ireland, on August 5, after departing Liverpool on August 4.10 The newspaper item further reported that the Aurania “arrived at The Bar at 9:56 p.m.” on August 12. The Bar was the entrance to New York’s vast harbor area and was considered the official end of an ocean voyage. In addition to passengers, the Aurania carried merchandise for Vernon H. Brown & Co.
According to the Times, the weather on August 12 was cloudy with a moderate breeze. The temperature hit the high 70s during the day, but dropped to 66 by midnight. Weather conditions were about the same the next day, when Ida and her four children rode a ferry from the Aurania to Ellis Island for processing as immigrants. From there, they probably went to Hoboken, New Jersey, and board a train for the trip to Ohio.
To find where Jester, Ohio, was, I consulted Julie Overton’s Ohio Towns and Townships to 1900.11 This excellent reference book published by the Ohio Genealogical Society explains that Jester was a hamlet on Lake Erie, just east of Conneaut. With that information, I was able to locate on the Internet a topographical map produced in 1906. It showed Jester in the very northeastern corner of Ashtabula County, halfway between Conneaut and the Pennsylvania boarder.12
Since their destination was in the vicinity of Conneaut, Grandma and the children probably were reunited with Grandpa at that city’s train station.
As we indicated earlier, Evert Huuskonen immigrated in 1902. Tracking down his passenger manifest record proved to be another learning experience because he followed a different route than we expected. In his Emigrant Register search, Walfrid learned that in 1902 our grandfather obtained a passport and a ticket to travel from Hanko to England on the SS Acturius, operated by the Finland Steamship Co. According to the Finnish Genealogical Society website, the Acturius was similar to its sister ship, the Polaris.
Walfrid’s search further revealed that Evert was to sail to America on the SS Tunisian. I looked for records of his arrival in American ports during a trip to the Allen County Library in Ft. Wayne, but came up empty. I posted a query on The Ships’ List about ports that received passengers from the Tunisian. Sue Wiggins, co-owner of the list, responded that because the Tunisian was owned by the Allan Line of Canada, its North American home port was the Canadian city of Quebec from May to mid-November.13 Also, passengers traveling to America via Quebec City were listed on manifests collected by immigration officials operating out of the St. Albans District, headquartered in New Hampshire. With this additional knowledge, I found Grandpa in the St. Albans District records at the National Archives in Washington.
The manifest for the S.S. Tunisian, sailing from Liverpool, 16 Oct 1902, and arriving in Quebec, Canada, 25 Oct 1902, lists Evert Huuskonen, male; married; age 29; occupation, laborer; able to read and write; nationality, Finnish; last residence, Wauper [?]; final destination, Ashtabula, Ohio; had ticket to final destination; paid for ticket himself; in possession of $20; joining friend, Vieko Pietihani [spelling?], whose address is Box 115, Ashtabula; in good health.14
The Ships List describes the Tunisian as a 10,576-gross-ton ship built by A. Stephen & Sons, Glasgow in 1900 for the Allan Line. It was 500 long by 60 ft wide with one funnel and two masts. Its top speed was 16 knots.15
While scanning the Tunisian’s passenger manifest, I noticed that Kalle Hytonen also was traveling to join Vieko Pietihani in Ashtabula.16 This was interesting because his surname was the same as my grandmother’s maiden name. How he might be related to our Grandma we still haven’t figure out yet. He may have returned to Finland because I’ve found no other references to him in U.S. records.
The Nestor Karhu who traveled with Grandma Huuskonen, however, is another matter. According to the 1920 census, he was living in Conneaut, married to a Finnish girl, and raising a family of four children.17 The census even revealed that he was a repairman for the Nickel Plate Railroad.
So how did Grandma Huuskonen and the four children travel to Ohio? Some more historical detective work suggests the probable route was a train trip that would last for more than 14 hours.
The website of the Liberty State Park in New Jersey describes how new arrivals in America would continue their journeys. After being processed at Ellis Island, the website explains, immigrants took steam launches for a short trip to the New Jersey shore and its several railroad terminals. There, the immigrants purchased tickets and boarded trains that would take them to their new homes.18
Railroad maps of the period show two competing railroad routes for travel to Conneaut in Ohio. One route would be on the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western (D L & W)line from New Jersey to Buffalo, New York, and continuing along the Lake Erie shoreline on the Nickel Plate line to Conneaut. If the Huuskonens followed this route, they would have headed for the Hoboken Terminal of the D, L, & W Railroad to board the train that would take them to their new home in Ohio.
In fact, a timetable in the 1910 Guide to Railroads lists three daily Nickel Plate connecting trains traveling this route.19 The 1903 timetable probably would have been similar.
Separate cars would have been provided to carry immigrants from Ellis Island to destinations along the route, including those throughout Ohio, and in Indiana and Illinois, and on to Chicago.
The first leg of the trip, between Hoboken, New Jersey, and Buffalo, in western New York State, was scheduled to take 12 hours and 30 minutes. At the end of this first leg of the trip, the train would wind its way slowly through a complex maze of rail lines, because by 1900 Buffalo was recognized as having one of the greatest railyard facilities in the world.20 The train would pause at the D, L & W passenger station in downtown Buffalo to let off passengers and to take on new passengers heading to points west. The Huuskonen family, however, probably would continue its trip to Ohio in the same passenger car.
From Buffalo, the train would travel 115.7 miles along the Lake Erie shore, through Erie, Pennsylvania, to Conneaut, their destination just inside the Ohio border. The final leg of the trip, according to the schedule, would require 2 hours and 20 min.
Another route would have been on the New York, Lake Erie & Western line that avoided Buffalo and headed more directly across Pennsylvania to Ohio. The Huuskonens would have transferred to a station in Jersey City, NJ, to board this train. The railroad was later known as the New York Central Rail Road.
We can imagine the happy scene when the train pulled into the Conneaut station and Grandma Huuskonen and the children were reunited with Grandpa Huuskonen.
They no doubt were happy to see him after nine months of separation. They also would be happy about completing a trip that began approximately three weeks earlier and covered more than 4000 miles by railroad in Finland, England, and America, and by steamship in Europe and across the Atlantic.
Researching the immigration routes that my Huuskonen ancestors followed in 1902 and 1903 has been very rewarding. I was particularly glad I had undertaken the first steps in this investigation before I visited Ellis Island five years ago. I was able to imagine my grandmother–with three young children in tow and carrying an infant–shuffling through the long inspection lines with other immigrants, and keeping track of her wooden trunk with all the family’s possessions.
I believe Grandma Huuskonen would be pleased to learn that her trunk, now more than 100 years old, has been moved out of the attic and into a corner of our living room, where we use it to store photo albums and family memorabilia.
1. Institute of Migration, online
2. Passport/Passenger Search, Emigrant Register, Institute of Migration, online
3. Emigrant Register, Institute of Migration, Turku, Finland, passport and ticket data for Evert and Ida Maria Huuskonen and children, extracted by Walfrid E. Huskonen at FinnFest 95, Portland, OR. Copy in possession of the author.
4. Emigration, Finnish Genealogical Society, Helsinki, Finland, online
5. 100 Years of Emigrant Ships from Norway, Norway Heritage, online
6. Ship Descriptions, The Ships List, online
7. Entry for Ida Huuskonen and four children; SS Aurania Passenger Manifest, 13 Aug 1903, p. I, Lines 13-17; Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving in New York, 1897-1942; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives Microfilm Publication T715, roll 382.
8. Entry for Nestor Karhu; SS Aurania Passenger Manifest, 13 Aug 1903, p. I, Line 18; Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving in New York, 1897-1942; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives Microfilm Publication T715, roll 382.
9. Emigrant Register, Institute of Migration, Turku, Finland, online
10. “Maritime Report,” The New York Times, New York, 13 August 1903, page 11. From microfilm at the Cleveland (Ohio) Public Library.
11. Julie Minot Overton, with Kay Ballantyne Hudson and Sunda Anderson Peters, editors, Ohio Towns and Townships to 1900: A Location Guide (Mansfield, Ohio: Ohio Genealogical Society, 2000), page 191.
12. USGS 1900 Era Ohio Index, online
13. Sue Wiggins, “Re: Query about Allan Line,” e-mail message from
14. Entry for Evert Huuskonen, SS Tunisian Passenger Manifest, 13 Aug 1903, p. E, Line 22; Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving in St. Albans, Vermont, District, 1895-1954; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives Microfilm Publication M1464, roll 15.
15. Ship Descriptions, The Ships List, online
16. Entry for Kalle Hytonen, SS Tunisian Passenger Manifest, 13 Aug 1903, p. E, Line 15; Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving in St. Albans, Vermont, District, 1895-1954; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives Microfilm Publication M1464, roll 15.
17. Nestor Karhu household, 1920 U.S. Census, Ashtabula County, Ohio, population census, City of Conneaut, ED 30, Sheet 5-B, 131 Garden St., dwelling 80, family 102; National Archives Micropublication T625, roll 1345.
18. Liberty State Park, New Jersey, website
19. Photocopies of the relevant timetable pages of the 1910 Guide to Railroads were supplied to the author by Robert Gillis, Denville, NJ.
20. Milestone Dates of Buffalo New York Central Terminal website.