Theme, Week 1 (Jan. 1-7): “Fresh start”
To me it seems, so brave, to up and move one’s life to another country, something numbers of my ancestors did and something I’ve thought about doing myself, yet, lack the courage required of such drastic change?
From my well-documented 7th & 6th Great-Grandfathers Hans & Christian Herr — Swiss Brethren, later called Mennonites, seeking religious freedom in America in the early 1700s; to my Swiss Hubschman/Hibschman and Komler/Kumler great-grands seeking same; to my maternal grandfather Edward who left English service to immigrate to this country; to my maternal grandmother Rosalie from Norway, immigrating all by her 16-year-old self to the United States in 1908 to “earn more money:” my respect for these ancestors is huge.
Rosalie — christened “Sally Marie Eilertsen Fjelse;” no-one remains alive to tell me just when/where/why she became “Rosalie” — departed her homeland of Norway from Kristiansand Harbour in Vest Agder County on Oct. 2, 1908, on the steamship “Celtic.”
Ship records note Rosalie’s occupation as “fabrikarb” (factory worker), and, under reason for emigrating, “for at tjene mer” (to earn more money).
Her education consisting of having finished the common school in Norway and having had some private tutoring before coming to the U.S., Rosalie ambitiously enrolled in a business college while living initially with an uncle in Brooklyn, New York. She attended for several months before taking up dress-making & -design, which she worked at for several years in New York City.
Meanwhile, Edward Charles Vallis had left a position as a valet in his former life in England, he too immigrating to America, arriving at the Port of NY in the early 20th-century.
All the romance we fans of PBS’ series “Downton Abbey” might associate with castles & lords & ladies & even household servitude notwithstanding, Edward looked for a new future with himself as his own man.
Just where & how they met I haven’t yet learned, but somewhere along the way the handsome six-foot-one-inch, brown-hair & -eyed, olive-complexioned Edward, born & raised in Wilts County, England, married, circa 1913 in NY, the lovely auburn-haired, fair-skinned Rosalie from Norway.
By June of 1914 the young couple was living in Madison, Dane Co., Wisconsin, and my mother Solveig, their first child, was born there.
Grandpa “Dad,” as all his grandchildren would come to call him, was working as a janitor when daughter Solveig was born and, later, as a salesman; he eventually took employment as a linotype machinist at the Democrat Printing Co., staying there until his 1957 retirement.
Although I was only four-years-old when Grandma Rosalie died, hers was a vivid personality and I recall her lovingly. I see her braiding my hair in coils, one each side of my head; offering me chocolates; and, most clearly, bending over working in she & Grandpa Edward’s flower garden, a virtual forest of blooms & greenery that my toddler self loved to wander through.
Now though? I’m seeing Rosalie & Edward in a new light: as wonderfully brave as those further-back great-grands; all of them, seeking out brand-new lives in a land an entire ocean away from their homes.