Thomas Journey to America
(Based on Typical Travel of the Period)
 
The map below illustrates the possible path followed by our Thomas emigrants from the Palatine area of Germany in their trip to America.   The information presented is based on typical travel of the period and the record of their ship, as described in Ralph Beaver Strassburger and William John Hinke's book, Pennsylvania German Pioneers (Vol. I, Introduction, and pages  626-633).

 

 

1 - The Trip Begins

Our immigrants, Peter (age 18), Gerhard (age 22), and Anna Elisabeth Thomas (age 30), leave their home in Pleizenhausen.  They probably began the trip in the late spring season (May?) of 1754.  Their father (Peter) had passed away 11 years earlier in 1743.  Their sister Maria Margaretha, who was married Johann Jacob Mühleisen, had traveled with 2 children in 1750 to Pennsylvania.  Perhaps there was guidance from these earlier immigrants on whether or how to attempt the voyage.  Their mother, Anna Elisabeth, remained in Pleizenhausen until her death in 1757, at the age of 59.  It is not clear where the rest of their siblings moved to.  
 
2 - Down the Rhine River
The typical travel to Rotterdam was down the Rhine River, stopping to pay taxes and tolls at numerous custom houses along the way.   This portion of the journey took about 4 to 6 weeks.  It was probably July when our travelers reached Rotterdam.
 
3 - Board a Ship in Rotterdam
Once in Rotterdam, the travelers had to make arrangements to board a ship to America.  This process could take as much as 5 to 6 weeks in Rotterdam.   Given the slow process and the expenses of the city, it is likely our travelers, assuming they were not very rich, had to spend much of their money here.  Our travelers finally boarded the Ship Phoenix, under the charge of Captain John Spurrier.   Onboard were 11 Roman Catholics, 25 Mennonites from Switzerland, 300 Souls, and 554 Freights from Franconia, Palatinate, and Zweybreck.   In other recorded voyages of this same ship, the passenger count varied between 300 and 500 persons.  This voyage, with 554, was probably very crowded.  
 
4 - Stop Over in Cowes
The Ship Phoenix, like most of the ships heading for America, made a last stop in England.  The Phoenix stopped in Cowes which was the most frequently used port for this purpose.     There could have been another week or two delay at this port, either for clearance by the customs house or just waiting for favorable winds. 
 
5 -  Off to Philadelphia
It was probably late July or early August before the Ship Phoenix was ready to sail on to Philadelphia.  If the winds were very favorable, the journey across the Atlantic Ocean would last 7 weeks.   If the winds were less favorable, it could take up to 12 weeks.   The journey on these ships across the ocean was filled with hardship.  Disease took the lives of many passengers, mainly because of poor food and lack of good drinking water.  Storms would add to the discomfort. 

Finally, when the ships arrived at the harbor of Philadelphia, the passengers would be inspected for contagious disease.   By 1750, a hospital had been erected on Providence Island near Philadelphia to handle the sick passengers.   After clearing the health inspection, the ships are allowed to dock.   The passengers are then led to the State House in Philadelphia to take an oath of allegiance to the king of Great Britain.   After taking the oath, they are returned to the ship.   Those passengers who have money to pay for their own fare are then released.   The remainder are held to be sold for their services.  The Ship Phoenix, with our immigrants, arrived in Philadelphia on October 1, 1754.

Announcements are printed in the newspaper of the number of passengers arriving.  Buyers arrive at the ship and  negotiate with the  passengers for the period of time they will work for the buyer in order for him to pay for their passage.   The ship merchant is then paid for the passengers debt, and a government document is written giving the buyer ownership of the passenger for the agreed length of time.   Since our immigrants were most likely from a relatively poor farming family, it seems likely they would have had to go through this process.

While one might think the immigrants hardships were over, nothing could be further from the truth.   They had arrived just as winter was coming, with little possessions or money.   It was the hard working nature of these Germans that helped most of them succeed in establishing a new life in "the new world." 

 
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