Monday, June 9, 2014

The S.S. Noordam

My great grandpa Lawrence (Laas) Broersma left his home in the Netherlands when he was 19, for the USA. I wonder what life would have been like to make him leave his home and move to another country? I think even today it's a big deal to move overseas, but he did it in a day when you still had to take a boat.

Here is a page from his passport. As you can see his hair was dark blond, his eyes were blue and his nose was normal, so that's good.

Laas Broersma Passport

His family was very poor, and at the time (1920) they were living in the city of Sneek where Lawrence was working as a barber, and lived not far from the famous waterport.

WaterPoort in Sneek ca 1950?

His brother Thys had already moved to America to Iowa, and so Lawrence followed a few years later. I wonder if Jack was doing really well there, or if Lawrence thought that America would be the land of opportunity as so many thought? In Iowa there are a number of Dutch communities, so the transition would have been some what easy I would imagine. I don't know if he could speak English at that time.

He left from the port of Rotterdam on 9 June 1920, and then passed through Ellis Island on 21 June. Here is the passenger list with his name. I cropped it because his name was all the way at the bottom.

Ellis Island - Broersma Laas crop

So he would have been on the ship for a good week and a half. I wonder how much passage would have cost? He crossed 8 years after the Titanic sank, but his ship I'm sure was not as luxurious. I looked up a little history on the ship he came over on, the Noordam, and it was in service from 1902 til 1927. Apparently during WWI it had hit a mine or 2 on a couple occasions and was in the shipyard for a while. Also, according to Wikipedia, the Noordam had alerted the Titanic to ice early on in Titanic's maiden voyage.

Recently I was looking on Ebay and bought a postcard of the ship. Someone else had written on the back and it was dated 1910. There are many versions of this same picture, but I liked this one because it had windmills in the background. They may have been painted in the background to make it look more Dutch.

Noordam Postcard ca 1910

I had found another nice postcard and framed it and gave it to my dad for Christmas. In this one you can see that the ship looks very similar, but it's been colorized and the flags are flying in a different direction. Also It looks like there are some more life boats, probably as a result of the Titanic. The note written on the back says this was mailed in 1916.


Anyway, I thought it was cool to imagine a little bit of what the journey would have been like, and these pieces helped put the story together a little for me.


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  2. Hi, I just found your blog. I am a descendant of Derk Jan Wichers, son of Hendrik Jan Wichers and Harmina Kapelle. I don't see him listed in your genealogy. Email me if you'd like to compare notes: apriljoan @ hotmail . com

  3. Thanks for the info April. At the time I was researching this section of the Wichers, not all information was available online to search. More is available now so I can see all the birth records from the area where they were from: Gorssel. If you haven't already seen it before, here is a scan of Derk Jan's birth record (in lower left corner)$dist