Searching for Clues in 1913 Immigration

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

In Stanczyk’s last post I was pondering why my grandmother did not disembark in NYC, but disembarked from Philadelphia instead heading to Buffalo area by train.

So I brainstormed two possible explanations:

  1. Hurricane
  2. Dock Strike

Sorry my brain is tired these days I am sure there are even more besides the obvious, “Maybe she just missed her embarkation point in NYC.”

As the picture shows, a mild season, but Tropical Storm (#4 — no names in those years) may have influenced the ship crossing as it was in the same time frame. But coming from the south I would have thought it may have driven the ship to NYC, not to the more southerly Philadelphia in an emergency. So perhaps a hurricane is not the explanation. I will have to keep searching.

I guess it was Hurricane Irene that came by this season with its horrific floods in the north-east (and here in PA and NJ as well as the VT pics we have all seen) that made me think of and search for that. After I wrote the article I realized it is exactly 98 years today (9/15), since my grandmother arrived in Philadelphia.

In my searches, I also found out about the Hurricane of 1913 on the Great Lakes (called the “Big Blow”). Check out these Ohio Historical Society Newspaper pages. This may at least partially explain why my Aunt Kitty was born in Depew (St Augustine parish) in 1914 and not in Toledo, OH, as her next three siblings were. This “Big Blow” caused a blizzard,  wreaking havoc in Ohio/Ontario and eliminating chances to migrate further west (by train or Lake Steamship) for many months. Something like 250-300 men lost their lives upon 14 vessels that were lost on the Great Lakes during this EPIC storm of 1913. Even the trains were stranded and food left undelivered for a long time — causing food shortages.

I wonder if my KUSCHWANTZ (Toledo) blogger pal has any posts about that 1913 winter in Ohio. See my blogroll for Donna’s very well done blog about Polish genealogy in Toledo area.

On to the next possibility …

[To see what Donna from the Kuschwantz blog wrote, click on read more]

Post Scriptum

Donna Mierzejewski-McManus, in her blog Kuschwantz, took up the mantle of searching out OH material on the “Big Blow” Great Lakes storm of 1913. Her excellent piece complete with a list of ships affected is at her blog from 9/24/2011:

If you go to – Google on “THE BIG BLOW 1913” you will find the first two pages have the most relevant books on this topic. There also appears to be a 1938 paperback (by The Call Camera) that is out of print on this storm.

Nice work!


3 Comments to “Searching for Clues in 1913 Immigration”

  1. Mike, I have no comment regarding the 1913 Big Blow. I need to look into that to see if it affected the western end of Lake Erie–which near where I grew up. Cleveland is on the east end of the lake. I can’t tell yet if it would have affected NW Ohio. The lake storms run strangely over Lake Erie. They pick up intensity as they move westward over Lake Erie. You’ll notice a snowstorm in Detroit and Toledo that’s pretty typical–5 or 6 or 8 inches. As the storm moves west, you’ll see Cleveland and Erie, PA just inundated with feet of snow. Now, lakefront storms can be wicked anywhere over the Great Lakes region so it would be interesting to see how this might have affected Toledo. I’ll look into it and let you now in a few days. Ahh…I miss the Great North Shore! (Winters are brutal but summers are delightful.)


    • Donna,
      Do not feel like you need to research a topic for/because of me. I have never before connected weather events to my genealogy research. I found those Ohio newspapers and their photos amazing for something that happened 98 years ago.


  2. Mike, it made me curious–that’s why I’m looking into it a bit–it makes for good fodder for writing either now or later. I don’t think it did much to my Toledo family, but wouldn’t know. Anyone around at that time is now long gone and I have no mention of it in any materials I have of the family. But it’s a highly interesting piece of history–this storm sunk ships and paralyzed cities. I never knew of lake front ships that sunk (well other than the Edmund Fitzgerald).


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