Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Journey of Otelius Grønli

Back in 2005, I was at Ellis Island with my late mother, her sister, and my wife. We were attempting to use the data base there to find information on my great-grandfather Otelius Grønli's transit through that location. And we were frustrated that there seemed to be no entries related to his name. 

I don't know whether the database at that time was not complete, but, using online resources, I have now been able to reconstruct my great-grandfather's journey in considerable detail.

First off, a Norwegian database documents his departure.

So, we learn the following. He was born in 1884. He departed on October 27, 1909. His stated occupation was that he was a painter (maler, of houses, not art). He was 25 years old as he emigrated.

Now, Norwegians at that time didn't really have last names. His father's name was Hans Corneliusen. And so he was known as Otelius Hilberg Hansen. Grønli is where he was originally from. 

He sailed from Trondheim, Norway on the Salmo. This was a ship that only sailed between Norway and Hull, England. Here's a newspaper clip from 1909 advertising this route.

On April 7, 1917, the Salmo was sunk by a German torpedo.

Migrants who arrived in Hull, England took a train to another port, usually Liverpool, for their onward travel. My great-grandfather left Liverpool and arrived at Ellis Island on November 12, 1909. Here's the record entered upon his arrival.

 He likely spoke no English and just handed some American official his travel documents from Norway, which were entered with errors, Othellius instead of Otelius and Gronlil instead of Gronli (or Hansen).

But what really struck my eye was the ship he traveled on. The Lusitania!!!! The ship he rode on from Trondheim to England was sunk by the Germans, and then the Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo on May 7, 1915, with 1,962 fatalities.

My great-grandfather made his way to Wisconsin. On November 28, 1912, he married Dora May Thompson, who was born in America to Norwegian immigrants. 

On September 7, 1913, my grandmother Marie was born. Sadly, Otelius passed away on August 22, 1920. He was only thirty-five years old.

He had left behind everything he knew to seek a new life in the New World. He had just settled down, married, and started his family, when death suddenly took him. 

But what is the measure of a life? 

Today, there are scores of people descended from him and Dora. We are hard-working people in all walks of life. But we carry a spark of him and his energy, passed down in the manners of our own immediate parents. 

And I know that Otelius Hilberg Hansen (Grønli) is proud of us all.