Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moritz & Marie Beier: Coming to America

As much as I can with this blog, I want to allow my ancestors' voices to be heard.  For most of them I do not have writings, letters or memoirs.  The few that I have provide a wealth of information.

My grandfather Rudolph Beyer wrote in 1969, "As best as I can remember & reading records Moritz Beyer & Marie Kluge were married some where near Zschopau (Pronounced Joe Pau) Germany or Saxony Germany.  Father was born near above place on Nov. 22-1851.  Mother talked of Wald-Kirchen as her maiden home and was born near there Sept. 6-1859.  They were married in 1880 and 4 years later, being 1884 they sailed on a ship to the United States.  They had heard the U.S. was a free Country and people were doing better.  How-ever they came to New York by ship & then to Paige Texas by train."

On July 14, 1887, before the Bastrop County Court, Moritz Beier filed a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States, shown below.  In this document, he stated that he was born in Wald-Kirchen, was 36 years old, and had arrived at the port of New York, N.Y., on or about August 24, 1884.

My great Aunt Ella notes that their little boy, Emil, was with them when they traveled from Germany.  I used Ancestry.com to search passenger lists for immigrant ships that arrived in New York on or about August 24, 1884.  I found several "Beier/Beyer" families, including a "Moritz Beyer" who arrived in 1891.  However, the official document, above, places my great-grandfather in Texas in 1887.

Moritz would have been thirty-two years old and Marie twenty-four in 1884, and they had a small child with them.  Of the passenger lists I have seen, the one that most nearly matches all of these details is that of the arrival of the steamship Gellert, which arrived in New York from Hamburg, Germany, on August 25, 1884.  On that day, S. S. Gellert brought "Ernst Beier", age 32, his wife and nine month old child.  Could Moritz Ernest Beier have represented himself as "Ernst"?  Or perhaps, was this the name that got recorded for him on the ship's manifest?  Either of these possibilities may have happened, or it may be Ernst Beier and Moritz Ernest Beier are two completely different people.  Here is a detail of the passenger list of the S. S. Gellert, when it arrived on that day:

Here we have Ernst Beier, age 32, who is a weaver, from Waldkirchen.  Then his wife, age 27, is listed, as is a baby also named "Ernst".  Baby Ernst is nine months old, so his age is given in the months column.  The last of this Beier family is a single, 34 year old female named "Ernestine".  They traveled steerage class, which means that they made the trip in the crowded, cramped lower decks of the ship which provided this family with no privacy, windows or plumbing, and few services.  Family members had to look out for each other.  On days with good weather, they could crowd together on an open deck above for fresh air, along with many other steerage passengers.  When the weather was bad, steerage was miserable.  The S. S. Gellert could accomodate about 200 passengers in private cabins and 800 in steerage.

The coincidences that keep me coming back to this family are: 
  1. They arrived within one day of the arrival date recorded on Moritz Beier's Declaration of Intention to become a citizen.
  2. The last name, "Beier," is very common in Germany, but it is an exact spelling match.
  3. The ages of the father, mother and baby are very close to the ages Moritz, Marie and baby Emil would have been.
  4. They came from Waldkirchen, a very small village in Saxony that Moritz said was his home town on his Declaration in 1887.
  5. Ernst Beier's profession is listed here as "weaver", which is at least in the textile industry and somewhat related to spool maker.
The information that is inconsistent with other information about Moritz and Marie Beier, is the names:  Ernst, Aug. (Augusta?), and baby Ernst.  Of course, there is also the question of Ernestine Beier - who is she?

I also have a matching passenger list from Hamburg, where the S. S. Gellert departed for New York on August 10, 1884.

The full page from the passenger list on arrival in New York is here:

One last thing I must mention is that Aunt Ella wrote that they arrived in the U.S. at Galveston, Texas.  Since Moritz, himself, recorded New York in his Declaration, I think Galveston is less likely.  I hope to check the Galveston passenger lists someday to make sure.

Grace and peace,


  1. Good luck with your new blog. I loved this post and all the documentation. It's important to show the research trail, and I liked how you highlighted the family on the passenger list. I did all that research before they were available online, but I'm thinking it might be important to go back and capture all those images digitally.

  2. I'm surprised they didn't end up in Massachusetts with all its textile mills there.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  3. Hi Theresa, Good point, and Massachusetts would have been easier to get to from New York! Perhaps Moritz wanted to find a completely different line of work.
    Thanks for your comment.