52 Ancestors: Emigration – Bearding the Unknown

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

This week’s theme is Bearded. Alas, after a thorough search of all my photos, there is not a beard in sight. The mustache in the photo below is the only facial hair that I found on a male ancestor. Then I remembered that the word beard is not always used as an adjective; sometimes it is used as a verb, with synonyms like face, challenge, and brave.

As we genealogy researchers know, our immigrant ancestors all braved the unknown, when they made their decision to emigrate to a new country. In the case of my Bianchi grandparents, I believe they bearded the unknown with some added burdens on their voyage to the United States.

Unverified photo of Bonaventura Bianchi (l.) and Maria Bunt (r.) with two of their children

Unverified photo of Bonaventura Bianchi (l.) and Maria Bunt (r.) with two of their children


According to his death certificate, Bonaventura Bianchi was born 12 Jun 1855 in Italy. Most dates I have for his birth are c1855. He migrated to Bohemia, probably to work in the mines, to marry Maria Bunt, who, according to her death certificate, was born 8 Dec 1865 in Bohemia. No record of the marriage has yet been found, but the event likely occurred during 1880 – 1882. Their first child, Peter, was born in 1882, in Austria. The next children born before their emigration were, Christine in 1883 in Luxembourg, Henry in 1885 in Germany and Joseph in 1887 in Luxembourg. The only one I am sure of is Joseph because I found his civil registration in Luxembourg.

According to the passenger list, the family came to the US on the ship SS Noordland out of Antwerp, Belgium with all four children-Joseph still an infant. The manifest listed their place of residence as Dudelingen, which is in Luxembourg. Maria was about four months pregnant with her fifth child. The family was not berthed together in steerage, making the long voyage even more burdensome. Under Room column, we find Bonaventura in 3 H, Maria in Aft U and the children in Aft V. Hopefully, Maria was near the children, after all, she had to care for an infant who was under a year of age.

In the 1900 US census, there are nine living children listed. The number of children column states that she had 11 children, so two of the children were no longer with us. One of those two children is Joseph. The passenger list did not list any deaths, so I do not know if he survived the voyage. He did die sometime before June 1900.

The family arrived at Castle Garden in New York on 01 December 1888. I don’t know whether the family was detained here until the birth of the baby that Maria was carrying or whether they were cleared and found a place to stay in New York City until the baby’s birth. Violet Josephine Bianchi was born 20 May 1889 in New York. I know that the family stayed in New York until the birth of Violet. The stay was five months and nineteen days minimum. I am sure they would not have immediately traveled to Pennsylvania. Violet’s middle name just struck me. I wonder if they named her Josephine for her brother, Joseph, which may indicate he died on the voyage.

When the family left New York, they settled in Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, finally ending up in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania by the mid-1890s. Bonaventura was a laborer in the coal mines who later advanced to a coal miner. Overall, he and Maria had fourteen children, of which twelve lived and grew to adulthood. He died 25 Dec 1906 at the age of 51 of Coal Miner’s Asthma or Black Lung. The image in this post is the only photo that I have of Bonaventura.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Bearded.

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2 Responses to 52 Ancestors: Emigration – Bearding the Unknown

  1. Teresa says:

    Great post! I too was tempted to take the approach you did, but found a pic of one of my uncles with a beard 🙂

  2. Wonderful story. It is interesting to note how they emigrated multiple times across Europe before finally emigrating to the USA. How arduous. How determined they were to continue to seek a better life. Thanks for sharing.

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