Keys to the Ship

The ship Aurania of the Cunard Lines brought my Keys family to America in 1887.

I was excited to run across this photo a few weeks ago.  It is a photo of the ship that my Keys ancestors boarded when they were immigrating to the United States from England.  The name of the ship is Aurania.  It was part of the Cunard Lines.  I’ve mentioned the name of the ship before, but I had never seen a photo of the ship until I saw this one.

Martha Ann Cook Keys was born in Great Wigsborough, England, on November 8, 1836.  Henry Keys was born in Chipping Ongar, England, on April 18, 1822.  Martha and Henry were married on Martha’s 33rd birthday.  They went about starting a family of their own.  Henry Alfred was born in 1870 and Leonard James was born in 1873.

Their next child was my great grandmother Daisy Henrietta Martha, who was born in 1876.  (Daisy’s daughter Myrtle would become my maternal grandmother.)  Henry and Martha’s last two children were daughters Rosetta Ruth born in 1879 and Mabel Olive born in 1881.  The family lived in Hackney and Tottenham around London when the children were young.

Part of the list of passengers of the Aurania on that fateful trip. At the top of the list is my great great grandmother Martha A. Keys.

They decided that they wanted to move their children to America because of some increased incidents of crime where they were living.  They also had some family members already living in the United States and they must have heard some positive reports.  They began saving up money for the move, but then tragedy struck.  Henry fell ill with bronchitis.  He fought it for four months, but then succumbed to the illness in 1886 at the age of 63.

Martha mourned the loss of her husband, but did not let their dream die along with him.  She continued to save for the journey and the following year decided it was time to make the move.  They sold off most of their belongings and went to London to meet up with the Aurania.  It was the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and people were celebrating during the week that they went to London.

More details about the Aurania and the date of arrival for Martha and her family.

On June 21, the queen took part in a procession or parade.  I don’t know if my ancestors had a view of this event, but my great grandmother told her children about the celebratory atmosphere when her family was boarding the ship.  She was a child herself at the time and remembered the other passengers on the upper decks throwing candy and treats down to them.

I’m not sure when the ship left port in England, but it arrived in New York on June 27, 1887.  The family did not immediately head for Louisiana.  They spent a short amount of time in New York at the Great Exposition or some such thing.  It was some type of fair that you could enter your handiwork into competition.  Leonard entered a handkerchief and Daisy submitted a pinafore.  They both won honorable mention.

They then moved on to Louisiana.  Their intention was to go to Louisiana by boat, but for some reason none were available.  The Cunard Lines set them up with train tickets.  The tickets were for Beaumont, but according to the passenger list for the Aurania, their destination was Louisiana.

They arrived in Louisiana in July 1887, and the rest, they say, is history.

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