This story originally was published in the January 2012 issue of the Save Ellis Island Newsletter. See http://www.SaveEllisIsland.org
Recipe: Take one Cornishman. Add one Cornishwoman. Remove individually fromCornwall. Send them across the Atlantic Ocean. Welcome them at Ellis Island and then let them move on to the heartland of theUnited States. Add courting, falling in love, and living pretty much happily ever after. Result: a genealogical historian grandson, me!
My Nana and Gramps while courting. I love this photo.
In the blustery winter of 1888, Edward George Phillips was born in the small Cornish town of Sladesbridge. His father, Thomas James, a seafarer turned postman, died when Edward was only two. His older brother, William Moorish, was to die in The-War-to-End-All-Wars (but which as we know didn’t). Edward loved his mother and sisters. Loved his native Cornwall, but the future called! Edward boarded the S.S. Majestic in Southampton and on October 25, 1911 arrived at Ellis Island. He was all by himself and bound for the promise ofCalifornia. He first stopped inCleveland,Ohio to stay with a friend. There he ran out of money.
Gramps’ ship to the States. He came in Steerage.
Meanwhile, less than a year later in 1889 and only a few kilometers from Sladesbridge in Launceston, Cornwall, a young girl was born. Ina Marie Cottle joined her brothers and sisters and came into a family that eventually would total 13. Slowly, as the money was available, the elder children paid their fare and then the fare for each younger child to come join them in the States. Nine of the eleven siblings would come to the United States with their first American footfalls on Ellis Island! Early in 1912, it was Ina’s turn and on February 29, 1912 she too arrived at Ellis Island. In the company of her brother-in-law, Ina’s destination was her sister’s new home … inCleveland.
Living only some 35 km from each other as children and young adults. Journeying fromCornwalltoSouthamptonfor the first time in their lives to leave their homeland. Passing through the portal ofEllis Islandjust 4 months apart. Edward, needing money, got a job in the growing steel industry ofCleveland. Ina landed a job as a ‘traveling companion’ for the Wade family, one of the wealthiest in Cleveland.
Five years later to the day of Edward George Phillips’ departure from Southampton aboard the Majestic bound for Ellis Island, Ina Marie Cottle became Mrs. Edward George Phillips at Grace Episcopal Church on the East side of Cleveland.
My Gramps in Cornwall — his heaven on earth for sure!
All his life, Edward George, my beloved ‘Gramps’, loved to tell stories. These stories, I believe, were a key factor in my later love of genealogy. Along with his tales of growing up as a young boy in Cornwall, Gramps would often tell of what he called ‘the soul filling thrill’ of arriving on Ellis Island. Both my Gramps and Nana were pretty typical ‘stiff-upper-lip’ folks, but when they told their stories of stepping off the ship and putting their feet on United States soil at Ellis Island, the emotion was evident. Gramps would tear up and Nana would become very quiet as they each recalled their life-altering day.
In 1960, my family scheduled a summer trip toEuropeaboard the HMS Queen Mary. Before we left, we had one American port-of-call we had to make. We went to seeEllis Island. My father and mother explained to us its importance in our lives. It always impressed me that a physical place could have such a huge impact on my tough, old Dad.
My Dad just before going off to WWII with Nana and Gramps. The photo on the wall when he made Eagle Scout.
Sometime after that my mother and father had the names of Edward George Phillips and Ina Marie Cottle engraved on the Ellis Island Wall of Honor (panels 342 and 91).
Now, decades later, I am proud to say, that as a genealogist I am doing my small part to save, protect and preserve Ellis Island and its’ incredibly meaningful history. I am a member of, and donor to, Save Ellis Island, a member of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, a fan of both on Facebook, am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy of Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom by Stephen Wilkes from http://www.SaveEllisIsland.org, and have purchased the very lovely 8-Corner Document Holders, each with a large photo of the Majestic and the New York and the two-page passenger manifests for both my Nana’s and Gramps’ passages.
In the process of my genealogy work, I recently learned that my wife’s Uncle was detained at the medical facilities on Ellis Island when he arrived due to an injury he sustained aboard ship as he was emigrating from Vinchiaturo, Italy. But I guess that story will have to wait for a future time.
Your host, Scott, front and center with his Nana and Gramps on the far left.
Scott Phillipsis the owner of Onward To Our Past® Genealogy Services. You can follow Scott on Facebook at http://facebook.com/OnwardToOurPast and on his website & blog at http://OnwardToOurPast.com. You can also email him at OnwardToOurPast@gmail.com.