It was 108 years ago today — 3 August 1897 — that my great-grandmother, Louise Josephine Lay, arrived at Ellis Island with her sister, Christina, aboard the S.S. Kensington. Louise was 11, Christina was 13. They lived in Trier, Germany, and traveled to Antwerp, Belgium to board the ship.
Louise and Christina went to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to stay with their aunt Johanna (Lay) Honecker and her husband Francis. Johanna, my great-great-great-aunt, paid for the girls to travel to the U.S. Two years later, on 28 June 1899, the rest of the family came over from Germany, also aboard the Kensington: parents Peter and Catharina; brothers Jacob, Bernard and Carl; and sister Johanna. (The youngest sister, Anna, was born after the family arrived in the U.S.)
On 28 September 1908, Louise married my great-grandfather, Orren Elmer Flanders. On 30 November 1912, they welcomed my grandfather, Bernard Orren Flanders, into the family. The rest, as they say, is history.
(Louise Lay was born May 1866. She died on 31 May 1956 and was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.)
And here’s a little more history about the S.S. Kensington — the ship that carried the Lays across the Atlantic:
Kensington and Southwark were sister ships which began their careers with the American Line, and then served Red Star and the Dominion lines before heading to the shipbreakers. Despite these changes, both ships retained their original names.
Southwark was built by William Denny & Bros. of Dumbarton, while Kensington was built by J&G Thompson of Glasgow. Both ships were launched in 1893. They each made their maiden voyage on the American Line’s Liverpool-Philadelphia service, Southwark on 27 December 1893 and Kensington on 27 June 1894. In August 1895, both of them were transferred to Red Star and placed on that line’s Antwerp-New York service. (At the time, both Red Star and American were operated by the International Navigation Co.)
In 1902, International Navigation changed its name to International Mercantile Marine and acquired a number of other lines, including the Dominion Line. After making their final Red Star voyages in March 1903, Southwark and Kensington were placed on Dominion’s Liverpool-Canada service and remained there for the rest of their careers. Kensington made her final voyage in November 1908 and was broken up in 1910. Southwark made her final trip in May 1911 and was scrapped later that same year.