Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fearless Females, March 9, 2011: Is this my Adeline Foss' ship record

Thank you to Lisa Alzo, of The Accidental Genealogist , for this always interesting and evocative month long series about the Fearless Females of our past.  The instructions for this day are as follows:

March 9 — Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.

I have never ceased to be amazed at the fearlessness of my female ancestors. They appeared to be unhesitating about trekking across the Oregon Trail with little children in tow, or leaving Scotland aboard a cramped sailing ship to come to America, or travel down the eastern seaboard to cross the Isthmus of Panama on their way to Oregon. These women of my past I know about. But it is Adeline Schwartz Foss that has caused me sleepless nights. I know that she had two small sons when she came to America from Germany, so I have sat at my computer for numerous hours looking at ship records --- and this is all that I have found.

My great grandmother may have been born Adeline Schwartz; I say maybe because on her death certificcate her name is given as Magdelena -- well perhaps her son might have been mistaken, or Adeline was a diminutive of Magdelena, or perhaps her son knew something we don't.

Adeline married Ferdinand Foss in Germany, most likely some place in Prussia. According to my grandmother's stories, they came to America shortly before she,Elizabeth Alfreda Foss, was born, and Elizsbeth's death certificate states that she was born Dec 17, 1883 in the state of Vermont.

I did not think it would be so hard to find the Foss family on a passenger list during this period, as I had a pretty narrow window of time and location. That was not the case; I searched for several permutations of the name Foss, I searched for Ferdinands, Fredericks, and more, with no luck.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I had heard that Foss was German for fox --- or more rightly perhaps, Voss for fox. Again I hit with renewed vigor --- and finally this is what I found. Is it my Adeline? Perhaps.

On September 11, 1882, the SS Oder landed in New York City; she hailed from Bremen by way of South Hampton. Listed on the Passenger list included the following:

Adeline Voss, age 38, departed from Bremen, Germany
Carl Voss, age 3 yrs, 6 mos, departed from Bremen, Germany
Otto Voss, age 11 mos, departed from Bremen, Germany

Adeline's age is consistent with her age given in obituaries and newspaper articles. She had a son who was called Charles here in America who was about the same age as the ship list Carl; and a son Otto who was about the same age as the ship list Otto. My grandmother's birth date was listed as in 1883, but a year's discrepancy might be expected at the end of the year that included an ocean crossing while pregnant and then delivering a baby. So am I grasping at straws with this Adeline Voss? Perhaps.

I scoured every page of the Oder's Passenger List for Ferdinand Voss,and Foss, but to no avail. I tried to track Ferdinand on earlier or later passenger list, but no Ferdinand Foss/Voss, or Frederick Foss/Voss, or other derivations.

Now I keep this Passenger List close by --- and periodically, I poke around some more. But so far, this is the only possibility that I have found. Is this my Adeline Foss' ship record? I wish I knew.


  1. Your post caught my eye because of the name FOSS. I have a FOSS ancestor who arrived in New Hampshire in the early 1600s, and there were many stories about his country of origin. I heard that he was a runaway from Denmark, and that he jumped ship from the Netherland. Now maybe Germany is a possibility...This is another clue!

  2. Heather, Seems like there are a ton of Foss names out there, but I surely have had a time trying to get a handle on my Foss family--or Schultz for that matter.