Saturday, February 10, 2024

Immigration: Coming to America

     Amy Johnson Crow has a 52 Ancestors Week blog challenge which I have decided to join.  I am hoping it may help me to pinpoint someone or something that I have researched and not blogged about on Flipside.  AND push me to blog about family each week in 2024.  Sometimes I get lazy. 😁  Let's see how well I keep up.

     Week #7 (February 12-18) is Immigration. 

     I have been somewhat hard pressed to figure out who to blog about on this topic.  I have covered those ancestors who I was able to find information regarding their immigration.  This morning Amy mentioned this thought, ".....consider an immigrant ancestor, where they came from, why they came or how different their life was between their "old country" and their new one."

     John George Hughes and Elizabeth Olesen Hughes, my paternal great grandparents, have been the focus of numerous blogs, immigration included.  However, I do not believe I have covered the difference between their life in England and the US.  Thank you Amy!

     John George Hughes, the son of George Henry Hughes and Mary Ann Storey Hughes was born and raised in West Hartlepool, England.  John George was born in 1873 and the family was living in a house in the Stranton Parish, West Hartlepool, England at 11 Thorne Street as listed on the 1871 census.   The author of, "Reflections beneath the Wagga Moon" paints a dire picture of the conditions the family was living in West Hartlepool at the time.  

     "However, such was the demand for houses or lodgings for people with basic labouring skills that small streets of houses were even built on pieces of open land in amongst the Iron and Steel Works along Mainsforth Terrace.  With the dust and fumes of blast furnaces at their front doors and the banging and clattering of small engineering works at their back doors, these streets can only be described as a very unhealthy and primitive place to live and raise families, yet somehow people did just that".   (Edward Powell, page 5)

     When John George was old enough to work, he joined his father as a puddler in the steel works.  Later, he and his brothers were employed as coal merchants.  This old photograph was given to me by a Hughes family member when we visited Hartlepool in 2003.  I do not know if my great grandfather is the one brother not named.

     John married Elizabeth Ferdinande Olesen in West Hartlepool on June 7, 1897.  Their living conditions in West Hartlepool were, needless to say, not the best.  John would be filthy from loading, unloading and hauling coal all day in a horse drawn wagon.  Their son, my paternal grandfather, George Henry Hughes, was born on March 19, 1898.  

     I have no idea what the deciding factor was for my Hughes family's decision to immigrate to the US.  Both the Hughes and Olesen families lived in West Hartlepool and John was gainfully employed.  Maybe the lure of a better life in America was the catalyst.  

     On May 8, 1906 the Hughes Family boarded the S.S. Caronia in Liverpool, England.  Ten days later they arrived at the Port of New York.  Their destination was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to visit a friend, M.C. Mathews.  

     I have never figured out who M.C. Mathews was--a friend or a relation.  The closest I have come is a Malachi C. Matthews who was a machinist living in Pittsburgh who died in 1907.  Why did my paternal great grandfather know him?

     John George Hughes was age thirty-three, Elizabeth Olesen Hughes was age twenty-nine and my paternal grandfather, George Henry Hughes was eight.  I must admit I don't think I knew Great Grandmother Hughes or my Grandfather were from England until I was late teens or early adult years.  There was no trace of a British accent. 

Pittsburgh 1902 Lithograph
By Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler

     The Hughes Family found a home on the South Side Flats of Pittsburgh, across the Monongahela River from the City of Pittsburgh.  They lived in a smaller community where the industry was located called Birmingham (how English )😁  I have marked both the map and the photograph above with the location of the South Side and the housing area where the Hughes lived from their arrival in 1906 until about 1915.  I'm from Pittsburgh and we have some unusual pronunciations of names referred to as Pittsburgese.  South Side is pronounced "Sahside".

     Elizabeth and son, George Henry made a second voyage to England in 1907 about sixteen months after they arrived in the US.  

1910 Map of Ward 26
 Pittsburgh Historic Maps

     The 1907 immigration gives the first location of the Hughes and their home located at 2518 Carey Avenue.  According to the map, this home was closer to the mill.  When I mapped the address, there is a house still standing at the address.  Whether or not this is the actual house the Hughes lived in is always a question when looking for an address one hundred and seventeen years ago.  
1910 Pennsylvania Census
Allegheny County
April 25 and 26, 1910

Wright Alley    

                  Hughes, John G., head, male, white, age 36, married once for 13 years, born in England, both parents born in England, year of immigration looks like 1902, alien, can speak English, employed as a worker in an iron mill, working on own account, worked every day in 1909, can read and write in English, rents a house.

             Hughes, Elizabeth, wife, female, white age 34, married once for 13 years, one child born and one child living, born in England, parents birth is difficult to read; however her father was born in Denmark and her mother was born in Germany, immigrated in 1905, can speak English, not employed, can read and write in English.

             Hughes, George H., son, male, white, age 12, single, born in England, both parents born in England, can speak English, year of immigration 1905, not employed, can read and write in English.

     John's year of immigration had me going back to records to see if he actually came to Pittsburgh before the family immigrated.  I can find no record of him before 1906.  The date of the family immigration is incorrect on the census, they came in 1906.  
1910 Map of Ward 26
 Pittsburgh Historic Maps

     Their home was a rental located on Wright Alley.  No house number was given.  Looking on Google maps the street is indeed an alley.  There are very few residences in existence today.  Back in 1910, there was a large park, a Carnegie Library, probably their Episcopalian Church and a public school nearby.  John could have easily walked to the iron mill or taken a streetcar.  The air would have been in dark with the soot from the mills.  

1910 Map of Ward 26
 Pittsburgh Historic Maps

     Unfortunately so many or my records are not organized like I wish they were.  Here I found an immigration record for Rowland Richards visiting his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Hughes in 1914.  Wahoo, and address on Wright Street is given, 2341 Wright Street.  This is now called Wrights Way.  This house is almost next door to the iron and steel works.  Frankly, it appears that the Hughes Family moved from one noisy dirty location to another.  I don't think this area of Pittsburgh was any better that West Hartlepool.  Plus, there was no family living nearby.

     The move down the Ohio River to the new Jones & Laughlin company town of Woodlawn in Beaver County, Pennsylvania was a step up.  The Hughes Family was living at 131 Spring Street by 1915 in a newly built house located in an active town and community all designed and built by Jones & Laughlin.  The air quality would still be the dirty from the caustic fumes coming from the mill.  However there was a central street with shopping, a library, park with swimming pool and a train station.  

Post Cards

     One aspect I should mention is that the town was divided into twelve numbered plans.  The Hughes lived in Plan Number 10.  Each ethnic group lived in the same plan with others from the same country.  This was an attempt by Jones & Laughlin to keep ethnic groups separated and they had police patrolling the streets to to make certain there was no fraternizing.  The Hughes neighbors would have been from England. 

     In January 1920, John George and Elizabeth Hughes traveled for six months to England.  They returned with members of Elizabeth's family.  Her mother, Ferdinande Weiss Olesen, her brother William Olesen and her sister, Emily Olesen Richards.  The Richards lived in Monaca and the Olesen's stayed at 131 Spring Street moving to Monaca several years after John George Hughes death on May 20, 1921 at age forty-seven.

     This has been a labor of love.  I had not fully researched this aspect of my paternal grandparents immigration, nor had I thought about the two different environments and lifestyles they experienced.  Perhaps the housing was a little better in the Pittsburgh areas; however the air quality was bad everywhere they lived due to my great grandfather's employment.  All family members who immigrated stayed in the greater Pittsburgh area and all are also buried there.  

Other Blogs on Flipside regarding John George Hughes and Elizabeth Ferdinande Olesen Hughes--my paternal Great Grandparents

-HUGHES, JOHN GEORGE AND ELIZABETH OLESEN HUGHES--131 Spring Street, Woodlawn, Pennsylvania

John George Hughes--My paternal Great Grandfather

-HUGHES, JOHN GEORGE--Court Testimony

-HUGHES JOHN GEORGE--Court Revisited

-HUGHES, JOHN GEORGE--Happy Dance Photos

-HUGHES, JOHN GEORGE--Burial Information

-HUGHES, JOHN GEORGE--Did my Paternal Great Grandfather Have Additional Sibling(s)

Elizabeth Ferdinande Olesen Hughes--My paternal Great Grandmother aka Noonie
*Also Search under Elizabeth Ferdinande Olesen

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. All comments are welcome; however, if they are inappropriate, they will not be published.    PLEASE post your e-mail in the comment section if you would like to network about a particular surname or topic. I will capture it for my use only and not include it when I publish your comment.
© 2024, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser


  1. Lin, thank you so much - this is so interesting!

  2. Very interesting Linda it must have taken you ages.
    Hope you are keeping well my brother sister in law and niece are coming over to see me end of May for my 80th Birthday can’t believe I will be that old.
    Love Pat Stanley(Hughes)

  3. Hi Linda - this is Barb from the ‘Berg. I’m working on a story about my husband’s great grandfather and this blogpost gives me real inspiration to start painting a picture to surround and enhance the ‘knowns’. Thanks!!