When I started began my genealogy research Chuck’s grandmother Mary Steigerwald Schultz gave me a copy of her mother Elizabeth Rieger’s family tree that someone had produced. It sat in a folder for a couple of years waiting to be entered in my database. Then one day my mother passed on a family tree for her family. So while I was entering all those Johnson’s in my database, I started entering the Rieger family too.
After I entered a portion of the Riegar Family Tree, I talked to Grandma Mary at length about her life and family. Since the family lived in Illinois, it would be easy to include them in research I was doing on my father's family. I knew that Grandma’s parents had come to the United States and she was part of the first generation born here, but I never knew the details.
Coming to America
Between the years of 1892–1954, over twelve million emigrants passed through Ellis Island. In 1982 the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF) was founded. It raised over 500 million dollars, and has repaired and restored the Statue of Liberty, five buildings on Ellis Island, and museum facilities including the Ellis Island Immigration museum. In 2001 they opened the American Family Immigration History Center ® on Ellis Island and the web. This opening made their 25 million records available to everyone!
The majority of the families I have researched came to the United States between the years of 1850-1890. From what I had heard, the Steigerwald family came over after 1900. Looking for Steigerwalds would be my first chance to use the Ellis Island site.
There are 147 Steigerwalds listed on the Ellis Island site. When I refined my search, by first name, I became confused. It appeared that some of the Anton Steigerwald’s family had come to Chicago, Illinois, then left, and come back! What was interesting was that Aunt Theresa was born in the United States and traveled to Hungary as a small girl and then came back to Chicago. I made notes, copies of the screens and then copies of the actual manifests so I could study them at some later time.
All of my notes were safely tucked away when I received an email from someone who saw my postings on Ancestry.com about the Steigerwald family. They were looking for their cousins Joann and Judy Steinkellner, the daughters of Theresa Steigerwald Steinkellner. While corresponding with Joann about this lost cousin, I asked her about the multiple voyages of the Steigerwald family. She told me that it was true. When Anton and Elizabeth first came over they had only brought the younger children. Later, they traveled back as a family and picked up the older daughter.
From talking to other researchers, the Steigerwald immigration was quite unusual. Most families could barely afford to come to the United States once. If some of the children or another family member were left behind in the old country, one parent or relative, perhaps with a companion, may have made the journey back. For an entire family to go back to pick up the eldest daughter showed quite a strong family unit.
There is a blog posting on my Everyday Genealogy blog from December where I talk about a very happy celebration the Steigerwald family had in 2010 - Aunt Theresa's 100th birthday! There was quite a turn out, proving that the Steigerwald family unit is still very strong.