When our Roberts ancestors first arrived in the United States, they sailed into Ellis Island, passing the Statue of Liberty during its construction.
In 1886, Hugh & Margaret decided to move their family to the United States. They already had at least one family member there — their son Isaac stated he went “to my uncle’s in Pennsylvania.” (That uncle is so far unidentified) They, like many other immigrants of the time period, may have hoped to find better economic opportunities in across the Atlantic.
Hugh was about 48 and Margaret was about 46 when they boarded the SS Spain in Liverpool. Their children Isaac*, 22, Sarah, 20, Elizabeth, 11, Jane, 10, and Maggie, 2, came with them.
Their ship left on June 4, 1886. Their voyage lasted two weeks until they arrived in New York.
The Statue of Liberty was envisioned as a gift from France to the United States for America’s centennial. The statue arrived over the next ten years in pieces, as funding delays on both sides of the ocean slowed work. In 1884, New York Governor Grover Cleveland even vetoed a bill to pay for the statue’s pedestal, and the project was saved only when Joseph Pulitzer promised to print the name of everyone who donated in his newspaper The New York World.
The pedestal was completed in April 1886, and workers began to assemble the statue while the Roberts family was still in England. Assembly continued as they sailed across the Atlantic in June.
These images from the August 14, 1886 issue of Scientific American show roughly what the Statue of Liberty would have looked like as our Roberts ancestors sailed into the Port of New York on June 28, 1886.:
The statue was finished and dedicated on October 28, 1886. Grover Cleveland, who was now President of the United States, presided.
The Roberts family’s time in Pennsylvania was short-lived. Hugh Roberts died two to three years after arriving. The coal breaker the men worked at burned down, and the family moved to Wyoming.
Isaac Roberts (a,f) became a U.S. citizen there, but went back to England in 1894. He returned 12 years later, with his wife and children. Three of Isaac’s children enlisted to fight the United States in World War I and his wife, Janet, (a,f) worked in the Ladies’ Auxiliary.
*NOTE: Isaac stated in his 1906 immigration papers that he had first come to the United States on the Spain in 1886, although he is not included on the passenger list for that voyage.
Ancestry.com, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1886; Arrival: New York, United States; Microfilm serial: M237; Microfilm roll: M237_496; Line: 20; List number: 759. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7488/NYM237_496-0444
Ancestry.com, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Immigration Records, Special Boards of Inquiry, 1893-1909 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), Ancestry.com, www.ancestry.com/interactive/2892/32228_B028198-00179
Scientific American, Aug 14, 1886. https://ia800607.us.archive.org/16/items/scientific-american-1886-08-14/scientific-american-v55-n07-1886-08-14.pdf