Immigrating by Boat

Deciding to immigrate to America was sometimes the easy part. Traveling by boat to get there could be dangerous for families. The trip could take one to three months. Most couldn't afford to travel in cabins. They would travel in an area called steerage. Steerage was a part of the ship for passengers that paid the lowest fare. There were usually ten steerage passengers for every one passenger that was able to afford a cabin.

The ships that carried immigrants were built for carrying cargo. To get down to the area, passengers had to use ladders. The way down could be both narrow and steep. There was not a lot of air in steerage. The trip would be long and hard. Many people would die.

The people that died during the trip were usually children. In the 1860s, one in five children under the age of one would die on the ship. Children catch many illnesses easier than adults. Measles would pass easily between children on a ship. There was not a lot of room in steerage. It was very hard to keep sick children away from the other children.

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