From Russian Poland to Canada in 1903

In my last post I introduced my grandmother, Anna Garbe, who arrived in Canada at the age of 13 with her family.  One week later, on the 21st of April, 1903, my grandfather, Rudolph Bierwagen (age 19) and his father, Ferdinand boarded the Adria at Hamberg, Germany and made their way to Canada.  It was not uncommon for the menfolk to make the trip first, secure housing, then send for the rest of the family.  In fact, family folklore has it that Rudolph was in danger of being drafted into the    PrussiaBierwagen Family about 1906n army, so he and his father decided the time had come. We don’t know if it is true or not, but it makes a good story.   Rudolph is at the far right in the back row in this photo taken around 1906.  His outfit is interesting.  I’m curious about the gloves.

Rudolph and Ferdinand arrived in Halifax on May 5, 1903 and made their way west.  Ferdinand’s wife, Henrietta (nee Schmitke) and four children followed in August of that year, with the last daughter making her way to North America in 1910.

Distance from Janiewice to Kurowek

Map data @2017 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (@2009), Google

What is interesting is that Anna Garbe and Rudolph Bierwagen both arrived in Canada with weeks of each other.  Anna came from the northern part of what is now Poland and our current information tells us that Rudolph’s family lived in Kurowek, which in those days was considered Russian Poland.  It’s unlikely they knew each other because the distance is almost 500 miles from the two communities.

They were married in Canada in 1907, settled in the  Saltcoats area of Saskatchewan and had 14 children!  Ten of those 14 lived and most lived well into their 90s!


Google. (n.d.). [Google Maps directions for driving from Kurowek, Poland to Janiewice Poland]. Retrieved April 20, 2017,

SS Kaiser Wilhelm II. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from


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