Listen to Maria von Trapp

The HoS reports:

Lawrence Meinwald’s voice starts shaking when he recalls the first time he saw the Statue of Liberty.

It was 1920, and the young Polish boy was on a ship with his family, headed to Ellis Island and a new life in America.

“It was a great sight. I didn’t know what it meant. But we stayed on deck, and everybody was anxious, and everybody was happy, and everybody was sad,” Meinwald said in an interview years later that was recorded by the National Park Service.

Meinwald has died, but his story lives on for anyone to hear as part of 1700 oral histories of Ellis Island immigrants that Ancestry.com has put online.

For years, they were available only to visitors at the park service’s Ellis Island Immigration Museum, and putting them online was a logical step, said Diana Pardue, chief of the Museum Services Division for the park service.

When I visited Ellis Island, I ended up spending over an hour listening to oral histories of immigrants. Amongst the hundreds there, I was surprised to find one for Maria von Trapp (the daughter, not the nun). They are so famous, you almost forget they were a real family.

Maria was interviewed in 1995, when she was 81. Her step-mother was only nine years older than her, and outlived her husband by 40 years.

The younger Maria is still alive and will be 96 at the end of this month. She works as a missionary and singer in Papua New Guinea. I found her oral history interesting as she talked about her actual mother (whom we hear so little about) and also how her father was not as stern as shown in the famous film.

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