Friday, April 15, 2016

The Voyage on the John Murray

Manifest of the John Murray
(click to enlarge)
Now that the name of the ship, and the place and date of entry into the United States is known, we need to see if we can determine additional information about the ship and the voyage from Ireland to America.  The ships manifest (passenger list) for the John Murray (shown above) gives some basic information.  The bark (barque, barc) John Murray, 295 tons burthen, arrived at Boston from Limerick on January 26, 1849, and was captained by William Lull.  There were 137 passengers on board; no deaths were reported among the passengers.1    

Limerick Pier about 1870
Newspapers provided maritime news from around the world, especially in port cities such as Boston.  They often gave information about the movement of specific ships and what ports they visited.   So it was with the John Murray.  From the Boston Daily Atlas dated 23 Oct 1847 we learn that the “new” barque John Murray left Bath, Maine for Boston.2   Bath was a major ship building area and it was likely here that the John Murray was built. She was immediately put into service.  Her first voyage appears to be from Boston to Havana (November 1847), to Bermuda (where she gave assistance to another ship), to Marseilles, France.  From there she went to Cadiz, Spain and back to Boston on July 26, 1848.3

November, 1848 found the John Murray in Limerick, Ireland.  Notice the advertisement at the right in the Limerick and Clare Examiner on November 8th.5    I have not found any other
Ad from Limerick and Clare Examiner
8 Nov 1848 (click to enlarge)
movements for the ship, so, this may have been her second voyage.  Notice the description of the ship – “First-Class Coppered Fastened Barque” of 700 tons burthen.   Also, notice that the ship was being fitted to carry passengers where she had carried cargo on her previous and subsequent voyages.  What is a barque, how large was the ship, and what accommodations did the family travel in? 

A barque refers to the type of ship and rigging used.  A typical barque is shown in the picture below left.6   A barque contains three (or more) masts with square rigged sails on all but the mast
Unidentified barque
at the stern (rear) of the ship.  The mizzenmast is “fore-and-aft” rigged with the sail running parallel to the keel.   Copper sheating was applied to the under-water portions of the hull to protect it from corrosion.7   A “burthen” of 295 or 700 tons does not refer to the weight of the ship but to cargo capacity.8   

Several years ago, while visiting Ireland, we stopped by the Dunbrody9 docked in New Ross.  I asked the staff at the museum if an estimate of the dimensions of a ship could be made based on the burthen given.  Evidently there are a lot of variables including the age of the ship, type of lumber used, the design and method of construction.  “Burthen” (or tons) is not a good indicator of what the ship looked like.  Even so, I did attempt to find dimensions for a barque of roughly 300 tons.  The average appears to be 106 feet long, 25 feet at the beam, and 15.5 feet in depth.10   

The average trip to America from Ireland was six weeks or about 35 days.  That would probably have been a summer voyage.  The Browne’s made a winter crossing, which made for a much different journey.  The John Murray left Limerick for Boston on November 15, 1848.  Several newspapers, including the Athlone Sentinel and the Tipperary Free Press, carried news of her departure.  They also described the 130 passengers as “mostly of the better class of peasantry.”11   The John Murray arrived in Boston on January 26, 1849, a journey of 72 days - double the average.  I have not been able to find other ports that the John Murray may have visited on that voyage to explain why it took so long to reach Boston; however, I have found information on the final stages of the journey.

The Marine Journal report in the Boston Courier for January 29, 1849 ran a story that on January  11, 1849, “ in a SW gale, [the John Murray] was hove down on her beam ends, and had decks
Marine Journal Boston-29 Jan 1849
(click to enlarge)
swept, lost camboose, bulwarks, &c.”12   (See image at left.)    Several other ships in the vicinity also reported damage to masts and cargo.  One report stated the storm raged for two days.13   In the same newspaper on the same date, under the heading “Died” is reported, “Lost overboard, January 11, during a S.W. gale, from bark John Murray, on the passage from Limerick to this port, James Davis, cook, (colored) of Exeter, N H., aged about 40.”  A camboose [caboose] is the nautical term for a ships galley, or kitchen, on an open deck.14   Mr. Davis was obviously at his post during the storm that took his life.

What an absolutely terrifying time that must have been!  While all of the passengers were likely below deck with the hatches battened down, water still poured into the hold as the decks were washed with water soaking everyone and everything.   I’m also sure the passengers could have heard the commotion of the
Passenger bunks Dunbrody
sailors on deck battling the storm and poor Mr. Davis being washed overboard which added to their terror.   With each roll of the ship, people and belongings would have been tossed about like sacks of potatoes hitting bunks, and other passengers, lining the sides of the hold.  While no one died on the voyage, (according to the passenger list), there were likely injuries to many of the occupants – bumps and bruises and probably broken bones if not worse.   (See picture of hold above16)

We have some idea of what those two days on the ship were like; we don’t know about the other seventy days.  They still had two weeks before they reached Boston and had already been on the ocean 57 days.  The John Murray ads in the newspapers always catergorized her as “fast-sailing.”   What else happened on the voyage to make it take so long?  American ships carried more and better rations, but, after so many days at sea, what food supplies were left, and, were they damaged in the storm? 

The ship nearly capsized, and probably would have had the ship not been new and strong.  Equipment on a new ship would have been in better condition.  An older ship, where the timbers were weakened by age, probably would have broken apart and everyone would have been lost.  The competency of the crew also added to the outcome of the crossing.  Sailors on American ships earned higher wages and were better seamen.15   So, while we initially questioned why an American ship was chosen over a less expensive British ship to Canada, I think we can be very glad they did or there may not be a story for the Browne family to be told.

The next post will tell of the early days of the family in America.

P.S.  While I was doing research for this post, I discovered that the whaling ship, Charles W Morgan built in 1841 in Massachusetts and docked at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, is also a barque.  Although she had more cargo capacity and was never used as a passenger vessel, the outer dimensions are roughly the same as the John Murray.  The website for Mystic Seaport has information on the restoration of the Morgan which contains a couple of short film clips showing her under full sail in 1921 before she was retired and after restoration in 2014.  You might find the clips interesting.     

1.       Passenger List, NARA "Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891." Database with images.  FamilySearch. : John Murray January 26, 1849; Citing NARA microfilm publication M277, Roll 28, Washington D.C.; National Archives and Records Administration  

2.       “Boston Daily Atlas Marine Journal – Domestic Ports – Bath.”  Boston Daily Atlas, Boston, Massachusetts, October 23, 1847, Online Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers available through the Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio. 

3.       “Marine Journal.” Boston Daily Atlas, Boston, Massachusetts, Online Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers available through the Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio; November 16th and 23rd, 1847; February 24, 1848, April 1, 1848, June 12, 1848, and July 26, 1848.

4.       Picture of Limerick harbor, 663, Ireland, Lawrence Collection of photographs, 1870-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Operations, Inc., 2011.

5.       Advertisement, Limerick and Clare Examiner, November 8, 1848, Find My Past, online at

6.        United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs, digital ID det.4a25817, Unidentified sailing ship.,   Other copies of the image have identified the ship as the Salmon P Chase built 1878.  She was 142 tons at 115 feet in length and 25 feet wide.

7.       Glossary of Nautical Terms, Wikipedia, online at

8.       Builder’s Old Measurement, Wikipedia, online at   There are several methods of measuring capacity using the length, width (beam), and depth of the ship.   Historically, a ton (tun) was a wine container of 252 gallons that weighed about 2,240 lbs (a long ton).  A ton averaged 100 cubic feet.  The number of containers that a ship could carry determined the “ton” capacity of the ship.  The large discrepancy between the capacity shown in the advertisement (700 tons) and that shown when the John Murray reached Boston (295 tons) may have been an attempt to fill the ship with more passengers than allowed even though the Limerick agents were aware of new American regulations as evidenced in the text of the ad.  (See previous post, Arrival in America, for discussion of the 1847 shipping regulations.)       

9.        The original Dunbrody was built in 1845 in Quebec.  She was 458 tons and measured 110 feet long, 26 feet at the beam, and 18 feet deep.  From 1845 until 1851, she carried anywhere from 160 to over 300 emigrants on each voyage from Ireland to Canada.  The ship that can be visited today is a replica of the original.  More information on the Dunbrody is available at          

10.   Lloyds of London Register of Ships gives a listing and description of ships sailing from British ports.   It is available online at .  Beginning in 1863, in addition to tonnage, the registry began recording dimensions of the vessels.  To obtain an average, I looked at the 1863 registry for “barques” built in the 1840s that were between 280 and 320 tons.  While there were many such ships, I limited my calculations to fifteen randomly selected ships in that group.  The John Murray was not shown in the registry for any year, perhaps because it was an American ship. 

11.   Athlone Sentinel, November 22, 1848, page 3.  Available online at Find My Past.

12.   Marine Journal, Boston Courier, Boston, Massachusetts, January 29, 1849, Online Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers available through the Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.

13.   Reports for the Avon, Fanny, and Leander in the Boston Courier in the February 1st and February 8th issues tell of the damages sustained by those ships.  Online Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers available through the Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.

14.   Glossary of Nautical Terms, op. cit.

The phrase “on her beam ends” indicated that the ship was above 45ᵒ or nearly vertical on her side.

15.   Woodham-Smith, Cecil, The Greeat Hunger, Harper & Row Publishers, New York and Evanston, 1962, pp. 212-213

16.   Photo of the hold of the Dunbrody, September, 2012, from the collection of the author. The bunks on the John Murray would have looked similar, although they were but temporary structures while those on the Dunbrody were permanent.  Each bunk was shared by four adults, more if there were children.  Also, there may be more headroom on the Dunbrody than on other ships that had temporary living quarters.

Bridget in Passenger List

This post is in answer to a question in the comments section from the last post about Bridget in the passenger list.  Since I belatedly found a baptismal record for Ellen (see Extra!  Extra!) the question was whether there could also be a baptismal record for Bridget whose parents were our Hannah and Timothy Browne.  There do seem to be some additional gaps between children.  I had originally posted this in  response to the question in the Comments section, but, think it more appropriate to include it as a regular post.

I have wondered the same thing myself.  Let me start by re-capping the children and their baptismal dates.  The oldest child of Hannah and Timothy Browne, Patrick, was baptized Nov 1830.  He was followed by David (Oct 1832), John (Jan 1835), Maria (May 1837), Ellen (Jul 1839), Johanna (Sep 1841), and Thomas (May 1847).  There was no record for James, about 1845.  We do know that is a pretty good estimate for James based on US records.  That leaves two gaps - 36 months between David and John, and about four years between Johanna and James where there may have been an unknown child; perhaps a child that did not survive.  I had looked for baptismal records from 1841 to 1846 because I particularly wanted to find a baptismal record for James.  I did not find James or any other children born to Hannah and Timothy Browne in Patrickswell.  I also checked Croom and Adare since those are the two parishes closest to Fanningstown and Patrickswell.  I have not done line by line research farther afield, but, I have queried the Find My Past database for Catholic church records and have not come across anything.

Based on the passenger list, the 36 month period between David and John seems to be the questionable period.  That would be between October 1832 and January 1835 - most likely between June 1833 and May 1834, allowing time for an additional pregnancy and possible misstatement of ages in the passenger list.  Bridget and Mary may have been switched in the passenger list and either could have a birth year of 1832, 1836, 1837, or somewhere in between.  Again, I searched through baptismal records for Patrickswell, Croom and Adare (and searched the online databases).  I did not find any additional children of Hannah and Timothy.  However, besides Bridget, 1832, daughter of Helen Kelly and Thomas Browne, there is another family in the parish where the father is Timothy Browne.

I discovered this family when I was in Dublin a few years ago.  The family consists of Timothy Browne and his wife, Catharina White, married 18 Feb 1832 in Patrickswell.  I knew about some of the children then, but have now learned they had eight children born between 1833 and 1848.  One of their children MAY be the other child on the ship with Hannah and her seven children.  Maria was baptized 24 Jan 1834; Bridget was baptized 6 Feb 1836.  Either of these girls could have been on the John Murray.  I have often wondered if this is one of the other Timothys in Griffith's Valuation - most likely Patrick #2, the blacksmith in Castleroberts.  (See the post on Finding a Townland.  He is the one that was in the Revision lists until 1878 when his son, Patrick, took over the business.  The oldest son of Timothy and Catharina, by the way, is Patrick, baptized Apr 1833 who, I believe, died around 1890 in Croom.)  As you recall, Castleroberts (Adare) is the townland adjoining Fanningstown to the west, just outside of the Patrickswell Catholic parish limits - at least the boundaries as they exist today.  I do know there was NOT another Timothy within Fanningstown or the surrounding areas beyond those identified in the previous post, yet, all of the children of Timothy and Catharina were baptized in Patrickswell.  (I did check the baptismal records for Adare and there are no records there.)

I think this family has to be related, somehow, to our Browne family, but, do not know how.  The church records just do not go back far enough to find baptismal records for the two Timothys.  With both of them having children in Patrickswell during the same time frame, could this be the reason our Timothy was called Thady?

It seems the more we find out, the more questions we have!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Arriving in America

“And now follows, in so far as I know it, the story of our family in America.  It is uncertain when they came to this country and even more so, their port of entry.”1    

Boston Wharves 1850
This quote from the David Brown letter, is really what started me on this journey.  Genealogical records, including passenger lists, were just coming online in the early 2000s.  I searched websites available at that time, as well as volumes of passenger lists, and could not find all of the Browns identified in the letter in one passenger list -  what we now know are Hannah Brown and her seven children.  I had begun to think that perhaps they came over individually or in small groups which was quite common in the mid to late 1800s.  I did find entries for two children showing the correct names and ages, (James, age 4 and Thomas, age 1), on the website of the New England Genealogical and Historical Society (NEGHS).  What were the chances that these two little boys could be the correct family?  No other family members were listed, but, it did give a port, (Boston), an arrival date, (26 January 1849), and the name of the ship, (the John Murray).  The David Brown letter named Boston as a possible port of entry, and, indicates that the youngest child, Thomas, often gave his birthplace as Boston.  Those two children, if they were the correct ones, could not have traveled alone and I needed to find out who else was on the ship. 

Federal Passenger List
Sometime later I had the opportunity to review the microfilm of passenger lists from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for the John Murray.   The image shown at the right is what I found.2   While the surname looked like anything but Brown, (it was indexed as “Broam”), there was Hannah (Honora) listed with all of the children.   Some of the ages were a little different from the church records (see church records in Instant Gratification, and there was an additional child.3   However, the ship had arrived in Boston from the port of Limerick, less than fifteen miles from the family home.  Also, recall that the farm in Fanningstown was given up to the landlord in December 1848.  If that is when they left Ireland, a landing in January 1849 would have been about six weeks, average for the voyage at that time.  This had to be the correct family. 

The famine had been raging since 1845 when 30 to 40 percent of the potato crop was destroyed. The crop failure was even worse in 1846.  While the blight was not nearly as bad in 1847, yields were very low because not much had been planted.  In August 1848, the blight returned and yield projections were grim.4   Things had been going very badly and it appears they were about to get even worse; so, it is easy to understand why the family decided to leave at that time.   But, why would they have traveled to Boston on an American ship when the trip to Canada on a British ship, where most famine emigrants went to, was about half the cost of the trip to America?  Passenger fares to the east coast of America ran from £3 to £4 for an adult and from £2 to £3 for children under 13.5   The total cost for Hannah and the children would have been anywhere from £22 to £31 (4 adults [13 and over – Hannah, Patrick, Mary, John] and 5 children – Bridget, Ellen, Joanna, James, Thomas).  To put that into perspective, the annual rateable valuation for the 44 acre Fanningstown farm of John and James Browne, (assumed brothers of Timothy), in 1850 was £30.6   The cost of the trip would have amounted to the rent for the entire year.  An average farm in Ireland at the time was seven acres.   The Browne’s were more than average farmers.  However, financing the trip required every cent they could have saved over the years or “borrowed” from others, and selling all of their belongings including livestock. 

British ships were notorious for poor rations, overcrowding and squalid conditions resulting in many deaths earning them the label “coffin ships”.  Word from people who survived these voyages would have gotten back to Ireland.  “To the United States go the people of good character and in comfortable circumstances . . . to British North America the evil and ill disposed.  They go to Canada either because the faire is cheap or their landlords are getting rid of them.” 7   Conditions onboard American ships, while certainly not ideal, were more rigidly controlled. Although previous British regulations for transportation of passengers required that only 2 passengers per ton could be accommodated on the ship, most regulations were ignored and hundreds were packed into dark, wet, cramped spaces.  The American Passenger Act of 1847 defined the amount of space required for each passenger and stipulated stiff penalties for noncompliance.8   Earlier Acts regulated the amount of rations to be carried for each passenger which were much more generous than British ships.  

Massachusetts Passenger List
The state of the ships may have been one reason the Browne’s chose an American port, namely Boston, but there may have been something more.    A couple of years ago, I learned that the Massachusetts Archives kept a separate set of passenger records from 1848 to 1891 for the port of Boston.  A copy of their records of the passenger list for the John Murray is shown above.9   Passenger lists for Federal records were taken upon embarkation at the port of departure.  Passenger lists for the Massachusetts officials were taken by the ships purser during the voyage, and, at times, contain additional information.  While the two lists (the NARA list and the Massachusetts list) are essentially the same, there are a couple of differences, the most pertinent being the indication that some of the family were “bonded” or pre-paid.  The passage for three children, (under the age of 13), were purchased, probably, at the port of final destination before the John Murray left Boston for Ireland.10   This indicates the voyage was pre-planned, perhaps before Thady died in Ireland.  “Someone” had purchased the tickets in Boston earlier and was waiting for the family to arrive.  I have often thought that Timothy/Thady could have journeyed to America earlier in preparation for the arrival of the rest of the family, but, I have not found evidence to support this, and, all indications are that he was already deceased by this time.  But, I keep looking.  I only wish I knew who that “someone” was! 

In the next post we will take a closer look at the John Murray and the voyage from Limerick to Boston.

1.       Brown, David Earl, Kewanee, IL, 11 May 1943. Letter to Esther _______, Columbus, OH.  Letter contains genealogical information for the Brown Family from County Limerick. 
2.       Passenger List, NARA"Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891." Database with images. FamilySearch. : Citing NARA microfilm publication M277, Roll 28, Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration  
3.       Most of the names and ages given for the children in the passenger list match the church records from Patrickswell.  The Limerick Archives list did not show, Ellen; however, a record for her baptism has since been found.  The differences, then, seem to be for Mary and the additional child, Bridget.  Mary was baptized in 1837.  Her age was given as 16 on the passenger list making her birth year 1832.  She should have been age 12 at the time of the voyage.  Bridget shows her age as 12 making the birth year 1836.  Imagine the noise and confusion when embarking on the ship at the wharves.  Perhaps the two girls were mixed up when the passenger list was created and Bridget should have been recorded as 16.  Additionally, while reviewing the baptismal register from Patrickswell, I found a record for Brigidam Brown baptized 29 Jun 1832.  She is the daughter of John Browne and Helen Kelly, who could be the brother and sister-in-law of our Timothy Brown in Fanningstown.  There was not much future in Ireland for a young girl at the time of the famine and it would not be unheard of to travel to America and a new future with other family members.  Could this account for Bridget?   
4.       Miller, Kerby A., Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America, Oxford University Press, New York, New York, 1985, pp. 281-282 
5.       Passenger fares for the “Black Star” line of packets from Liverpool to New York as advertized by WM. Gleeson and Co., Ship and Commission Agents, Limerick in the Limerick and Clare Examiner, July 22, 1848. 
6.       Griffith, Richard, General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland . . . Barony of Coshma, County Limerick, Unions of Croom, Kilmallock, and Rathkeale, Parish of Adare,Townland of Fanningstown  1851, Digital image from Find My Past: 
7.       Woodham-Smith, Cecil, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849, Harper & Row Publishers, New York and Evanston, 1962, quoting the American Consul in Londonderry.
8.       1847 Passenger Act, Sess. II, Chap. 17; 9 Stat. 128, 29th Congress, February 22, 1847.   “. . . one passenger for every fourteen clear superficial feet of deck”    
9.       Passenger List, John Murray, January 26, 1849, Massachusetts Archives, Boston, MA. 
10.   Pre-paid passage could be purchased by anyone who could pay the fee.  The normal process was to contract with an agent at the final destination for passage on a ship in their fleet.