Saturday, July 19, 2014

Telling an Immigrant’s Story by Researching Ships – Lloyd’s Register

Another place to look for information on an immigrant’s ship is Lloyd’s Register of Ships. Lloyd’s Register can trace its origins back to the 17th century and printed its first Ship’s Register in 1764. The register was designed to provide information to underwriters and merchants on a ship’s condition. Many of the registers have been digitized by Googlebooks and The Internet Archive. On the Lloyd’s Register of Ships online is a table of years the register was printed. The years for which a digital copy exists have been hyper-linked and appear as blue on the table.  

For the Brandywine Miller, I clicked on 1804 and was taken to a copy provided by Googlebooks. Searching for Brandywine directs you to the entry, which is a bit tricky to decipher as there are no headings on the columns; but they are listed at the beginning of the book. 

Thus the entry can be translated as Brig Brandy Wine Miller, captain Mark Collins, single deck ship of 169 tons, built (?) in Philadelphia and had no repairs, owned by A. MacGregor, and sailed between Greenock and New York. The vessel was deemed to be of second class and built of high quality materials (E-1) 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Telling an Immigrant’s Story by Researching Ships – Newspapers

Ad for the Brandywine Miller 13 June 1804 (

The first place to try to find your immigrant’s ship is newspapers. The best ones are those for port cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston. These days, due to the interest of genealogists, many companies have formed to digitize and index newspapers, including,, and While these databases exist primarily for the genealogical market, there is no reason why historians cannot use them.  

For this project I used as they have a wide selection of newspapers for Eastern port cities in their database. From the home page of click on advanced search; do not enter a name, but do enter the name of the ship in the keyword box and then enter a date range. When searching for ships most of the results will be from the Shipping News announcing which ships had arrived or cleared port and small ads announcing when a ship was sailing. GenealogyBank groups these as “ads” and “passenger lists.”  You many also find your ship of interest mentioned in historical articles as well. If the results returned is small, you should probably look at each one.

A search for the Brandywine quickly shows that the full name of the ship was Brandywine Miller. A search of a range of years (1801-1805) shows that she crossed the Atlantic several times as a cargo ship. A search for 1804 shows that the Brandywine Miller crossed the Atlantic twice, arriving in New York in June 1804 and October 1804.  

The Brandywine Miller advertised in the New York Evening Post looking for cargo or passengers (good accommodation available) as it readied for its passage to Greenock at Murray wharf in January 1804. Those interested were to apply to the master, Mark Collins, or to Alexander MacGregor at 19 Greenwich Street. 

The brig Brandywine Miller arrived in New York under master Collins on 1 June 1804, as reported by the New York Daily Advertiser, having left Greenock 45 days previously. On the same day, the Morning Chronicle, reported that Captain Collins of the Brandywine Miller, had brought the Greenock newspapers to April 14th to their office. Taylor & McCracken at 187 Pearl Street started advertising for cargo for a return voyage to Greenock on 13 June 1804. Master Collins was tending the ship at Stephens Wharf.  In an ad in the 18 July 1804 edition of the Daily Advertiser Bours, MacGregor & Co. advertised the goods they had received aboard the Brandywine Miller, the Telegraph, and the Ontario which they offered for sale on reasonable terms. 

The Brandywine Miller did leave for Greenock and after 49 day journey captained by Collins the Commercial Advertiser reported that the ship arrived again in New York on 29 October 1804.  The paper further noted that the cargo included coal and dry-gods for William Wilson, James Taylor, and P.A. Cammon and passengers Mr. and Mrs. M’Leod, G.W. Wegg, R. Wingate, Elias Shipman, master Mark Collins, Jun, and 21 in steerage. Then in November the Brandywine Miller sailed to Jamaica returning to New York in December.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Telling an Immigrant’s Story by Researching Ships – Introduction

Until the age of modern jet travel, the immigrants or ancestors you are researching came to America in a ship. And, if like me, the immigrants you are researching came to America in the early 19th century or before, unless you are super lucky, there is very little data to either understand the context of their migration or flesh out their journey for your family history. 

There is one avenue of research that can be quite fruitful and that is to investigate the ship on which they sailed. Immigrants could spend many months at sea in the ships that brought them to America. This journey was one that brought many emotions: excitement, worry, a sense of loss, and hopefulness. These crossings could be routine and uneventful or awful: they could get caught in storms and blown of course or disease could break out aboard.

Of course, the trick to this project is to find out the name of the ship and for many immigrants this will not be possible. If your immigrant came to America after 1821 you may find them in a passenger list, many of which have been digitized and indexed by If you are researching immigrants who came prior to that date you will probably have to rely on oral and printed histories.

The 1879 county history for Columbiana County, Ohio states that Charles Rose, Francis Grimes, Alexander McGillivray and their families came to America aboard the Brandywine in 1804. According to the account the ship’s Irish captain, Mark Collins, was “jolly.” From other research I know that Charles Rose was from Daviot and Dunlichity parish near to Inverness, and came to America with his wife and seven children. Alexander McGillivray, who was also from near Inverness, travelled with his wife and at least of two their children. Not much is known about Francis Grimes except that he and his wife and son were in Pittsburgh in 1810. While I know generally what forces propelled these individuals in emigrate and what happened to them in America, how can I find the ship that took them from Scotland to America? 

There are three main sources for information on ships – newspapers, Lloyd’s Register, and the internet – and we will look at each one in an installment of this series. In the final installment, we will put everything we’ve learned together.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Bookshelf: Highland Homecomings by Paul Basu

Paul Basu, now a Reader in Material Culture and Museum Studies at the University College London, was working on his Ph.D. in anthropology when I first arrived at the University of Glasgow. Although, I heard him speak at a conference and had a brief email correspondence with him - I asked a question and he answered - I never met him properly. I found his work on the way in which the Highland Diaspora interacts with and thinks about their ancestral homeland intriguing. Highland Homecomings.Genealogy and Heritage Tourism in the Scottish Highlands is the published version of his dissertation.

Basu identifies two dominant stories about Scots emigrants “one predicated on exile and banishment, the other on emigration and expansion.” These twin tales take on stark differences in our post-colonialism era.  If your ancestors were exiled then they were victims and not complicit in the dark side of colonialism. If your ancestors were emigrants, then they were agents of colonialism and totally culpable. This is one reason he believes many now chose to identify with Highland ancestry and with the Clearances. His discussion of these differences and how people incorporated them into their family narratives was one of my favorite parts of the book. Most stories of the Clearances are not family memories, but learned from books like those by John Prebble. One woman lamented how her family was pushed out of the Highlands by the Clearances and grafted it into her family narrative. Upon further investigation Basu learned that the two branches of her family emigrated 50 and 90 after the last Clearances in their respective parishes.

He shares the fact that many roots tourists collect stones and other souvenirs from ancestral sites to take home. He suggests that these items are similar to relics, a little piece of something sacred we can have in our everyday lives. Do you do this? I collected stones, shells, and sea glass from places I visited in Scotland because I couldn't afford “proper” souvenirs. Or at least that’s why I thought I did it. However, since they are all lined up in a sunny windowsill, perhaps I really was collecting relics.

In another chapter, he explores the idea that many roots-seekers are trying find “a place of uncomplicated belonging” a place where their ancestors had been for centuries. Many who responded to Basu’s questionnaire felt called to Scotland. More importantly, because of their ancestral ties to the land, they emphatically rejected the label “tourist.” The roots-seekers kept photos and created websites to document their trips. One man, whose wife died before they could visit Scotland, created a website and the counter of site visitors was a digital memorial cairn for his wife.

Highland Homecomings provides interesting insight into roots tourism, genealogy, and the connection between the Highland diaspora and Scotland. However, I must warn you, not only is the book expensive, it is difficult reading for a layperson. He uses words like heuristic, etic, and emic. At times, I hardly understood what was going on. On the other hand, several chapters do not use many technical terms and are easier to grasp. So, if the topics intrigue you, get the book from inter-library loan and be sure to have a dictionary handy.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Happy Tartan Day

If you are enjoying a quiet Tartan Day at home like me, here is some edutainment for you. In this brief video, my dissertation supervisor, Ted Cowan, speaks about the Declaration of Arbroath which was signed today in 1320. Thanks to Lizanne Henderson for sharing it with me.


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