Sunday, October 21, 2007

Shipping News

I've been fortunate to find a little more information concerning the ships on which my father's family arrived in the United States in the decade preceding the American Civil War.

Mystic Seaport is a town in Connecticut with a maritime museum that has a great website. If you know the name of the ship and a good approximation of the year it arrived, go to Mystic Seaport. The site has online access to the New York Marine Register for 1857 and to its successor, the American Lloyd's Register of American and Foreign Shipping.

Up until 1857, passengers took their chances getting on board a ship. There was really no reliable way for emigrants to know if the vessel on which they had booked their passage was really seaworthy. Once they'd sold all of their possessions and traveled halfway or more across Europe to get to a major port like London or Hamburg, it was a little late at that point to arrive at the dock and decide that getting on board might not be such a great idea.

The New York Marine Register of 1857 eased that dilemma substantially. It was a publication financed by a number of underwriters who insured the ships on which cargo and passengers traveled. A listing on the register gave passengers a much better idea of what to expect when they arrived at the dock. All of the ships listed on the register were given a rating, ranging from A1+ to A3-. The rating indicated the quality of the construction of the ship and the adequacy of its equipment. Lloyd's of London adopted the system set up for the New York Marine Register of 1857 and within two years the annual publication was known as the American Lloyd's Register.

My great grandfather came to America as an infant with his parents and a two year old brother. They crossed from Hamburg to New York in 1856 on a ship called the Ann Washburn, departing on May 25th and arriving on July 12th after 46 days at sea. The ship was inspected and rated for the New York Register in August that year, presumably while it was still in port following that arrival. Its rating was A1 and 1/2-. The ship was listed at 861 tons and it had two decks. It was built in 1853 at Freeport, Maine, and owned in Boston by H. H. Stevens. It was a new ship, built of oak with copper plating and iron fittings.

My great grandfather's grandparents and their family arrived in New York a year earlier in 1855 on a ship called the London. Its rating or class was 2. The captain's name was Hubbard. The ship displaced 1,143 tons and it had 3 decks. It was built in 1847 in New York by someone named Webb and it was owned in New York by M. H. Grinnell, at that time one of the most prominent shipowners in New York. He is remembered for financing polar expeditions and public lectures by Abolitionist ministers. The London was listed on the American Lloyd's Registry up until 1870, but aside from the 1855 voyage on which my ancestors sailed there isn't much news about it posted online.

The Ann Washburn, however, appeared several times in a column called Marine Intelligence in the New York Times and also in the Times Picayune. The voyage on which my great grandfather arrived from Hamburg in 1856 was notable because a seaman named George Hickson fell overboard and drowned near Nova Scotia. An earlier voyage from Antwerp to New York in April,1854, became controversial because the ship carried Belgian paupers and convicts among its passengers. The ship's captain apparently adopted a policy of excluding such passengers in subsequent voyages.

The ship made the news again in 1858 when it was moored in New Orleans. A tornado touched down along the wharf during a hurricane, wreaking havoc among the ships tied there. Several seamen were flung overboard and the Ann Washburn snapped her bowsprit and sprung a mast. The damage may have not ever been fully repaired. The ship appears to have managed the return voyage to Boston, but a voyage from Boston to New Orleans in November later that year ended in shipwreck at Looe Key near Key West. A fee of $5,000 was paid to a salvage company, probably to recover some portion of the ship's cargo. After 1859 the Ann Washburn was no longer listed on the American Lloyd's Registry.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Castle Garden

I've located the ship manifests, posted online by, for the ships on which my German ancestors arrived in America. My father's great grandparents, Wilhelm and Maria Lubach, arrived in New York at Castle Garden on July 12, 1856, on a ship called the 'Ann Washburn' which departed from Hamburg with more than 300 passengers on board, nearly all of them German, including my father's grandfather, Wilhelm, listed as an infant, and Wilhelm's brother, Carl, age 2. The family surname, Lubach, was transcribed online as Subach, which did not make finding the manifest any easier. The elder Wilhelm Lubach was 29 years old and his wife, Maria, was 26.

Maria Lubach's parents, Wilhelm and Dorothea Ebert, arrived a year earlier, July 9, 1855, on a ship called the 'London' which departed from London. They were accompanied by their children and by a son in law, August Heise, whose wife, Sophia, is listed twice on the manifest, once as the daughter of Wilhelm Ebert and a second time as the wife of August Heise. She was 22 years of age in both instances. The couple accompanied their two children, Carl, age 3, and Amelia, an infant.

There appears to have been possibly a third Ebert sister, Louisa, age 17, who is not listed as an Ebert in the 1860 census for Sheboygan County in Wisconsin. The brothers, Wilhelm, age 11, and August, age 9, are also listed on the ship's manifest as part of the Ebert family. The name of another female, age 19, listed by first name only as traveling with August and Sophia Heise and children, is difficult to read. The transcriber identified the name as Sabe. I would submit that this could have been August Heise's younger sister.

Castle Garden was a receiving station for immigrants at the tip of Manhattan Island, the predecessor to Ellis Island. It officially opened for business in August of 1855, a month and several days after the 'London' arrived, but the ship's manifest is maintained by NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) and transcribed as part of an effort to make the Castle Garden records available to the online public. Castle Garden is currently known by its original name, Fort Clinton. It's where visitors to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty buy tickets and board ferries for those destinations.

The elder Wilhelm Ebert's age was listed as 50 on the London's manifest which would make him two years younger than the Wilhelm Ebert buried at St. John's New Fane Cemetery, but the date of birth listed on his tombstone is July 9, the anniversary of his arrival in America.