ABCs of Family History: B


is for boat. Boats are synonymous with the classic immigration story, which teaches us that immigration is more than just physical movement – it’s an emotional journey where identities evolve and family narratives are rewritten. As such, it’s important for the family historian to look to passenger lists and other boat records to understand the motivation behind the immigration of an ancestor.

The first (and earliest) boat record I found concerned my 11th great grandfather, Godfrey Hundley. Godfrey was born in 1611 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England. According to a 19th Century publication edited by John Camden Hotten, Godfrey sailed from London to America on the vessel “Primrose.” He arrived in Virginia on July 27, 1635; he was 24 years old.

Primrose 1

“Primrose” Passenger List (part 1)

Primrose 2

“Primrose” Passenger List (part 2)

The publication describes the passengers as “persons of quality; emigrants; religious exiles; political rebels; serving men sold for a term of years; apprentices; children stolen; maidens pressed; and others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations.” I assume Godfrey fell into one of those categories, but without clarifying documentation, I have no way of knowing which one.

Although the reason for Godfrey’s immigration is unclear, the story behind my 2nd great grandfather’s journey is pretty straightforward. In 1857, Marcus Espersen Funk immigrated from Denmark to America to join the Latter-day Saint community in Utah. His travels were partly motivated by a desire for religious freedom and a thirst for new opportunities.

Marcus Funk

Marcus Funk (1842-1926)

The following boat record shows that Marcus, his mother, and his siblings traveled from Liverpool, England to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the ship “Tuscarora.” The ship arrived on July 3, 1857 (159 years ago today); the voyage took a little over a month.

CR 271 25_Bx 3 Vol 2_00076

“Tuscarora” Passenger List

Notes describing the Tuscarora’s voyage shed some light on the situation:

“The ship Tuscarora, Captain Dunlevy, sailed from Liverpool, May 30th, 1857, having 547 of the Saints on board, of whom two hundred and ninety-eight were from the Scandinavian and the remainder from the British Mission. Elder Richard Harper was appointed president of the company, with Joseph Stapleton and C. M. Funck as his counselors. The Saints who sailed in that vessel only contemplated going to the States that season, there to labor and procure means to enable them to cross the plains to Utah another year. After a pleasant voyage lasting about five weeks the Tuscarora arrived in Philadelphia on the third of July. From that port most of the emigrants continued the journey by rail to Burlington, Iowa, where they scattered in search of employment.”

Marcus and his family eventually settled in Richmond, Cache County, Utah.

These two stories illustrate the importance of boat records in telling your family’s immigration story. This story is tremendously important. It reveals the types of values your ancestors cherished – values that caused them to leave their homes and risk everything for a new life. Be sure to lean on boat records to help uncover the motivation behind your ancestors’ travels.

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