Using Newspapers to Uncover an Emigrant’s Journey

Newspapers are incredibly valuable for genealogical research. They help put the flesh on the bones of our ancestors. Through newspapers we gain a little insight into the times in which our ancestors lived. Newspapers can also help find the story of your emigrant ancestors. Many are full of information on ship arrivals and departures, what life was like on board the ship, tragedies at sea and messages back to their homelands from those who left.

Illustration 1 1

Migration Ship
“On Board an Emigrant Ship”

From the advertisements seeking those willing to leave their home for a foreign land, to the letters sent back to those homes from those emigrants, newspapers can add great context to your emigrant ancestors’ journey.

Advertisements for free emigration

Newspapers were full of advertisements offering free or assisted emigration to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. High in demand were those skilled in a trade such as blacksmiths, carpenters, bakers, and bricklayers. Women were also in demand as housemaids, nurses and dairy maids. 2

Migration free
“Free Emigration to Queensland.” Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

Life Aboard Ship

Newspapers often contained reports on life aboard ship. Most described the awful conditions, the disease and deaths, the lack of food and water and the ill-treatment of the emigrants by the crew. Yet, emigrant’s kept making the journey, hoping that life in a foreign country would be better than where they were previously.  These articles describe the deplorable conditions on many ships, but they also contain clues for further research. The article below contains the ship name, the port it arrived in and the date it arrived, where it departed from, the number of days at sea and the number of passengers aboard when it left Liverpool. It also gives the number of passengers who died on the voyage and the number of babies born. 3

Migration sick
“Emigrant Life on Board Ship.” Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Ships lost at sea or plagued by disease

Traveling by sea was often perilous. Ships sometimes caught on fire and sank,  some were damaged by storms, others ran aground on reefs or sand bars. Newspapers carried the stories of survivors, if there were any, or simply reported that the ship was considered late to its port and therefore ‘lost’.

The loss of 20 lives aboard the English emigrant ship, the Trusty, was reported by the Norfolk News (England) on 14 August 1852.4 The ship had left Scarborough, in North England, with 200 emigrants on board. Their final destination was Quebec. The ship had sighted land when a dense fog occurred and the ship struck a reef and began to sink. A boat was lowered and 20 persons climbed aboard and tried to get to shore. Sadly, the boat capsized in rough surf and all drowned. Their names appear in the newspaper article. The remaining emigrants clung to the sinking wreck for over 8 hours until another vessel was able to pull alongside and rescue them.

Migration wreck
“Melancholy Wreck of an Emigrant Ship” Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The emigrants aboard the ship, Hartha, left Hamburg, Germany in October 1865, bound for New York. Three months later, in January 1866, the Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press noted the arrival of the ship at Spithead, on the southern English coast. The journey from Hamburg to New York should have taken about a month, instead the emigrants had now been on board the ship for two and half months, arriving on the coast of England instead of New York. Their journey had been fraught with problems from a leak which caused the ship to head for the coast of Scotland for repair, to the discovery of small pox among the passengers. On 20 December 1865, sixteen passengers suffering from small pox were left behind in Scotland while the ship sailed on. In the English Channel, a ferocious storm with gale force winds, forced the ship back to Spithead again. Once more, small pox broke out, this time affecting many more of the emigrants. The Captain was forced to move all the sick off the ship and have it fumigated. Many of the children aboard also suffered from diphtheria.  The newspaper noted, “The misfortunes this ship has encountered have dispirited the intended emigrants, as might naturally be supposed.” 5

Migration sick1
“Remarkable Voyage of an Emigrant Ship” Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

These are the stories that add color to our ancestors’ lives and make them more than just names and dates on a piece of paper. Whether mentioned by name or not, reading these accounts allows us to understand more fully what our ancestors went through in their journey to their new home.

Letters sent back home

Once our ancestors reached their new home, they would send letters back to family left behind. Letters would often be sent to the vicar of the local parish where the emigrants had once resided, and the vicar would request that the newspaper publish the letter so all in the parish could hear how the family was doing.

William and Mary Anne Randle wrote the following letter to their children in Coventry, England, from Quebec, Canada, in 1862.6 The letter is filled with information on their journey to Quebec and their new life there. If William and Mary Anne Randle were your ancestor’s, how fortunate you would be to find all this information! However, if your emigrant ancestor’s followed the same route as the Randle’s, you now have an idea of what that journey entailed and what life was like for new emigrants.

Migration-letters-all
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Newspapers are wonderful for filling in the details of the journey our emigrant ancestors’ took to get to their new homelands. From the advertisements ‘selling’ the idea of emigrating, to the letters sent back home, we can add context and color to their lives.

All images are from the British Newspapers Archive and used under their terms of conditions which state that the image appear with a copyright statement and attribution to British Newspaper Archive.

 


  1. Illustration 1 “On Board an Emigrant Ship,” Every Saturday: An Illustrated Weekly Journal, Vol. III, 30 December 1871, p. 628; Hathitrust (https://babel.hathitrust.org : accessed 26 September 2018). 
  2. “Free Emigration to Queensland,”The Cornish Telegraph (Penzance, Cornwall), 28 March 1876, Vol. XXV, No. 1318, p. 2, col. 3; British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 27 September 2018). 
  3. “Emigrant Life On Board Ship,” Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 28 April 1847, Vol. XXIII, No. 1238, p. 270, col. 1;  British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 27 September 2018). 
  4. “Melancholy Wreck of an Emigrant Ship,” Norfolk News, 14 August 1852, No. 398, p. 4, col. 4; British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 27 September 2018). 
  5. “Remarkable Voyage of an Emigrant Ship,” Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press, 27 January 1866, p. 3, col. 4; British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 27 September 2018). 
  6. “Letters from Emigrants,” Coventry Herald and Observer, 5 July 1862, p. 3, col. 4 & 5; British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 28 September 2018). 

Win a FREE 4-day pass to RootsTech 2019!

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Serving as a RootsTech 2019 Ambassador means that I have ONE complimentary 4-day pass to RootsTech 2019 to give away!  Never been to RootsTech? Check out my Top Five Reasons to attend. More information on RootsTech can be found here. I hope you’ll join me and thousands of other genealogists and family history enthusiasts in Salt Lake City, Utah, from Feb 27 – March 2, 2019. The pass is valued at $299!

Rootstech-giveaway

What does the FREE 4-day pass include?

  • Over 300 classes (see the schedule here)
  • Keynote / General sessions
  • Expo Hall
  • Evening events

It does NOT include any paid lunches or paid labs, airfare, hotel, or any additional expenses. If the winner has already purchased a RootsTech pass, they will get a full refund.

This giveaway ends October 31, 2018 at midnight PST. The winner will be announced November 01, 2018 on my blog, on Twitter and on Instagram.

Click here to go to the Giveaway!  Good luck!

Seaman’s Protection Certificates – An Unusual Source

In an earlier post I compared Ancestry’s then new “U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939” to draft registrations to answer the question of whether someone who registered for the draft actually went on to serve. I used as an example, the five Zimmerman brothers, who all registered for the draft but didn’t all end up serving. One of those brothers, Charles Stephen Zimmerman, was in training with the Merchant Marines in June 1918 and therefore exempt from military service. In the course of my research into Charles and his Merchant Marine service I came across an unusual and remarkable source. A source which not only gave a physical description of Charles, but also had his thumb print, his signature, date and place of birth and current age, and best of all, his photograph. The source was Charles’ application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate made on 14 August 1918.1

Seaman Snip Photo

Seaman Snip thumb

What are Seaman’s Protection Certificates?

According to NARA (The National Archives and Records Administration) these documents were issued during the late 18th century through the early half of the 20th century, at all U.S. ocean and Great Lakes ports, and served as a seaman’s passport. Those applying had to be United States citizens and had to provide evidence of such in the form of a birth certificate, or an affidavit by a relative or friend, or a citation to naturalization proceedings. 2 Often those documents were appended to the application. In Charles’ case, no other documents are in his file but there is a note indicating he provided his birth certificate, from the parish priest at St. Mary’s church in Stockton, California.

Seaman Snip parish priest
“Affiant produced birth cert. from Parish Priest St. Mary’s Church Stockton showing place of birth as Stockton Cal.”

The history of the Seaman’s Protection Certificate

These certificates were first issued to American sailors to prevent them from being impressed into service by British warships in the period leading up to the War of 1812. Impressment was the forced recruitment of men, practiced most often by the British Navy, into service on their ships.

During the years of American slavery, free men of color who were sailors or seamen, were also issued these protection certificates to prove they were not slaves when stopped by officials or slave catchers. Frederick Douglass himself used the ‘protection papers’ of a free man of color, a sailor, to escape: 3

“It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require of the free colored people to have what were called free papers. This instrument they were required to renew very often, and by charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from time to time were collected by the State. In these papers the name, age, color, height and form of the free man were described, together with any scars or other marks upon his person which could assist in his identification. This device of slaveholding ingenuity, like other devices of wickedness, in some measure defeated itself—since more than one man could be found to answer the same general description. Hence many slaves could escape by impersonating the owner of one set of papers; and this was often done as follows: A slave nearly or sufficiently answering the description set forth in the papers, would borrow or hire them till he could by their means escape to a free state, and then, by mail or otherwise, return them to the owner. The operation was a hazardous one for the lender as well as for the borrower. A failure on the part of the fugitive to send back the papers would imperil his benefactor, and the discovery of the papers in possession of the wrong man would imperil both the fugitive and his friend. It was therefore an act of supreme trust on the part of a freeman of color thus to put in jeopardy his own liberty that another might be free. It was, however, not infrequently bravely done, and was seldom discovered. I was not so fortunate as to sufficiently resemble any of my free acquaintances as to answer the description of their papers. But I had one friend—a sailor—who owned a sailor’s protection, which answered somewhat the purpose of free papers—describing his person and certifying to the fact that he was a free American sailor. The instrument had at its head the American eagle, which at once gave it the appearance of an authorized document. This protection did not, when in my hands, describe its bearer very accurately. Indeed, it called for a man much darker than myself, and close examination of it would have caused my arrest at the start.” 

douglass image
Example of Seaman’s Protection Certificate from 1854. Image credit: “Seaman’s Protection Certificate for Samuel Fox, August 12, 1854.” African American Odyssey: Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period, Documenting Freedom, Black History Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

According to an article in Prologue, the magazine of the National Archives, almost a third of applications were for free men of color. 4 African American research can be difficult, these Seaman’s Protection certificates can be great value to those researchers. The Prologue article is excellent and worth reading to get further information on this unusual source.

The use of these certificates as a form of identification went on until just before the Civil War and then was reintroduced for a short period during the World War 1 time frame which is when Charles S. Zimmerman applied for one.

Besides giving Charles’ physical description and date and place of birth, the certificate also indicated where Charles had trained and the ship he was expected to join. For those seamen who were not born in the United States, their certificates may contain information on where and when they were naturalized, including the names of their parents. Those who witnessed the application were sometimes related to the applicant, providing further clues to follow.

CharlesStephenZimmerman1897_military
Charles S. Zimmerman in uniform

Seaman’s Protection Certificates are definitely an unusual source for genealogists, with an interesting history. It’s worth your time to take a look and see if your ancestor may have applied for one.  Both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have collections of Seaman’s Certificates, search their catalogs using the keyword ‘Seaman’ or ‘Seaman’s Protection’.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 38 prompt: Unusual Source

 


  1. “U.S., Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940”, database with images, Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 September 2018), application for Charles S. Zimmerman, number 9882; citing NARA; Application for Seaman´s Protection Certificates; NAI: 2788575; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation; Record Group Number: 41; Box Number: 112 – San Francisco. 
  2. “Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940”, index, NARA (http://www.catalog.archives.gov : accessed 20 September 2018), Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, 1774-1982, Record Group: 41. 
  3. Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Hartford, Connecticut : Park Publishing Co., 1882), 223-224; digital images, Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/lifetimesoffrede1882doug : accessed 20 September 2018). 
  4. Ruth Priest Dixon, “Genealogical Fallout from the War of 1812”, Prologue. Spring 1992, Vol. 24, No. 1. National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1992/spring/seamans-protection.html : accessed 20 September 2018). 

RootsTech 2019

RootsTech registration opens tomorrow, on 20 September 2018, and a tentative schedule has just gone up. It’s subject to change but take a look and see the incredible variety of classes that will be offered!

2019 will be my 5th year attending RootsTech and my first year as a RootsTech Ambassador. I’m excited to see what’s in store. A few weeks ago, RootsTech announced that they would be expanding to London in 2019! What an incredible opportunity for those who live in the UK and Europe to experience RootsTech for themselves. You can find more information here.

Have you attended RootsTech? Thinking about going in 2019?  Here are my Top 5 reasons to attend RootsTech:

 1.  Making connections. RootsTech 2019’s theme is “Connect. Belong.” There is nothing more exhilarating than being in a place with thousands of other people who share your passion for genealogy, and feeling like you are where you belong. But even more than that, RootsTech brings together family and friends…those you know, and those you discover. For the last three years, RootsTech has been the meeting place for myself and my good friend, Kandace. We met about 18 years ago in Colorado as new moms with baby boys. Our families grew and we moved to different states but stayed in touch. In 2016, I invited Kandace to attend RootsTech with me and a tradition was born. Every year since we have met in Salt Lake City to attend RootsTech together. Connecting is what RootsTech does so well.

RootsTech-us

2.  With over 300 classes to pick from, you will find one that suits you perfectly. From beginners to those who are advanced researchers, RootsTech offers a great variety of classes. Challenge yourself to learn something new.

rootstech-class
3.  The Expo Hall. Hundreds of vendors, offering just about everything you can think of to do with genealogy. Be sure to allow yourself a good chunk of time to visit the Expo Hall. There is so much to see, so many vendors to talk to, presentations to attend and swag to collect. It’s one of my favorite things about RootsTech!

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4.  Keynote Speakers. Be inspired by interesting and engaging keynote speakers. Two of my favorite speakers from 2018 were Scott Hamilton and Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. I look forward to hearing who the speakers will be for 2019!

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5.  Proximity to the Family History Library. RootsTech takes place at the Salt Palace Convention Center, only a block from the Family History Library. Spend some quality research time here among the thousands of records and books. Each year I fly into Salt Lake City a day or two before RootsTech starts so that I can work in the Library.

FHL-collage

I hope you’ll join me at RootsTech 2019!  Registration for RootsTech 2019 opens tomorrow, 20 September 2018. Register early to take advantage of early bird pricing! Look out for the free RootsTech pass I’ll be giving away on my blog.

And for more information on everything RootsTech, check out the Road to RootsTech 2019 here.

 

 

In the Parish Chest: Churchwarden & Poor Rate Records

ParishChestPoorLawIn the Parish Chest – Churchwarden and Poor Rate Records is the fourth and final post of the In the Parish Chest series. The other posts discussed Bastardy Bonds, Settlement Certificates, Examinations and Removal Orders and Apprenticeship records.

As early as 1572, Overseers of the Poor were appointed in each parish in England. Their job consisted of caring for the poor and keeping an account of the relief given. The Poor Law Act of 1601 gave Overseers the right to collect a poor rate from members of the parish who were considered wealthy and to disburse those funds to those needing help.

Churchwardens were expected to present any wrongdoings in the parish to the local magistrate or bishop. This would include such things as drunkenness, failure to provide for the poor or to attend church.  Those serving as Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor are mentioned by name in the records.

By 1834, when the Poor Law Amendment Act came into being, parishes were grouped into Unions. A Board of Guardians was elected and were responsible for the care of the poor across all the individual parishes.  It is through these Poor Laws that our ancestors received help. Often money would be given out but the relief also consisted of providing food, clothing and work.

Who will you find named in the Churchwarden/Poor Rate Records?

  • Your ancestor if he/she was poor, elderly, orphaned, unemployed, sick or a trouble maker
  • Your ancestor if he was elected a Churchwarden or Overseer of the Poor.
  • Your ancestor if he/she was considered wealthy and was a rate payer

Examples of Poor Law records

Churchwarden Accounts – Muggleswick, County Durham.1

On Easter Monday of 1801, the inhabitants of the parish of Muggleswick, Durham, met together to elect the new Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor. This is a common entry in all Churchwarden accounts, followed by an accounting of the disbursement of funds to the poor. The outgoing and incoming Churchwardens were named as were the new Overseers and other principal inhabitants of the parish.

record-image_939N-F43C-SK(1)

Overseers of the Poor Account Book –  Helland, Cornwall.2

Thomas Pearce and William Brior were Overseers of the Poor in the parish of Helland, Cornwall in the year 1766 to 1767.  The page below shows an account of what was paid out that year. Included among the items like a pair of shoes or meat are the names of some members of the parish who received help.

record-image_S3HY-61PP-GNOverseers of the Poor – Grampound, Cornwall.3

If a person wanted to improve their property in a way which may affect the town or parish, there would have to be an agreement made between them and the Overseers of the parish. In the document below, Mr. Nicholls and Mr. Michael Croggon, Overseer of the Parish of Grampound, Cornwall, have come to an agreement regarding Mr. Nicholls request to build a drain that would go from his dwelling across town property to another garden. The request is approved subject to Mr. Nicholls paying sixpence annually to the Overseers and keeping the drain free of “any annoyance whatsoever on the property of the Town, in default of which refusal or neglect of payment of the annual sum…the drain shall and will be subject to be torn up or otherwise destroyed.” If Mr. Nicholls was your ancestor you have just been given a glimpse into his life!

record-image_S3HY-61PL-NT

Relief Committee minute books 1832-1851, Norwich, Norfolk Poor Law Union.

On 6 October 1801, John Mordy of Saint Peter of Mancroft paid twelve pounds to the Poor Law Union, being his responsibility for the “female bastard child” of Susanna Baxter. He had previously been charged with a Bastardy Bond and this is the record of him settling that responsibility.4 More information on Bastardy Bonds can be found here.

JohnMordy

On the same day, the Mayor’s request for an arrest warrant for John Malster was granted. John had left his wife and family without support and they were now relying on the parish.5

JohnMalster

Orders for placing young boys in apprenticeships were common in these Poor Law records. Below, James Berry, 14-years old, was being apprenticed to Richard Cropley, a cordwainer, until he reached the age of 21. More on apprenticeship records can be found here.6

cordwainer

Details of daily life are reflected in the Poor Law records. Most of these records are not indexed so it helps to have an idea of which parish your ancestor lived in. However, even if you don’t know exactly where they may have lived, reading through the Poor Law records of any parish will give you valuable insight into what life was like in the parishes of England during this time period.


  1. Durham, Muggleswick, Parish chest records, Churchwardens Accounts, 1801-1858, Easter Monday 1801; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-F43C-SK?i=5&cat=978581 : accessed 11 September 2018), citing Family History film 004024471, image 6 of 1114. 
  2. Cornwall, Helland, Poor law records, 1753-1851, Easter 1766; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-61PP-GN?cat=502005 : accessed 11 September 2018), citing Family History film 004476779, image 1295 of 1679. 
  3. Cornwall, Grampound, Poor law records, 1671-1894, agreement between Mr. Nicholls and Mr. Croggon; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-61PL-NT?cat=502005 : accessed 11 September 2018), citing Family History film 004476779, image 993 of 1679. 
  4. Norfolk, Norwich, Poor Law Union Records, 1796-1900, Guardians’ minute books, 6 October 1801, John Mordy; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D1DH-8S7?i=2228&cc=1824706&cat=495724 : accessed 12 September 2018), image 2229 of 3866; citing Norwich Record Office. 
  5. Norfolk, Norwich, Poor Law Union Records, 1796-1900, Guardians’ minute books, 6 October 1801, warrant for John Malster; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D1DH-8S7?i=2228&cc=1824706&cat=495724 : accessed 12 September 2018), image 2229 of 3866; citing Norwich Record Office. 
  6. Norfolk, Norwich, Poor Law Union Records, 1796-1900, Guardians’ minute books, 6 October 1801, apprenticeship of James Berry ; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D1DH-8G4?i=2229&cc=1824706&cat=495724 : accessed 12 September 2018), image 2230 of 3866; citing Norwich Record Office. 

James Box – Artificial Limb Maker

Did a serious injury prompt the start of a family business?

In 1861, James Box was a young boy of about 14 years old. He lived with his parents, John and Ann Box, and several siblings, in Surrey, England.1 By 1871, James was on his own, having moved from Surrey to West Ham, Essex.  James was now 25 years old, unmarried and noted on the 1871 census was his occupation “Anatomical Mechanician”. In the last column of the census, under the heading, “Whether Deaf and Dumb, Blind, Imbecile or Idiot, Lunatic” is the comment, “Leg amputated”.2

Box snip 1871

What did an Anatomical Mechanician do and was James’ injury the impetus for a family business in which his wife, two sons, a daughter, his younger brother, and two nephews would all work?

In 1878, James and his younger brother, George, started their business in Manchester, Lancashire under the name, “J. Box and Co. Artificial Limb and Surgical Instrument Makers”.

leg
Artificial Leg, England, 1890-1950. Credits: Science Museum, London (broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk)

The job of an anatomical mechanician or artificial limb maker was described in 1855 as, “When from accident or disease it has become advisable to have the whole or a part of the natural leg removed…the first thought invariably arising in a patient’s mind is how he can possibly walk and pursue his usual avocation when minus a limb. Difficult as the matter appears, it is by no means too much so for human ingenuity to accomplish…It is therefore, clearly the part of the “mechanician” to render himself acquainted with the anatomical details of the limb he has to imitate…and also ascertain any peculiar action by which the various joints are brought into motion or sustained at rest.”3

James Box’s inclusion in the 1883 Manchester and Salford Directory:4

JamesBox1847_1883Directory_arrow

 

Unfortunately, in the same year, James Box died at the age of 37. His brother, George, took over the running of the business. George seemed to be a busy man, heavily involved with the community, his church and trips to the United States.5

GeorgeBox1855_bio snip

George, his son, George Percival Box and his nephew, Henry A. Box were all part of the business in 1911.6

GeorgeBox1855_1911Directory arrow

The last mention of various members of the Box family working as Artificial Limb Makers and/or Surgical Instrument Makers are in 1939:7

Annie J. Box, aged 67, occupation: Surgical Appliance Maker (child of James Box who started the business).
James Joseph Box, aged 65, Artificial Limb Maker (child of James Box who started the business).
George Percival Box, age 56, son of George Box (who took over the business when brother, John died).

From the early 1870s to approximately 1939, various members of the Box family worked in the Artificial Limb and Surgical Implement business started by James Box. Did the amputation of James’ leg prompt the start of a family business? It certainly seems possible.

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 36 prompt: Work

 


  1. 1861 census of England, Surrey, Leatherhead, p. 42 (stamped), James Box; image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 February 2016); citing The National Archives, RG9, piece 420, folio 24; Epsom registration district, ED 1, household 293. 
  2. 1871 census of England, Essex, West Ham, p. 2 (stamped), James Box; image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 February 2016); citing The National Archives, RG10, piece 1629, folio 114; West Ham registration district, ED 10, household 9. 
  3. Henry Heather Bigg, On Artificial Limbs Their Construction and Application (London: John Churchill, New Burlington Street, 1855), chapter 1, part 1, B; digital images, Internet Archive (http://archive.org : accessed 6 September 2018). 
  4. Isaac Slater, ed., Slater’s Royal National Commercial Directory of Manchester and Salford (Manchester, England: Royal National Directory Offices, 1883), 44; digital images, University of Leicestershire (http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/digital/collection/p16445coll4/id/149008 : accessed 9 September 2018). 
  5. Manchester Archives, digital images, Mr. G. Box (https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterarchiveplus/sets/ : accessed 9 September 2018). 
  6. Isaac Slater, ed., Slater’s Manchester, Salford & Suburban Directory (Manchester, England: Slater’s Directory Limited, 1911), 32; digital images, University of Leicestershire (http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/digital/collection : accessed 8 September 2018). 
  7. 1939 Register, Lancashire, England, Manchester, RG 101/4469J Letter Code: NJKC, Schedule 49, George Percival Box; digital image, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : accessed 9 September 2018), citing The National Archives, Kew, London, England. Also 1939 Register, Lancashire, England, Manchester, RG 101/4469J Letter Code: MJNT, Schedule 71-1, Annie J. Box and James Joseph Box; digital image, Ancestry(http://ancestry.com : accessed 9 September 2018), citing The National Archives, Kew, London, England. 

In the Parish Chest: Apprenticeship Records

ParishChestApprenticeship

This is the third post in my In the Parish Chest series. You can learn about bastardy bonds here and Settlement Examinations & Removal Orders here.

Was your English ancestor an apprentice? Apprenticeships date back to as early as the 16th century when young boys were formally bound to a master, usually a craftsman, who would teach the apprentice his trade. From 1563, the Statute of Apprentices made apprenticeships mandatory for anyone who wanted to take up a trade. This meant that no one could call themselves a Master of a trade without serving a 7-year apprenticeship.

Commonly, it was the child’s father who would put him up for an apprenticeship. It was more financially feasible for many poor families to apprentice out a child than to raise him.  In 1601, authority was given to the Overseers of the Poor for the parish, to locate an apprenticeship for any children who were orphaned or considered a pauper.

Although most apprenticeships were sought within the parish, there were times when the Overseers of the Poor would advertise in the local newspapers as seen below:1

Newspaper1

Overseers Apprenticeship Registers

Once an apprenticeship was secured for a child, the Overseers of the Poor would write down the details in an Apprenticeship Register. They would record details such as the date of the indenture, the name of the apprentice, their age, their parents’ names and abode, the name of the Master and his or her trade and residence, and the terms of the apprenticeship (in years). The register would be signed by the Overseers of the Poor and the Magistrate giving consent.

Below is an example of an Overseers Apprenticeship Register for Rothwell, West Yorkshire.2  On 12 October, 1802, 11-year old Sarah Fothergill was apprenticed out to Nathan Nichols, a farmer.  Her father was David Fothergill and her mother was noted as dead. The family’s residence was noted as ‘no settled place’. Sarah would be apprenticed to Nathan Nichols for 10 years, until her 21st birthday.

Apprenticeship-1

An Order of Indenture would then be created by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor and presented to the Justices of the Peace for their approval. The proposed Master will have been interviewed as to his circumstances and character as well as the parents of the apprentice, if they were alive. The Overseers would recommend that the indenture be made.

In the example below dated 12 December 1818, a father, John Hollingrake has put up his son, William Hollingrake, as an apprentice. The order states that “William Hollingrake, a poor child, which its parents are not able to maintain” is proposed as an apprentice to Thomas Sutcliffe, a spinner, of the parish of Langfield, West Yorkshire. The Order of Indenture is signed by the Justices of the Peace and an Indenture is made.3

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The Apprenticeship Indenture was a legal document setting out the terms for the apprentice and the master.  The age of the apprentice is given and the length of the apprenticeship. William Hollingrake’s indenture states he was 12 years and four months old and would serve as an apprentice to Thomas Sutcliffe until he was 21 years old. Thomas Sutcliffe is to teach William a trade, and “find, provide for, and allow unto his said Apprentice, sufficient wholesome and competent Meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging, Apparel, and all other Necessaries…during all the said Term.” The indenture also states that should Thomas Sutcliffe die within the period of indenture, the agreement would terminate within three months of his death. For the apprentice, they were bound to serve their master and willingly perform his duties and be a “good and faithful Servant”.4

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Interestingly enough, on the same day, 12 December 1818, William’s younger brother, John Hollingrake, only 9 years old, was also apprenticed out to John Baron, a weaver. Two years later, on 19 August 1820, Betty Hollingrake, just turned 9 years old, was apprenticed out to Abraham Sunderland, also a weaver. And four years later, Abraham Hollingrake, aged 9, was apprenticed out to James Barnes, a weaver.  All were children of John Hollingrake, living in the Parish of Langfield, West Yorkshire.

Some interesting facts on Apprenticeships:

  • An apprenticeship was for a period of seven years but many children were apprenticed at very young ages and often spent nine or ten years with their master. The 1563 Act determined that apprentices were bound until they were 24 years old, but this was later reduced to 21 in 1768.
  • During the Indenture period, the apprentice could not marry or start his own household. He could not gamble or visit a public house (a place selling alcoholic drinks).
  • The Stamp Act of 1709 put a tax on the Indenture and this practice lasted until 1808. Due to this practice, apprenticeship records were recorded more centrally. This is why it is often easier to find records in the period 1700s to early 1800s than after 1808. However, parishes were exempt from having to pay the tax with the result that their apprenticeship records were not recorded or accounted for in any central manner.
  • Persons aged 12-20 could not refuse an apprenticeship if a householder of sufficient means demands it, unless they are already apprenticed elsewhere. If they did refuse an apprenticeship, they could be imprisoned.
  • The Justice of the Peace was the only person who could break the agreement between apprentice and master. However, many apprentices ran away from masters who mistreated them. These masters advertised in the newspapers for the return of their apprentices. Many times a physical description of the apprentice can be found in the advertisement as seen below.

Below is an example of a newspaper advertisement asking for the return of two apprentices who left their master “without sufficient cause”.5

Abscond

The information you might find on your apprentice will vary from document to document. You may find the names of the parents enabling you to move back a generation in your research. You will often find an age given of an apprentice, allowing you to calculate an approximate year of birth. You will find the trade learned which may help in distinguishing your ancestor from someone else with the same name. You may learn, as in the Hollingrake example above, more about the family structure, including siblings.

Apprenticeship in the United States

There are several extant records for Indentures and Apprenticeships in the United States. A search on FamilySearch.org for ‘apprenticeship’ in the Keyword search box on the Catalog page will result in a list of over 1,400 hits for both the United States and England. You can refine your search further by entering a location. For example, “Apprenticeship Alabama” will result in 13 hits.  The same search terms can be used on the other genealogy research sites to locate records there.

An excellent article on the history of apprenticeship in the United States can be found at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.


  1. “Parish Apprentices,” Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, Yorkshire, 28 November 1801, page 2, col. 3; The British Newspaper Archive, (http://BritishNewspaperArchive.co.uk : accessed 4 September 2018). 
  2. West Yorkshire, England, Rothwell Parish, Parish and Township Records Register of Apprentices, 1802-1809, unpaginated; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), images 7 & 8 of 11, line 3, entry for Sarah Fothergill, 12 October 1802. 
  3. West Riding, Yorkshire, England, Langfield Township, Apprenticeship Indentures; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), order of indenture for William Hollingrake, 12 December 1818. 
  4. West Riding, Yorkshire, England, Langfield Township, Apprenticeship Indentures; images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 September 2018), indenture of William Hollingrake, 12 December 1818. 
  5. “Apprentices Absconded,” Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, Yorkshire, 12 September 1801, page 1, col. 2; The British Newspaper Archive, (http://britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 4 September 2018).