Sunday, 30 December 2012

Second time unlucky - Shipwrecks and Records

My Hutton ancestors in Sunderland sent many of their sons to sea at a very early age.  Thirteen or fourteen years old seems usual.  A short while ago Ancestry released the Masters and Mates certificates online.  These run from 1850 to 1927 and work in tandem with the Merchant Navy records, 1835 to 1941, on Find My Past.  A recent discovery on Find My Past was the Maritime Deaths, 1794 to 1964, which I still haven't worked out how to navigate to from the home page without searching for my pet dead sailor. 

A useful book if you take on all the above is Christopher and Michael Watts "My Ancestor was a Merchant Seaman".  It explains how to read the records and suggests many other resources to fill in the details of your ancestor's Merchant Navy Service.

Back to my current favourite 'lost at sea' sailor - Thomas Mordey Hutton, b.1834 in Sunderland to Amelia (nee Mordey) and Frederick Elstob Hutton.  I wrote about Amelia and Fred back in October, Fred married bigamously in Liverpool leaving her in Sunderland to bring up their children by running a lodging house.  Amelia had five sons and last but not least a daughter, Amelia the younger (you can read her story here).  All of the boys appear to have gone to sea (well I'm not sure about one, but he may have had a seafaring related occupation).  Generally they started their apprenticeships at 13 or 14, but Thomas, the second oldest son appears in the 1851 census aged 17 and a Timber Merchant's Clerk.  That's in the March of course, but by September he has also gone to sea.  Did the wages of a clerk not pay enough to help support the family?  Did he envy his brothers?  His brother William had just started his apprenticeship in June 1851 aged only 12 (his 13th birthday wasn't until August so he was just jumping the gun a little). 

BT113/267 Register of Seamen's Tickets entry for Thomas Mordey Hutton (from Find My Past)
Although this is not the fullest BT113 I have, some have the personal details complete, height, hair etc, it does clearly gives Thomas' birthdate, 29th January 1834, something which I have not been able to obtain elsewhere.

There were several different Seamen's Registers - by 1853 the authorities had decided to collect less data and the format of the registers simplified.

BT116/47 Register of Seamen (Series III) two entries for Thomas M Hutton (from Find My Past)
I confess to a little editing in this image - the first of the entries was at the top of the page, the second was separated from it by five other entries.  It seems the habit of the Register Office of Merchant Seamen to issue a new ticket number to a seaman when the first was lost, I have seen this happen where a ship was wrecked.  This does not seem to be the reason that Thomas has two records on this page in the Register, as only one has a Ticket Number.  I am sure that they are both him, the ships listed tally with those listed in other records. 

Enlargement from BT116/47 showing the entry for 1854
For example we can see that in 1854 Thomas sailed on the Gratitude as an Apprentice, leaving Sunderland on 28th February.  I'm not completely clear on the interpretation of the Home column, maybe comparing it to his other records will clear up the significance of the two dates.  It might mean that he returns from his voyage on 27th January the following year?  But if that is the case why wasn't it recorded in the 1855 box?

Application for Only Mate Mariner's Certificate for Thomas Mordey Hutton 1856 (from Ancestry)
On his application for a Mate's certificate in 1856 Thomas lists the ships in which he has served.  The Gratitude is noted twice in the list above, with his apprenticeship ending in 1854 and then service as a Second Mate after that.  The dates and figures for the Gratitude and the Buchan Maid, where he also serves as a Seaman and a Mate, seem a bit mixed up, and actually I'm not that much clearer in my understanding of the the BT116 entry. 

A bit of Googling found a hit for the Buchan Maid in a Dutch newspaper, she seemed to travel regularly between Sunderland and Northern Europe.  Her last voyage was reported in the Daily News on 2nd October 1855.

The Daily News Tuesday 2nd October 1855 - mention of the Buchan Maid (19th C Newspapers)
Ronne is in Denmark, and Danzig in Poland (Gdańsk today).  The final date for Thomas's service on the Buchan Maid noted in his application - September 1855 - appears to tally with the reported date of the wreck in the newspaper cutting above.  Unfortunate as they look to be fairly near their destination compared to the distance travelled from the east coast of Scotland.  But at least the crew was saved. 

A=Fraserburgh, B=Ronne, Gdańsk is to the right on the Polish coast (Google Maps)
Google Maps isn't very good at sea voyages, but you get the idea!  I wonder how the crew got home.  It can't have taken too long to hitch a lift as Thomas submits his application for his mate's certificate on 26th December 1855 in Sunderland.  Maybe being wrecked inspired him to move on with his career?

Thomas passes his examination for his mate's certificate on 1st Jan 1856 (no holidays for Boxing Day or New Year in those days!)  His application also confirmed his home address as 16 Olive Street, Sunderland, agreeing with that in the 1851 census return.  It must have been nice for Amelia to have one of her sons home for Christmas that year, and she was probably very proud of him when he passed his exam, he was just a few weeks short of 22 years old.

The first fact that I ever knew for Thomas was the date of his death.  It is listed on the family gravestone in Sunderland Cemetery, which is headed by Amelia's inscription; "Also Thomas Mordey, son of the above/ who was drowned nr Grisnez/ 30th January 1858, aged 23 years".  I think that when Amelia died the surviving family recorded her lost sons on the same stone at that time for remembrance despite them not being buried there.  This inscription gave me sufficient information to find a newspaper cutting on the 19th Century Newspapers site (the one I get free with my Newcastle Libraries card).

The Daily News, 2nd February 1858  - note the entry for the Heron (19th C Newspapers)
The date and the place (despite the slight spelling difference) were enough to make me feel sure that this cutting was referring to Thomas' death.  It was my guess that he was the Mate on the Heron.  A couple of days ago, with the help of some free Christmas credits I purchased a Maritime Death entry for Thomas that I'd spotted a while back but couldn't justify buying some credits to view.

BT153 - Registers of Wages and Effects of Deceased Seamen (from Find My Past - Maritime Deaths)
We can see in BT153 the three men who died together on the Heron, the mate Thomas Mordey Hutton (as I had suspected), and crewmen Henry Nuth and Michael Collins.  Note that Thomas as a Mate was paid more than twice as much as the crewmen.

Lloyd's Register of Ships Archive is available on line for much of the 19th century.  The year before the incident the entry for the Heron can be found easily.

1857 entry in Lloyd's Register of Ships for the Heron
Interestingly the Heron was owned by the Potts Brothers company (column 7).  A Hutton married a Potts in 1817, it could very well be that the ship Thomas was sailing on belonged to his half-great-uncles.  It was a fairly new ship, built in 1854 (column 6).  You can see above that the Heron's destined voyage in 1857 was Sunderland to Bordeaux (column 8), the newspaper cutting says it was returning from Bordeaux in ballast when it was wrecked.  Cap Gris Nez is in the north of France, opposite Dover, just a few miles south of Calais.

Thanks to finding the early Seamen's Ticket Register entry for Thomas with his birthdate we now know that he drowned the day after his 24th birthday.  So the gravestone inscription is a year out.  Poor Thomas, he survived one shipwreck, progressed in his chosen career and yet two years later when everything seemed to be going well for him he lost his life in a second shipwreck. 

I have found that laying Thomas's records out in an article like this has made me look at them more logically.  Thomas's brothers also have collections of Merchant Navy records to collate and interpret so I'll be busy with this project for a while yet.  That'll keep me busy over the New Year!


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