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One voyage of the ship William Stetson began the 26th of April, 1855 in Liverpool, England and ended the 27th of May, 1855 in New York. One account of the voyage says:

The New York Herald of May 30, announces the arrival at that port of the William Stetson, May 27. Two births occurred on board and four deaths.

How can I find the names of the four people who died?

I tried finding the May 30th article from the New York Herald mentioned above. fultonhistory.com has archives of the New York Herald but 1855 seems to be missing May - August.

The Library of Congress lists libraries that have microfilm of the New York Herald but they're all pretty far away from where I live. And even if I were able to visit one, there's no guarantee that the article would contain the names. For example, the New-York Daily Tribune mentions the arrival of the ship William Stetson, but it doesn't even mention the two births and four deaths.

The Mormon Migration website has images of the passenger lists that the Mormons kept, but it doesn't appear to make any mention of people dying, and Mormons weren't the only ones on the ship (though they count for over 50% of the passengers).

Ancestry has the passenger list, but I also wasn't able to find an indication of any deaths. Though it's entirely possible that I just missed something.

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Re the Library of Congress lists of libraries (link above), the "summary holdings." I've found the date ranges sometimes just report the earliest edition and the latest edition. Like an Oreo Cookie, sometimes you want what's in the middle. P.S. University of Notre Dame and a few others could help us with better date style information. (Notre Dame may be reporting what the MARC description page refers to as the ""whole no." ("Issues for Sept. 22, 1840-Jan. 31, 1920 called also whole no. 1566-30,476.") –  GeneJ Nov 18 '12 at 14:02
    
You haven't mentioned looking at the arrivals data at castlegarden.org which is an alternative to the ancestry passenger list. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 26 '12 at 16:34
    
@ColeValleyGirl How would that site help identify who died? Is there a field that says they died during the voyage? –  JustinY Nov 26 '12 at 16:42
    
No, castlegarden just has immigration records -- it's an alternative to the passenger list (and in fact definitely shouldn't include the dead) so any discrepancy between the data there and the Ancestry passenger list might tell you something. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 26 '12 at 16:57
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6 Answers 6

Brief mention of the William Stetson's arrival is found in the New York (Watertown) Reformer, Thursday, May 31, 1855, p. 3, c. 1; digital image, GenealogyBank. "More Mormons--The ship Willilam Stetson arrived at New York on Sunday, bringing three hundred and fifty Mormons among her passengers. They are all bound for the Mormon settlement in Utah." (If I locate other mention, will post here.)

More directly to the point of your question ... I would e-mail the New York Public Library (NYPL) to learn if they hold a version of the New York Herald for date cited.

While browsing for information about the NYPL holdings, I found two references:

  • New York Public Library's "New York Herald Index, 1835-1918." These are apparently indexes to the newspapers available in the library's "Microforms Room." [See "Newspapers"; subsection "Indexes and Additional Resources"* There is a notation in that section (emphasis added), "If you are not in the library, you may also e-mail us for assistance at grdref@nypl.org.")
  • Library makes reference to Pro-quest's searchable index, "New York Herald (1840-1865)." Both Duncan and I searched GenealogyBank using different approaches, and neither of us could retrieve the edition. I searched May 1855 and keyword "New York." Oddly, GenealogyBank's "New-York Herald information page has description, "New-York Herald (New York, New York) Newspaper Archives (1802–1817)" (Home > Newspaper Archives > New York > New-York Herald.)

Separately, I did try

  • GenealogyBank, as above. As a side note, did find just later interesting article concerning the Wm Stetson, "Bloody Assault in the Harbors: Brutality on board the Ship Wm. Stetson," Evening (New York, New York) Post, Friday June 22, 1855, p. 3, c. 7.
  • Ancestry.com's "New York Herald..." collection description; seems to not have the date range you need ("fully searchable text version of the newspaper for the following years: 1869-72, 1969, and 1971-72.")
  • 19th Century Newspapers (via AmericanAncestors) provides great digital collection details, but it was just a little confusing. First, there are two catalog entries for the New York Herald [Browse Newspaper (titles)], described as (a) "New York Herald (1840-1863) NY" [supposedly 3954 issues], and (b) New York Herald (1844-1863) NY" [supposedly 206 issues]. But then if I search for newspaper titles, I find three entries (below). This content provider lets you discover which specific issues are held for the titles. I checked each of these three and found no 1855 issues in any of these digitized holdings.

enter image description here

P.S. Another way to try to solve this is to locate the passenger lists at both the point of departure and the point of arrival. Then bribe small children into a game of finding entries for which there is no match.

*I don't know why so many images seemed broken links when I viewed that page; wondered if the page was out of date. I accessed same from browser search.

Update 1: I'll scan all the pages again, but according to the William Stetson's manifest at New York, the list is supposed to include those who died. There is even a column "died on voyage." (Pull out the magnifying glass, it is toward the right.)

enter image description here

Neither JustinY nor I can find a reference in the manifest to those who died. There is an odd clump of entries at the end (image below), but this does not seem to be making reference to the names of those who died.

enter image description here

Here is an oversized image of the information written below the last set of names on the last page. I would have little confidence in my own interpretation of this information, but I wonder if what might have been written "Dk" might stand for "deck" (as in where on the ship the passengers were housed during the trip.

enter image description here

Here's an enlarged image of that last clump of names. Of note, an entry indexed as "Wm Stetson" (though I think there is more to the name) reports an age of 3 weeks male." Another indexed as "Mary Shields" reads 5 days female."

enter image description here

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Your not at the end about comparing passenger lists at port of departure and arrival was an idea I had too, but I wasn't able to find passenger lists for departures from Liverpool for 1855. –  JustinY Nov 18 '12 at 17:41
    
@JustinY To add even more mystery to this, the actual manifest./incoming passenger list (New York) clearly states it includes the identity of those who died, with a reference to their names. –  GeneJ Nov 18 '12 at 17:58
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It looks like the "Died on voyage" column was completely ignored. –  JustinY Nov 18 '12 at 22:20
    
That paragraph in the middle makes reference to "4 passengers" but I can't tell what it's saying about them. Sadly they wrote over it with names of cabin passengers they forgot to account for. Can you make out any of the text related to the tallies at the bottom? I can't understand a word of it. –  JustinY Nov 19 '12 at 0:45
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If you can find any record of Mary Hoggard (infant who died -- see genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/2289/104) in the manifest, it might help you identify what notation was used if any. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 26 '12 at 17:01
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Try the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild. Their transcribed lists always make explicit references to deaths on the voyage.

They certainly have some William Stetson passenger lists (I found one for 1859) but the site is most easily searched by passenger name.

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That's a good resource but they don't have this particular voyage. –  JustinY Nov 19 '12 at 0:14
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While researching New York City vital records, I stumbled across the FHL's Register of New York City death records.

I haven't read the entire 209-page document yet, but when I was skimming it, this caught my eye:

Manhattan Bodies in Transit, 1859-1894 (see page 153 of the PDF)

about which I note the following:

  1. This is too late for the 1855 death that JustinY is researching. Do other records of this kind exist, and if so, who holds them?
  2. Do similar records exist in the other boroughs?
  3. Is the 1859 start date of this collection a result of some regulation/law which started in 1859?
  4. Would people who died on a voyage from 1859 through 1894 be found in a collection such as this one?
  5. "There is no known index to this collection." (i.e. when the printed document was created in 2005.)

(Obviously if one wanted to answer these questions, they could be arranged in a more sensible order.)

Contents:

  • date of passage through New York
  • name of deceased
  • date of death
  • place of death
  • place of interment
  • name and residence of person having charge of body
  • disease which caused death
  • sometimes age, nativity, occupation and attending physician

So near, and yet so far.


Second thoughts:

  • What happened to the bodies of people who died on board ship?
  • For passenger lists which list 'nearest relative' or 'person going to meet' the master has contact information for someone who might be able to claim the body (later than this era). What happened in 1855?
  • What agent would be in charge of the bodies until they were claimed by family/friends?
  • Some immigration records (seen while researching a question about immigrants arriving from Canada) exist which are listed by the agent's name. Do similar records exist / survive for New York?
  • Does the New York Public Library have an online exhibit or resource guide?

For some arrivals, the name of person who claimed the body might be the information needed to determine if you have the right person. (This field has been very useful when viewing headstone applications for US Veterans.)

Note also there's a RootsWeb database THE FORGOTTEN OF ELLIS ISLAND Deaths in Quarantine, 1909-1911 at freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~quarantine

So, here's my question: If people died in Quarantine in 1855, having arrived at Castle Garden, what hospitals might they have been transferred to? Did the hospitals on Staten Island referenced on that page exist in 1855? If not, what hospitals might have taken in this kind of transfer, and what counties were they in?

I found a possible answer in Cecil Woodham Smith's The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849. She describes the efforts at quarantine for the ships arriving from Ireland with passengers suffering from fever in chapter 12.

The quarantine buildings at the north-eastern point of Staten Island covered about thirty acres of high ground and consisted of two hospitals accommodating 400 persons, with, in addition, a smallpox hospital for 50 cases, a workhouse for the destitute, and auxillary buildings.

Her sources include the City Inspector's Annual Report from 1847 (City Inspector's Office, New York), a Congressional report on sickness aboard emigrant ships (33rd Congress) and special committee reports about the quarantine restrictions and about whether the quarantine station should be removed from Staten Island. Searching Google Books and WorldCat might turn up similar reports for 1855. Another possibility is to look for the reports of the Commissioners of Emigration for that year. The passengers who lived or died are not likely to be named in the reports, but the reports might have clues about what city departments might have recorded their names, and passed the summary of how many deaths occurred on board to the Commissioners.

Via Google Books I found brief mentions of the voyage in:

The William Stetson had a fair voyage across the Atlantic, and arrived at New York on the twenty-seventh of May. Two births and four deaths occurred on board.

THE "WILLIAM STETSON." -- The New York Herald of May 30, annoucnes the arrival at that port of the William Stetson, May 27th. Two births occurred on board, and four deaths. This vessel was the last we despatched. (pages 395-6)

A discussion follows later on in this volume about the changes in the emigration acts that took place immediately following the sailing of the William Stetson.

More questions:

  • Might the births and deaths be listed in a different volume of the Millennial Star?

  • If births and deaths happened in LDS families, might there be other references to them in LDS church records (e.g. the stake records for the area where the births or deaths occurred)?


Here is the link to the FHL's reference, The Register of New York City Births. It shows borough-level records available through the FHL with start dates that are later than 1855. On (printed) page iv (page 4 of the PDF) the section on Index codes states "Some New York City indexes use an alphabetic code for each borough" and lists Z=at Sea, so presumably some births and deaths at sea were registered -- but where?

Note that the 1855 arrival is before the consolidation of the five boroughs. It is also (unfortunately) before the date of the death indexes which are available to search via the Italian Genealogical Group or the search form on the One-Step Web Pages.

The Oral History of Ellen Jane (Parks) Johnstun found by ColeValleyGirl which tells of the birth of a boy named William Stetson [Parks] and the subsequent death of infant and mother says that "Mother was moved to Williamburg across from New York" before Mother and child died on 3 Jun 1855. Could this be Williamsburg, Brooklyn? The Register lists a record of deaths in the city of Brooklyn starting in 1847 (certificates are dated later, so this might be a register) with the index starting in 1848.

I also found a reference to the Commissioners of Emigration which revealed that they are New York State Commissioners of Emigration. Could their reports be at the State Archives as well as the NYC ones?

So the larger research questions remain: were the births / deaths on board supposed to be registered at this period, and if so, whose responsibility was it?

Note also that while we think of the manifests required by the US as "arrival lists" they were usually filled out at the port of embarkation and amended and annotated as necessary. They were checked (not filled out) as people disembarked. For this particular problem, the information about who was born and died on the voyage would have been added at a later time than the rest of the information on the list; the same would hold true for the later passenger lists from Ellis Island that have lists about people being detained.

As for other company records, I would expect that if a crewman died, his name would be listed in the ship's log, but I don't know if the ship's own log would list the birth and death of passengers. My question is, where was the William Stetson registered? The home port would determine what regulations were in effect, and what information would be required in the log.

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See also the article on New York Vital Records on the Family Search Wiki: familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/… -- whatever birth records might exist for 1855 will be at the town level. –  Jan Murphy Dec 22 '13 at 15:54
    
From Genealogy Bank: Thursday, May 31, 1855, American Traveller (Boston, MA), Page: 3: "The ship William Stetson, Capt. Jordan, from Liverpool, arrived at New York on Sunday, brings 250 Mormons among the passengers, all bound West. Among the infants there have been four deaths and two births, one of them off Staten Island." –  Jan Murphy Dec 31 '13 at 22:06
    
Bear in mind that 'infant' in 1855 meant a different age range than it does today. Jo B. Paoletti in her book "Pink and Blue" notes (pg 2) that "an 18-month-old would be considered an 'infant' in 1885 and a 'toddler' in 1935." books.google.com/books/about/Pink_and_Blue.html?id=HPyIoreJ1jIC –  Jan Murphy Dec 31 '13 at 22:26
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I tried GenealogyBank.com, but I couldn't figure out how to ask about a ship (particularly one with such a genealogically significant name) instead of a person. See here. If I figure out the answer to that question, I'll look for you.

I looked on the ships of WeRelate.org, but didn't find that ship. More work has been done on the ships of the Great Migration. You might try entering the ship, the William Stetson, on werelate using a ship template. You could then enter your question on the 'talk' page and you might find others willing to help or someone who already knows the answer.

The question what-are-ways-to-collaborate-with-other-genealogists lists some 'random acts of kindess' sites. Maybe someone on GenerousGenealogists.com would be willing to help you.

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Setting the date for '1855 (exact)' and entering the word 'ship' and the phrase "William Stetson" (in quotes) in the keyword field results in 8 items marked 'passenger list' and 11 'newspaper articles'. –  Jan Murphy Dec 31 '13 at 22:09
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Coming at the problem from the UK end:

Findmypast has a collection of UK Maritime BMDs which are based on records from The National Archives at Kew. There's a description at the link of what they have. Are you looking for particular names, as the record set isn't browsable.

I haven't found anything helpful at The British Newspaper Archive -- just the same sort of brief report that you already have.

I can't find anything relevant at The National Archives

An infant death (Dorothy Hoggard) is mentioned here

The birth (and death after landfall) of baby William Stetson [Grogan] is mentioned here

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Isn't that baby William Stetson Parks? –  Jan Murphy Dec 22 '13 at 16:03
    
@JanMurphy I think you're right -- in the early days of this question it wasn't obvious that there were 2 babies born aboard named after William Stetson. –  ColeValleyGirl Dec 22 '13 at 16:15
    
I'm making the assumption (perhaps not correct) that her mother and newborn baby brother? share the surname of Ellen Jane (Parks) Johnstun. I've used the newspaper convention here of putting what I assume is her maiden name in parentheses -- her oral history states later on that she married William James Johnstun in 1868. –  Jan Murphy Dec 22 '13 at 16:22
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Dorothy Hoggard was one of the infants who died on the trip. Mary Shields and William Stetson McGrogan are my ancestors who were born aboard ship during that voyage.

William Stetson McGrogan was born 5 May 1855 aboard the William Stetson. Another baby was born aboard ship and named William Stetson as was sometimes the custom to name a baby after the ship. Though listed as Mary Shields born 19 May 1855 aboard that ship, she was baptized Ann Jane Shields in July 1855 near Pittsburgh. Her cousin, William Stetson McGrogan was also baptized in July 1855 same place. Passenger lists and baptismal records document these dates. So there were definately two babies named William Stetson.

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Do you have sources for this (e.g., ship's records, birth/death certificates), or is this word-of-mouth family history? –  American Luke May 13 '13 at 19:41
    
books.google.co.uk/… suggests that a baby born on board and named William Stetson didn't survive -- were there two? –  ColeValleyGirl May 15 '13 at 10:24
    
It appears you accidentally made two accounts, so I've had them merged and I've edited your answers together. If you think they should be separate instead, feel free to leave a comment here and I'll undo it. Thanks for you contributions here and a belated welcome to Genealogy.SE! :) –  American Luke Aug 12 '13 at 21:06
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