I have an individual recorded as having been born aboard a ship while travelling from Norway to the United States. As far as location goes what is the correct way to document this birth?

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    +1 I have one too - born travelling between Western and South Australia, but in South Australian waters, in 1866.
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 31, 2012 at 23:34
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    Hi fbrereto, when did this person travel? Was he/she from a family of Norwegian citizens or Americans travelling home to the US? Please make an edit to your question to include the additional details. Good luck! :)
    – jmort253
    Nov 1, 2012 at 0:11
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    related, about birth on an airplane: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/9499/… Nov 1, 2012 at 6:58
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    A recent headline in the UK describes a baby born on rescue helicopter: independent.ie/and-finally/…. Although the nationality would rarely be in doubt, there might be no specific place name that could be concocted. This helicopter example was apparently above a small island (does that even count), but it could have been just the deep blue sea. I wonder if there might be problems accommodating this situation in any genealogical products.
    – ACProctor
    Dec 13, 2012 at 19:36

3 Answers 3


Record the information available and where you got it. In your case something like "Atlantic Ocean aboard the [insert ship name here] en route between Norway and the United States" would be sufficient. Link that to the source record.


Among my immigrant ancestors, I have two instances where the date on which the birth was officially registered (after arrival) appears to conflict with the asserted date of the event.

To explain the difference I have a copy of the passenger list to which the infant's name has been added (with the contemporaneous annotation "Born on voyage dd/mm/yy"). The event was sufficiently common on voyages from Europe to Australia for a standard practice to develop. This often included giving the new-born the name of the ship. Passenger list extract

If you can gain access to extracts from the ship's log, you can narrow down the location of the birth in a way that adds colour to your family history. In the nineteenth century, when a ship arrived Australian newspapers commonly published a summary of the major events of its passage.

Shipping News clip


Brings new meaning to a "water birth."

For most questions, "How should I document ...?" there is more than one consideration.

  1. Record the source(s) of the information about the birth. This might be a birth record, a delayed birth record, census record, death record, etc. As part of recording the source, I keep a note of the specific specific information that was provided by each source (as it was there provided); this might include the name of the ship, port of departure and arrival, etc., all depending on what the source actually reported.
  2. Record the event based on your understanding of the details. I would probably record the place name as "at sea"; if I had the name of the ship, I would likely report that as a location detail.

There may be other considerations/modifications that are software specific. Among these you might review the structure of the birth sentence, especially the for the prepositions, "in" or "at," that would appear before the place name and/or location detail.

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