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In the 1855 New York State Census the household (Residence: Albany City, Ward 6, Albany, New York, USA, Line Number: 12, Sheet Number: 1) of my 4th great grandfather Hugh Sellars, a Ship Carpenter, included Moody M. Hale, 54, son-in-law, Skipper, from U.S., native voter and owner of land.

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I have been assuming that a Skipper was something like a Sea Captain but I am now wondering whether it may have an alternative meaning.

I have found that on 19 Jun 1845 a Moody M. Hall arrived in New York from London aboard the Prinz Albert and, although the image is hard to read, it appears to say that he was a 48 yo Farmer from New Hampshire. Assuming that this is the same person, being a Farmer might tie in with him being reported as an owner of land in the 1855 New York State Census.

Does anyone know what an occupation of Skipper in the 1855 New York State Census might mean?


The identity of Moody M. Hale as Moody March Hall from Cornish, New Hampshire now appears likely and is described in this answer to Finding where US citizen owned land and/or was registered to vote in 1855?

  • Since the head of household is a ship proprietor, the most straightforward line of reasoning is that Moody Hall was the person who captained the ship that his father-in-law owned. – user104 Mar 14 '15 at 11:40
  • @ColeValleyGirl the head of the household is a Ship Carpenter but it would not surprise me if they were in 1855 (or previously) associated with the same ship. – PolyGeo Mar 14 '15 at 12:34
  • Ah, image too small to read properly... – user104 Mar 14 '15 at 12:53
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    Albany was one end of the Erie Canal. If the nautical connection of 'skipper' holds true, the venue might local freighting rather than ocean passage. – bgwiehle Mar 14 '15 at 13:32
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In the absence of any other answers I will go with Wikipedia's:

A skipper is a person who has command of a boat or sea-craft or tug, more or less equivalent to "captain in charge aboard ship." At sea, or upon lakes and rivers, the skipper as shipmaster or captain has the absolute command over the crew. The skipper may or may not be the owner of the boat.


As a result of the comment by @bgwiehle I have started to look into Albany's part in the history of the Erie Canal and found that:

Between 1835 and the turn of the century, this network of Canals was enlarged twice to accommodate heavier traffic.

Perhaps this work drew in Scottish ship carpenters like Hugh, and also his son Robert Sellars, who was living in a separate Albany household for the 1855 census.

Perhaps a skipper would have a role in transporting materials and spoil by boat from those workings.

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