Whenever I get an email from FamilySearch announcing updates to their online collection, it is inevitable that I’ll fall down a rabbit hole. Today was no exception! The collection was titled “Maine & Massachusetts, Case Files of Deceased and Deserted Seamen, 1837-1965” and I had hoped to page through it and perhaps find Thomas Morse of Friendship, Maine, among the fallen. After all, most of my Morse family were seamen! However after spending twenty minutes looking at the images I soon forgot what it was I was after. Next time I’ll do as a fellow genealogist suggested and stick a post-it on my monitor to remind me of the person I’m looking for. But for now I thought I’d share some of what I learned about this very interesting set of images. Like many scanned images there is no index beyond the years noted. So I suggest you take your time if you choose to visit the collection. It seems that the files include not only a standard form that was completed by the Master of the Ship, but also supporting documents and sometimes any other items that may have been in the person’s possession. Yes, that sometimes means PHOTOS! The reasons for the reports are varied with cases of Yellow Fever, dropsey, small pox, pneumonia, and many cases of being lost overboard and drowning.
I found this one interesting to read through as this was a 16 year old boy named Elmer E. Ellis who was reported as a deserter. He had worked for 5 months on board the ship before finally calling it quits. After all the advances and other deductions he was able to collect a mere $10.89 ($267 in today’s dollars) for his work.
I mentioned that some of these files contained photographs and so when I stumbled across this gentleman, Agustus Thompson, I was eager to learn more of him. Originally from Norway, he was a fisherman working out of Gloucester, Massachussetts. I couldn’t find what happened to him in this case, but it was clear he was deceased.
The file on Conception Aguilar includes many photographs, papers, and even his Declaration of Intention to become an American citizen! Originally of Monterey, Mexico he was cook on board the ship S. S. “George W. Barnes” and unfortunately met his demise in 1920. There are a number of photos, postcards, and letters written in Spanish that are included in the file.
So if you have the time to peruse this collection and you have any sailors in your family history you might find something of interest!