ancestryink fisherman

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Sinking of Holland Island House

This is a story about a house on an island in the Chesapeake Bay.

As in a previous post in this blog  (Houses on the Move), it joins the tales of the historically determined efforts of people to move houses, sometimes whole, and sometimes in parts - wooden post by wooden clapboard - across the sea.

But Holland Island House is the story of the house that did not move away.  A house that eventually succumbed to erosion, rising sea levels, and despite valiant efforts to preserve it, buffeted by high winds and tide, sank alone into the ocean in October of 2010.

A very brief history:  Holland Island was purchased by Daniel Holland in the 1600's.  Between 1850-1910, the island thrived with fisherman and farmer families and a population of around 360 inhabitants on the 80 or so acre island.


 Lying barely above sea level, the island wore down from erosion over the years, and together with the obvious effect of rising sea levels, gradually began disappearing  into the sea altogether.  Many houses were taken off the island by their owners, leaving in the end, Holland Island house standing a lonely sentinel over the remaining flooded marshes.
For a fascinating version of the entire story of Holland Island, visit this website:  The Last House on Holland Island

Today, I was directed by a MA educator to a beautiful short film made by Lynn Tomlinson about Holland Island house.  It is a lovely, haunting animation of her clay painting artpieces, and contains an unforgettably beautiful ballad.  Best of all,  it is narrated by the house itself.

The Ballad of Holland Island House

I encourage you to take 4 minutes to watch this. If you are interested, visit Tomlinson's website for more information about her creative and award-winning animation works, and with this film, how she chose to use her artistic gifts to tell a great story, and bring awareness to rising sea levels that are ever more swiftly contributing to creating "ghosts" of our historic seafaring communities.  

The Holland Island House brings to mind again:  what happens to the artifacts of these previous centuries on a particular piece of land:  the houses, wrought by hand, the tools and structures of making a living, the churches and cemeteries that sink into the ocean, the stories passed down from generation to generation...all become ghosts and if we are not careful, fade away, breaking the important connection between past and present.

Sources for this article:

Historic Island image and October 2010 image of sinking house courtesy of:

Photo image of house in October 2009:
Author:  Flickr User baldeaglebluff

Screenshot of film title image is taken from Lynn Tomlinson website:

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Missing Your Email

Dear Friends,

I discovered today that the email sent to this blog account and to my account have been filtering into a Junk folder...long story, but suffice it to say, I have missed some email from some of you and I apologize!

I've looked back into the folder for the last few months and replied to those email I found there.  If you have tried to be in touch regarding the blog or my FindAGrave contributions, please contact me again.  I've fixed the problem and will receive all email now.

Thank you!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sailing By the Wind and Stars Hokule'a Arrives in Menemsha

Hokule'a in Menemsha          Photo: Ray Ewing; MV Gazette

On her way to Vineyard Haven harbor,  Hokule'a makes a surprise visit to Menemsha yesterday.

Hokule'a, the 40 foot double-hulled replica of a traditional Polynesian canoe, is on a world wide voyage to raise awareness of the rare and fragile beauty our natural world.   She arrives in Vineyard Haven harbor today and will be open to the public Wednesday. She sails to Woods Hole this Friday.

The real story, and history, of Hokule'a is that only the constellations, winds and currents guide her voyages.  Though she is accompanied on her journey by another vessel with modern instruments in case of emergency, the crew of Hokule'a relies only on the natural world to guide them around the world.

“A navigator always sails in seram, the light, he always sails in goodness, in kindness, in generosity,” Master navigator Mau Piailug

More about Hokule'a in this recent article of the Vineyard Gazette

Navigate to their website to read about Hokule'a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society

Hokule'a    Photo: Sam Kapoi

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Houses on the Move - By Oxen, Horse, Boat and Train

Humans moved with remarkable frequency back in the 1700's and 1800's.  We think we are a mobile society, but take a look backwards and you will see that families moved lock, stock and barrel - by horse, wagon, or ship - over very long distances more frequently than some of us will ever board a plane in our entire lifetime.

They moved in pursuit of fertile farm land, rock quarries, whales, religious tolerance, fair weather, sometimes after local catastrophes like a fire or hurricane has leveled their home and town.

But what happens when an entire house moves?  Tracking the movement of humans can be a lot easier to understand than the relocation of a house.  And houses moved a lot!

Newfoundland- moving a house with oil barrels and boat

By horse, oxen, over water, by train, even by sled dogs - houses left their original foundations and migrated to new settings quite frequently in the late 1800's and early 1900's, as documented by photographic images.

However, even as early as the American Revolution, Loyalist inhabitants of Castine, Maine literally broke their homes down board by board, loaded them into boats and sailed off to New Brunswick, Canada where they would rebuild their homes and live in fealty to their King (and yes, some received land grants for their Loyalist service.)

These days, there is a universal infatuation with Tiny Homes.  They are sprouting up everywhere, and sometimes on wheels.  But the moving of a two-story 1800's wooden home, with its large girth and height, sometimes complete with chimneys, fireplaces, plaster walls and moldings, seems a much more impressive feat.

Following are a few remarkable images of these traveling homes.

Moving a home by oxen, Newburyport, MA.

McCobb house at sea

In Phippsburg, Maine, the stately 1806-built McCobb house is ferried 85 miles across the ocean to its new location overlooking Penobscot Bay.  The new owner, a wealthy Philadelphia man named Dodge, fell in love with the house and ordered it rolled down a knoll on logs, complete with original granite steps and foundation, loaded onto a barge, sailed across the waters, and upon reaching land, pulled by teams of horses to the new setting.

McCobb house

Below, moving a San Francisco home with draught horses in 1908

Moving houses by horse and train:

Kansas, late 1800's

Moving ashore, by hand.

Placentia Bay, Newfoundland

A schooner rides her mooring after towing a house back to harbour. The house was washed out to sea by the 1929 Burin Tsunami.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

1800's or 1900's? The Schooner Adventure Captured on BW Film

Schooner Adventure Rockland, Maine circa 1969

The Schooner Adventure sailing past the Breakwater Lighthouse, Rockland, Maine in....1969.  A lovely sight caught on BW film, reminiscent of a previous century.

 The "Adventure," is a McManus design, built by the John F. James Shipyard in Essex, MA in 1926.   She fished the Grand Banks,  hauling in a phenomenal 4 million dollars worth of cod and haddock.

The Rockland, Maine Facebook page continuously posts historic photographs of old Rockland, Maine.  If you are interested in historic Maine, the fishing industry, old vessels, and vintage photographic images, you might want to Follow their Page. This morning this lovely photo appeared in my Newsfeed. 

My own great-grandfather Henderson lived on Rockland's waterfront, right downtown. He worked at a local fishery, and sailed out of Rockland to points north to Nova Scotia and south to Philadelphia, during his life as a master mariner from 1890 to his death at Sailor's Snug Harbor, Staten Island, in 1934.  He undoubtedly knew the "Adventure" very well.

The "Adventure" was moved to Gloucester, MA in 1988. She is now a designated National Historic Landmark and functioning as a non-profit organization, has been undergoing restoration.  The importance of the mission to preserve the schooner as an educational vessel and historic landmark is best explained by these words:

"A fully restored and operational Schooner Adventure will heighten awareness of Gloucester’€™s role in the development of the American Fishing Industry, the plight of the thousands of men lost at sea, and how a fleet of fast and able schooners defined a regional economy.

Visit her website to learn more about  "Adventure."

Monday, October 19, 2015

New Facebook Page for Researchers of Sailors' Snug Harbor

Are you a descendant of a mariner who once resided at Sailors' Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NY?  Or a researcher?   Or a reader of good sea-going tales?  Or perhaps you are interested in the SSH records, and the SSH Cemetery?

 This weekend, spurred on by one of my blog readers, I created the Facebook page:  "Mariners of Sailors' Snug Harbor History and Genealogy."  The purpose of the page is to share stories and information specifically about the former inhabitants of SSH: the aged, sometimes ailing mariners who found rest and camaraderie there.

The physical property and buildings of Sailors' Snug Harbor, which began in 1801, and eventually closed doors in the mid 1950's, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 
Some of the buildings fell into disrepair and were demolished over the years, but many of the beautiful original structures remain.

The entire property has been renamed:  Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens.
and overseen by a board of Trustees.  This entity has their own website (above) and their own Facebook page.

Perhaps the most interesting story of Sailors' Snug Harbor, however, originates with the lives of those men who lived there.   My own g-g-grandfather master mariner stayed there on several different occasions, and eventually died there.  The new Facebook page I have created, is a place to illuminate the lives of those men by sharing any stories we hold.

I have a handful of letters, in my family archives, written on stationary with the Sailors' Snug Harbor letterhead.  I came to know my g-g-grandfather through these letters. I came to understand what forces affected his life on the sea and how he made a living.  What treasures do you have, what tales to tell? 

Please visit on Facebook:  Mariners of Sailors' Snug Harbor History and Genealogy.  The page is open to anyone, but please "Like" the page so we can get to know you.   Thanks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lloyd's Register of Ships Continues to Streamline Historic Information

Recently, I was directed to the website for the historic "Lloyd's Register of Ships."

Lloyd's is a multi-faceted organization, but this particular page included on their website - located in the "Research and Innovation" section - directs the interested researcher to resources listing shipping and vessel information from the earliest and first edition of Lloyd's in 1764.

All in one place.
In case you are not a Londoner, and therefore unable to visit their physical reference library, a virtual visit is in order.  Lloyd's website will direct you to several online sources of Lloyd's historical data.  These include Google Books, The Internet Archive, and Plimsoll ship data project (digitized cooperatively with the Southampton (England) Library and Archives associations.)

From Google Books - Early archives of Lloyd's

The very first Lloyd's Register of Ships, 1764 - 1766, is included on a separate page of the Lloyd's website.  This is simply a fascinating view of the original book which appears to have been digitized in 2012.

From Lloyd's Register of Ships: 1764-66

This page provides a table for locating ships alphabetically by their name (ex:  in this earliest time period. Each page appears as a downloadable PDF.

Page from earliest Lloyd's Register (website image)

It is always a pleasant discovery to learn of continued efforts to consolidate and streamline valuable historic information, in this case, regarding vessels, captains and arrival and departure ports of sea.  Lloyd's does it well.  Again, the link to Lloyd's Register of Ships.