ancestryink fisherman

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Whaling Women

Wives of whaling captains refused to stay at home.  Some of them set out to sea with their husbands for years at a time.   Children were born on board, or ashore in places as far distant as the South Pacific, where the whales were plentiful and whaling expeditions met with great success - and calamity and loss of life, as well.  Perhaps only a woman could recount these adventures with so much emotion and share with such attention,  daily life on board a whaling ship.

There are two very good books available at the Falmouth Historical Society which detail life at sea for the whaling wife.

"Whaling Brides and Whaling Brothers:  The Lawrences of Falmouth" is edited by Mary Malloy (of Foxborough, MA), and published by the Falmouth Historical Society, in 1997.

The five brothers of Captain Thomas Lawrence were all whalemen, three were captains, and they were, in the 1850's, all at sea at the same time.  Many Falmouth mariners were on whaling expeditions with the Lawrences, and many were in one way or another, related by a marriage to the Lawrences.  The whaling trips of the Lawrences are well-documented and offer a valuable view of the life of a whaling mariner, in general.

This book opens:

"Most of the men on shipboard were young and single, but for captains - almost all of whom were married - the separation from wives and children was a great hardship.  Consequently, many captains negotiated with the ship owners to bring their families with them on long voyages, and by 1853 there was a captain's wife on one of every five whaleships sailing from New Bedford."

This small book of 25 pages ($3) chronicles many exciting events aboard the Lawrence ships, and the appendix at the back, gives a chronological list of the whaling trips, and a second appendix includes the genealogy of the Lawrence family.

"The Captain's Best Mate: The Journal of Mary Chipman Lawrence on the Whaler Addison, 1856-1860,"  312 pp., is edited by Stanton Garner, and originally published by the University Press of New England Press, Hanover, NH, for Brown University, 1966.

Mary Chipman Lawrence was the wife of Captain Samuel Lawrence.  Her journal of the 3 1/2 year voyage of the whaling ship "Addison" is just a phenomenal account of life on board - particularly from a woman's point of view.  She shares daily details and emotions of life at sea.

After the sad death of Captain Augustus Lawrence, (Samuel's youngest brother) far away from home in Valparaiso, of "lung fever" - leaving a new wife and 5 month old baby - Mary may have felt further influenced to then go on board ship with her husband.

We think of whaling voyages as being long, isolated events for men chasing whales, years at a time away from home.  In fact, I am constantly surprised at the "social life" that was conducted between ships.  There were so many whaling ships on the seas at the same time in the early to mid 1800's that they would often travel quite close to each other.  News would be shared or conveyed to bring home - sometimes of loss of life on board, or success with whales, or births on board, as well.   In the evenings, captains would visit, via boat, for dinners and conversation.  Sometimes there was a playful "race against the wind" between ships, to see who would arrive to a particular whaling ground, first. 

 Mary and Samuel's five year old daughter Minnie was also on board, though not much is mentioned of her, except for infrequent accounts of entertaining her on board.


"27 Nov 1857:  ...We have traveled 36, 985 miles.  For the last 24 hours we have had a fine breeze that bore us 200 miles..."

"7 June 1858:  A sad accident happened to us this morning.  In a thick snowsstorm we hit a lone cake of ice.  No one saw it, neither had any been seen during the morning.  ...The first thing I did was get Minnie up and dress her...I was very calm and composed while dressng her and ready to collect mythings preparatory to leavin the ship..."  And later, after it is determined that the ship is safe enough to continue, she writes: "I am truly thankful that it is no worse, and I retire to rest with a feeling of gratitude that thte Addison is still my home.  There are plenty of ships in sight, and I know that I should suffer for nothing; but for Samuel's sake especially am I thankful."

Besides her journal entries, the book includes a number of Appendices and Notes, pertaining to crew member names, whaling ships at sea, goods that were transported, whaling profits, and much more  - all highly illustrative of whaling activity during the time Mary Chipman Lawrence traveled aboard the "Addison."

In all, her journal chronicles seven whaling voyages. This book is $24.95 and both books can be purchased at the Museums on the Green gift shop.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beach Restrictions 1821

There is a lot of grumbling, from time to time, in beach side communities.  Some group or another is always concerned about removal of anything other than shells, from our lovely shores. This does not always set well with the natives.

In 2013, protection from erosion or other irreversible damage to fragile ecosystems is vastly important to preserving the beaches, yet -  one still feels that beach ambles might include picking up a few perfectly round stones or some nice bleached driftwood from time to time.

Once again, it is heartening to learn that we are not living in a  modern society of just too many restrictions, but that these protective influences date back as early as 1821!

Here is an excerpt of 1821 town doings in Barnstable County: *

I want to note here that they refer to preventing "strangers" from removing said treasures from the sea-shore.  Maybe that means the locals could beachcomb at will!  I hope so.  But thank you to them for their protective measures, without which we may not be enjoying our beautiful shoreline today.

*from "The History of Cape Cod: Annals of the Thirteen Town of Barnstable County,  Vol II; by Frederick Freeman, published Boston, 1862.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Second Guessing Your Research: Death of a Cooke on the Whaleship "Lagoda"

Good morning, Maritime Monday.   Within the records of the whale ship "Lagoda's" many fruitful voyages, lies an unsolved mystery: the strange death of mariner Thomas Cooke of Falmouth, Mass., in 1848.

My now-routine online research for mariners and captains of Falmouth, Mass., rendered this newspaper record of drownings - all within the year of 1848.*

Thomas Cooke of Falmouth, 'in the woods' 1848

My keyword search is obvious:  the yellow highlighted "drowned." (An advanced search window included "Falmouth.")  Much to my surprise this one 1848 clipping revealed not one, but two separate stories of Falmouth men who died at sea: Crocker, and Cooke.

(click on image to read)

The second story, involving Thomas Cooke of Falmouth, and his crew mate Mr. E. K. Perry of Augusta, Me, drew my interest due to the rather bizarre story of their demise.

But, first, a very short biography of their Ship:

The "Lagoda" was a 340 ton ship built in Mass. in 1826.  In 1841, she was re-fitted to be a whale ship.  Her unique place in history is due to the fact that she was fitted out with a "tryworks" which allowed for converting whale blubber to oil, right on board the ship.  (She is also responsible for rescuing over 1,000 survivors of an Arctic ice trap, later, in 1871.)

The "Lagoda" was immensely successful and profitable for her new owner in 1841,  Jonathan Bourne, Jr., of New Bedford.   And that brings us to her 1846-1850 whaling voyages in the NorthWest coastal region.

Thomas Cooke of Falmouth perished in 1848 in San Diego, supposedly while on a trip aboard "Lagoda."  The New Bedford ship database reveals that the "Lagoda" was at sea off the North West Coast, for three consecutive trips between 1843 and 1850.

Voyages of the whaleship "Lagota"

Her final trip (of this list)  in that region took place between Aug. 1846 - Apr. 1850, Captain James Finch.  This would be the fateful trip for Thomas Cooke of Falmouth.

Why did Thomas Cooke and his fellow officer E. K. Perry "leave the ship in December and lay out in the woods for four days" before arriving in San Diego where they both mysteriously died??

Vital records research in Falmouth, for Thomas Cooke turned up nothing.  I did find a "James Franklin Cook" who was the s. of a Thomas Cook (no "e") :

The record shows: "Children of Thomas Cook  and(Died) Elizabeth E. his wife
-James Franklin Born May 17 1846
-Henry Weston (illegitimate) December 1850"**

The birth of the son James Franklin, seems quite plausible, given our Thomas Cook's supposed death, two years later,  in 1848 in San Diego.  However, the illegitimate son's supposed birth in 1850 proves to be confusing. (not to mention fascinating!)  Perhaps this is not the correct "Cook(e)" family, but it is the only family bearing that name that I found in Falmouth vital records.

One other record appeared:  a FindaGrave memorial page for "James Franklin Cook," buried in the Woods Hole Village Cemetery,  provides the information that he was the son of "Thomas Cook" born in Limerick, Maine in 1818...died in 1848 in San Diego, and was a 'whaler aboard the "Lagoda." Eureka!  Confirmation that Thomas "Cooke" out in the woods in CA, is indeed Thomas "Cook" of Falmouth.  It is also possible that his Maine birth connects him to his fellow shipmate in the woods: E. K. Perry.  (Another news clipping from Augusta, Maine telling the same "Lagoda" story, confirms that E. K. Perry is from Augusta.)

NOTE:  This is why volunteer websites like are so valuable.  The contributed information there, along with gravestone images and locations, when corroborated with your own research, can really be a "closer" to your case file mystery.

And now I have to leave you in suspense!!  I have yet to solve the riddle of why Cook and Perry hid out in the woods, and then eventually died in San Diego.

Were they running away from the "Lagoda?" They were officers.  This seems unlikely.

Had they contracted a contagious illness such as Yellow Fever (unlikely, considering their trip on the Lagoda was in Arctic waters), or, some other sickness that, being valorous,  they did not want to spread to others?

Had they committed a crime?

Did they mutiny??

Why "lay out in the woods for four days?"

Check back.  I will do my best come up with an answer.

PS.  The ship name "Lagoda" was nagging at me as very familiar, amidst my constant research of "men in ships."  It turns out that the New Bedford Whaling Museum has a magnificent 1/2 model of the "Lagoda" on the premises! It is the world's largest ship model.  There is also an interactive web page for "Lagoda."

It's been some time since I've been to the museum, but this week I plan to visit.  Perhaps I will find the answer to our mystery of Cook and Perry, right there.


  **We can probably assume that Henry Weston Cook, the illegitimate son, who I later found to be born in Boston in 1850, had to have been conceived from an out-of-wedlock relationship of the now widow of Thomas Cook: Elizabeth (Nye) Cook. This has yet to be proven as fact, however.**

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Commodore Morris: Last Whaling Ship to Leave Falmouth

This week the Museums on the Green, part of the Falmouth Historical Society, opened to the public for the summer.  Their theme for this year's exhibit is "World War II," and with Camp Edwards in nearby Bourne, there are many interesting photos, letters, and artifacts to browse. The main exhibit room is painted a bright yellow, as befitting the 1940's esthetics, and lends a cheerful tone to the photos of smiling soldiers and hand-penned letters to loved ones at home.

Of course, I wandered over to the whaling exhibits.  My favorite "exhibit" is the outline of the hull of the "Commodore Morris" and one of its long boats,  spray painted on the lawn between the historic society's buildings and their beautiful garden.   Click all photos for larger image.

outline of whaleboat next to hull of Commodore Morris

Gardens at the Falmouth Historical Society

Bowsprit of the Commodore Morris on lawn

It is difficult to portray the size and scope of this whaling ship in a series of small pictures, but the entire outline of the hull spanned the full length of the long, rambling Cape Cod building housing the Historical Society.  The accompanying information board shows a slice of the ships interiors and how life was lived aboard a whaling ship such as the "Commodore Morris," on a typical whaling trip.

Bird's eye view of a typical whaling ship.

Add caption

"Port side" of the Commodore Morris, alongside the historical society buildings.

Falmouth has a proud whaling history.  The "Commodore Morris" was the last whaling ship to make a trip out of its home port of Falmouth.  She returned in 1864, and was sold in New Bedford the following year.

Captain Elijah Swift*

Commodore Morris under sail**

When speaking of Falmouth's whaling trade, it must be clarified that no harbor in Falmouth was deep enough for these larger ships. Woods Hole, a part of Falmouth, had the working harbor, back in the 1800's.  Most ships arrived and departed from Woods Hole.  Other whaling ships crewed by Falmouth mariners left from neighboring New Bedford.

Elijah Swift and his son Oliver Cromwell Swift were prominent sea captains holding interests in a number of whaling ships.  You will hear about Captain Swift in future maritime posts, here at AncestryInk.

*BW Photo of Elijah Swift:From
Spritsail: A Journal of the History of Falmouth and Vicinity
, Vol. 12, No. 1. Winter, 1998. Woods Hole
Historical Collection, Woods Hole, MA
**BW Photo of E.F. Lincoln's painting of the Commodore Morris:
Commodore Morris, whaling ship built at Bar Neck Wharf, Woods Hole in 1841. Painting by E.F. Lincoln. Falmouth sign andcarriage painter. Photo by Kathy Frisbee. Courtesy Falmouth Historical Society.1*

Monday, May 13, 2013

Maritime Monday : Sailing from NEHGS to and New Maritime Sources

This week's edition of "The Weekly Genealogist," published by NEHGS, included an article that thrills aficionados of Boston history: " A Note from the Editor: Annie Haven Thwing's Boston, by Lynn Betlock, Editor."  Annie Haven Thwing's body of research is formidable.  The article states:

"In 1920, Thwing drew on her research to publish the book for which she is best known today, The Crooked and Narrow Streets of Boston, 1630–1822."

The title of Thwing's book in the article links to her book published online at 

This journey from NEHGS and "The Weekly Genealogist," to ","  thankfully re-acquainted me with an incredible purveyor of historical information, including - maritime sources.

home page of consolidates and presents digitized information of all kinds (text, music, videos, - it's mind-boggling actually!) from all over the internet and presents it in searchable form for "researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public ..."

So, besides the pleasant discovery of Thwing's book online there, I of course immediately jumped into the search window with my own keyword search of "whaling," to see where it would take me. 

Here is one result of my "whaling" keyword search at

Welcome to New Bedford Whaling Museum

Books contributed by New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Browse Collection
Browse by Subject / Keywords

Recently Reviewed Items (more)

 This kind of result is exciting.  There were many other results to my "whaling" keyword search at  The New Bedford Whaling Museum and its digitized offerings of ship logbooks, consolidated into one list, was just one source.  This concise list hugely reduces search time.  No hunting and pecking all over the internet.  It also clues you in to direct sources of information.  Ex:  The New Bedford Whaling Museum has its own online archives which I knew about and often access via their website.  But there are many other sources I did not know about which showed up in my "whaling" keyword search. 
Each search result includes extensive information in the right and left-hand menus, about who digitized the text (or music, video, etc.), when it was digitized, similar search results, and more.  And you can see, gives you the ability to find, right away, the most recent publications in your area of interest, at  

Like the Google Books search engine, you are offered various methods of reading your results:  online, download a PDF, etc.   I found the results to be crystal clear and the online page-turning and reading to be better than any I have used.

Online reader format: Log of the ship Nimrod
Many digitized texts (but not all) are keyword searchable.  I think in the case of the digitized log books which were hand-penned, the only searchable area of these logs was the collection information added by the museum or scanner at the beginning or end of the scanned text.

In the online book "Whaling" by Charles Boardman Hawes, however,  the entire book is searchable and the results show up in a nicely laid-out horizontal arc of clickable orange "pointers" at the bottom of the reader to all pages containing the keyword.  It's just really easy.  I typed in "lost"  (experience tells me this will take me to "lost at sea" or "men lost," or "whale lost," and other pertinent - for me -information) and came up with the image you see below.  The small pointers at the bottom of the page lead me to pages containing "lost."  Nothing new in this kind of in-text search, but visually graceful and smooth.

keyword search of text shows orange pointer to page

Ultimately, I feel I have a fresh. new source of information which I know will be constantly updated.  Since the last time I visited, probably many months ago,  it has added huge amounts of digitized information.

I think sometimes we get into the habit of searching our familiar, warm and fuzzy online databases...and then forget to access the many others out there - even when we know they are there.

I was happy to have been nudged out of my usual search pattern for maritime information by the article about Annie Haven Thwing's book, published by NEHGS.   It led me to a brimming source of digitized texts, and reminded me to "read all of The Weekly Genealogist!"

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hacked By a Pakistani

This past week, Google informed me that my Google account had been trespassed upon by a stranger from a foreign land.  Specifically, they told me "someone from Pakistan" (the IP address of the trespasser located him/her/it in Pakistan) had tried to access my account, but that the good guys, Google,  had thwarted the attempt.

Yay!  I think??  I love the feeling of having a guardian angel in just about any sphere of my life, so being rescued by Google is - nice. One thinks of maidens lashed to railroad tracks, saved from a speeding train at the last minute by a certain Canadian Mountie.   

I am  being hacked by a nefarious Pakistani??  Being a genealogist, I consider my detective skills quite good.  But this preventative act of anti-terrorism is, in short, a little mind-boggling.
It is a little disconcerting to imagine exactly how the fereting-out of this hacker is accomplished.  Roving,  anonymous robots who somehow immediately pick up that I, innocent genealogist from small town in Massachusetts, out of the millions of Google-ettes out there - that I am suddenly being interfered with by a Pakistani??

I really have no idea how Google gets the job done.  If I didn't have a million other things to research like dead whaling captains, and shipwrecks in Peru in 1826, I would probably look into it.

Moby Dick;  illustrator: A. Burnham Shute

I hear what you're thinking:  Obviously, I changed my password.  (And yes, I wrote it down somewhere "secret"* so I would not be cut off from my Google account when I inevitably forget that new, long and complicated password I have now created. And, no it is not the names of my two cats joined together with a % sign.)

Finally, at the end of this transformational and uber-protective Google session - I logged out.

Annnd... promptly stopped receiving notices via email regarding up to the minute posts from my Google+ genealogy friends whom I followed.  Wow, how uncannily quiet this week has been.  Is everyone out in their gardens or hiking or taking to the high seas for a first paddle?  What is up?

This morning, I proactively logged back into my Google account and went searching for some of my regular Google+ posters.  Yup, sure enough they had been posting all week.  I feel stupid.  And I have a lot of reading to catch up on!

I am still not sure why being logged out of my Google account would make any difference at all in receiving Google+ notices via email.  If anyone has a clue, please let me know.  In an effort to responsibly avoid foreign invaders, I still want to log out of my account every time I'm finished with an online session.  But...not if it keeps me from up to the minute news from my genealogical Google friends.

* For the time being I have temporarily forgotten where the secret place is - but I'm sure it is  wherever my car keys are hidden...   ?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sons of Sea Captains Create Headstone Confusion

A lot of alliteration in that title cannot disguise the fact that headstones can sometimes create a lot of confusion about who is who on a family gravestone  - including that of a well-known local sea captain.

This headstone is in the Old Burial Ground of Falmouth, MA.

William Thatcher "fell from aloft on board ship Eagle of Nantucket while in the harbour of Edgarton... 1821,  Aged 16 years."

But wait - below his name a second person is shown to be buried (or memorialized) here -  a Capt. Thomas L. Gibbs.  Captain Gibbs was lost at sea en route from Baltimore to Charleston, SC in 1830.  He was 23 years of age.

Two very young men lost to the sea in the early 1800's.  The stone is interesting insofar as it details the circumstances of their deaths, giving us another glimpse into a mariner's life and travels in the 1800's.  It is both touching and informative, historically, to read these details.

My interest in local sea captains and their mariner sons prompted me to do a little research on  Yes, I had read the fine print on the bottom of the stone.  I saw that the men were "Sons of Heman and Martha Gibbs."  Yet, I wanted to reconcile the Thatcher - Gibbs different surnames.  Was the Thatcher boy an adopted son? After researching Gibbs and then Thatcher, the very first record I uncovered was for the 1763  marriage of a John Gibbs of Sandwich, Mass. and Jerusha 'Thacher.'

Hmm, perhaps in some way, the boys on the stone were cousins, and as was not unremarkable in the 1800's, children often lived in the homes of aunts, uncles, grandparents - even neighbors.    Or, maybe the blending of the "Thacher-Gibbs" families in 1763, eventually lead to the blending of those names, in the following generations.

I then researched the "Thacher" name alone (since the spelling was different from the stone.)  This surname pops up in great frequency in Sandwich, Mass. Many early Falmouth residents settled in Sandwich before moving to Falmouth.  I considered the possibility that "Thatcher" was perhaps misspelled on the headstone.  Again - experience has shown me that this happens more often than you would expect.

Perhaps because of the way the stone was carved with "William Thatcher" being such a dominant name at the top of the stone, and Gibbs below being smaller and including the "Captain,"  the two identities persisted in seeming to be two unrelated men - certainly not brothers.

In fact to further support this idea, the website has a memorial page created by someone, for "William THATCHER" -with a picture of this gravestone.  All it included was the stone inscription, but no further biographical information. (click to view)  Taking this at face value (at first) I assumed this was further proof that Thatcher was one of two separate surnames, on one stone.

Finally, I did the obvious search:  The Heman Gibbs family of Falmouth, Mass.  A Captain Heman Gibbs married 1st Temperance Burgess of Sandwich Mass. in 1795.  In 1803, he married 2nd, Martha Lewis in Falmouth, Mass.  Falmouth town records (Falmouth, 1750-1831) lists Captain Heman's family as the following: (click for larger view)

The Capt. Heman Gibbs family, 1803 - 1820

The eldest son is "William Thatcher Gibbs b. 9 July 1805, and the second eldest son is Thomas Gibbs, b. 21 April 1807.  Mystery solved!  The icing on the cake was finding through a family tree posted on, that Heman Gibbs was actually the son of John Gibbs and Jerusha Thacher, of Sandwich, Mass. Eureka!  My theory proved correct:  Heman blended the two surnames of his parents, in his son William's name.

Why the headstone was carved in this fashion is an unknown.  Why not either include "Gibbs" with "William Thatcher," or remove "Gibbs" from Thomas's name below, and let the parent's names at the bottom of the stone explain the relationship between the two men?

Either way, it certainly led to some confusion for me, and obviously for the person who posted the memorial page for "William Thatcher" on  My next errand is to drop her a message and share the news that her "Thatcher" mariner, should in fact be a "Gibbs" mariner who fell to his death aboard the Eagle, in Edgartown harbor,  at the young age of 16.