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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree June 2019 > Your questions answered

Your questions answered

With our panel of experts Jayne Shrimpton, Katherine Cobb, David Frost, Simon Wills and Beryl Evans

YOUR FAMILY MYSTERIES SOLVED

Shipwrecked as a baby

Q My ancestor was born in October 1813, probably at sea, in the vicinity of Lisbon, and probably aboard SS Queen (Transporter). This was a ship commissioned by the UK Government to move troops, prisoners and injured, from the Peninsular War of that time, back to the UK. Towards the end of the voyage home, the ship was wrecked in Falmouth on 13/14 January 1814; and of the 400 persons aboard, 300 perished. However, of the 100 survivors, it is my surmise that my ancestor, as a four-month-old baby, was saved. It is thought that his parents were lost with the ship and maybe now lie in an unnamed mass grave near Falmouth. The family name was da Silva.

I have a document of marriage of an Emanuel da Silva, mariner, who married an Ann Wedge, in 1796, in St George in the East, and I am of the belief (unsubstantiated) that this couple could have been the parents of my ancestor, also named Emanuel (but there were many da Silvas named Emanuel!). Neither possible parent gets another mention; which is why I suggest that they were lost in the tragedy.

What I am hoping to find is a crew list of the SS Queen; possibly from when it set sail originally from London. If you can suggest some of the more obscure possibilities for information, or more details of the older da Silvas, I should be grateful.

Frank Symons

A Tracing ancestors involved in shipwrecks before about 1850 is often frustrating, either because records were not kept at the time or have since been lost. Having said that, you do have a number of options.

Please note that this ship cannot have been called the SS Queen. ‘SS’ stands for steamship and oceangoing steamships did not exist in 1814; the transport Queen was a sailing ship.

Assess the evidence

Start by examining critically why you think you had ancestors who died and/or were born on this ship. Where is your evidence, and how reliable is it? If it’s simply that they may have died around the time that the ship was lost, then reconsider because shipwrecks were extremely common and your ancestors could have been on any one of hundreds of other ships lost in 1814.

Gaining background knowledge

Assuming that they might have been on the Queen, then it’s unlikely that your great-great-grandfather was a mariner. Generally, only the captain (in this case Joseph Carr) might take his wife and family to sea. Contemporary accounts also state that most of the crew survived except for the bosun and a cabin boy. Transport ships were crewed by merchant seamen not the Royal Navy, so naval service records won’t help you and merchant seamen employment records, including crew lists, don’t survive from this period.

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About Family Tree

What is it about family history that's captured your imagination? Whether you're seeking the story of your WW2 veterans who fought at D-Day, or tracing your tree across continents to bring your family back together again, we've got a host of advice and tales to help and inspire you: 1. Gen up on your ancestors' role in D-Day (75 years ago this June). 2. Discover how to use DNA, combined with the paper records, to trace family worldwide. 3. Learn about the top 10 genealogy sins - and how to repent and become a better family history sleuth! Plus DNA tips, reader stories, expert advice on your questions and brickwalls, and so much more... - including that all-important topic of 'How to write your family history'! Enjoy