Saturday, July 12, 2014

Telling an Immigrant’s Story by Researching Ships – Newspapers

Ad for the Brandywine Miller 13 June 1804 (

The first place to try to find your immigrant’s ship is newspapers. The best ones are those for port cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston. These days, due to the interest of genealogists, many companies have formed to digitize and index newspapers, including,, and While these databases exist primarily for the genealogical market, there is no reason why historians cannot use them.  

For this project I used as they have a wide selection of newspapers for Eastern port cities in their database. From the home page of click on advanced search; do not enter a name, but do enter the name of the ship in the keyword box and then enter a date range. When searching for ships most of the results will be from the Shipping News announcing which ships had arrived or cleared port and small ads announcing when a ship was sailing. GenealogyBank groups these as “ads” and “passenger lists.”  You many also find your ship of interest mentioned in historical articles as well. If the results returned is small, you should probably look at each one.

A search for the Brandywine quickly shows that the full name of the ship was Brandywine Miller. A search of a range of years (1801-1805) shows that she crossed the Atlantic several times as a cargo ship. A search for 1804 shows that the Brandywine Miller crossed the Atlantic twice, arriving in New York in June 1804 and October 1804.  

The Brandywine Miller advertised in the New York Evening Post looking for cargo or passengers (good accommodation available) as it readied for its passage to Greenock at Murray wharf in January 1804. Those interested were to apply to the master, Mark Collins, or to Alexander MacGregor at 19 Greenwich Street. 

The brig Brandywine Miller arrived in New York under master Collins on 1 June 1804, as reported by the New York Daily Advertiser, having left Greenock 45 days previously. On the same day, the Morning Chronicle, reported that Captain Collins of the Brandywine Miller, had brought the Greenock newspapers to April 14th to their office. Taylor & McCracken at 187 Pearl Street started advertising for cargo for a return voyage to Greenock on 13 June 1804. Master Collins was tending the ship at Stephens Wharf.  In an ad in the 18 July 1804 edition of the Daily Advertiser Bours, MacGregor & Co. advertised the goods they had received aboard the Brandywine Miller, the Telegraph, and the Ontario which they offered for sale on reasonable terms. 

The Brandywine Miller did leave for Greenock and after 49 day journey captained by Collins the Commercial Advertiser reported that the ship arrived again in New York on 29 October 1804.  The paper further noted that the cargo included coal and dry-gods for William Wilson, James Taylor, and P.A. Cammon and passengers Mr. and Mrs. M’Leod, G.W. Wegg, R. Wingate, Elias Shipman, master Mark Collins, Jun, and 21 in steerage. Then in November the Brandywine Miller sailed to Jamaica returning to New York in December.

Read the rest: Part OnePart ThreePart Four, and Part Five.

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