Sea Travel in the 1800s

Family immigration to America

Passenger lists are a great source of information for family historians, one of my own ancestors travelled frequently between England and America between 1830 and 1860 but it was only recently that I started to think about just how tough such travel must have been. Safety standards were virtually non-existent, most ships weren’t required to, and didn’t, carry enough lifeboats to save everyone on board and it was only after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 that safety standards were really tightened up. The space on board was cramped with most cabins measuring only 6ft square and were often shared by two and sometimes three people. Steerage was even worse with rows upon rows of iron bunks tiered from floor to ceiling. With little ventilation, not a place you would want to spend time in. People paid well for these crossings in such conditions, one shudders to think of the conditions those transported to Australia, New Zealand and other colonies must have suffered.

So next time you come across an ancestor who decided to emigrate it is worth thinking about just how brave (or desperate) they had to be to undertake such a perilous journey.