How can I discover what happened to my merchant seaman ancestor?
QMy great grandfather Johan Martin Larrson, a merchant seaman, was born in Sweden in 1859. He married my great grandmother Mary Jackson on 12 August 1889 at the Parish Church of Newington in the county of York. He was 30 and my great grandmother was 19.
Thomas Martin Larson, my grandfather,g was born on 3 November 1890 in Myton, KingstonK Upon Hull. His father’sf name was given as JohnJ Martin Larsson and occupationo as merchant seaman.s From that date, Johan disappears.d Mary remarried ono 11 July 1910 at St John’s Church,C New Clee, Lincolnshire.L She was listed as a spinster. How can I find out whatw happened to Johan?
MarilynM Standfast, by email
AThe biggest problem there is about tracing 19th-century merchant seamen is that from 18561 no records were kept of individualsi so they must be traced throught other sources. One of the largestl and most comprehensive sourcess is the collection of Crew ListsL and Agreements, which presentp their own problems.
Firstly, the collection is not heldh together and the lists are spreads around 50+ institutions in thet UK and Newfoundland. Thankfully,T a lot of work has been doned on the Crew Lists by CLIP (Crew List Index Project), the Maritime History Archive, The National Maritime Museum and TNA. I started with a search of the 1881 database available from the Maritime History Archive at www.mun.ca/mha/1881/ crews1881.php,
which currently lists more than 216,800 names of seamen who went to sea in 1881.
The Crew List shows age and place of birth so the majority of the Larsons listed could be discounted as most of them were Norwegian and one Canadian. However, there is a John Larson serving on the Camilla (official number 54730) who was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and who gave his age as 26 – while this is about four years out, it’s not uncommon in Merchant Navy records. Interestingly, although his name is listed as Larson, his signature is Larsson. His previous ship is given as ‘same’ ( The Camilla) so it would be necessary to work back through Crew Lists until you could positively identify him. Sometimes a home address or other personal information is given. Assuming like many mariners he died at sea, I also checked the Deaths at Sea on Findmypast and there is only one death of a John Larsson that fits between 1890 and 1910 and that occurs in November 1900. It might be worth checking the British Newspaper Archive at britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
or findmypast.co.uk. Janet Dempsey
Merchant seaman Johan Martin Larrson’s marriage certificate and the birth certificate of his son Thomas Martin Larson