Q&A

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - Si­mon Wills

Can our ex­pert break through a brick­layer’s brick wall?

QMy an­ces­tor Wil­liam Pennock, a mas­ter mariner, died at Narva, Rus­sia, but how did this news reach Eng­land? His me­mo­rial stone in East York­shire states that he died at Narva on 9 Oc­to­ber 1859, but was in­terred in York­shire on 24 Novem­ber 1859. The stone also records his son, John, who drowned in the Mediter­ranean in March 1860. The Whitby Gazette

of 15 Oc­to­ber 1859 records Wil­liam’s death “about 9th inst at Narva”.

How was Wil­liam’s body pre­served and brought back, I as­sume on the Lady Jo­ce­lyn,

on a 1,500-mile voy­age, in about 42 days? Also, how did news of his death get from Narva on 9 Oc­to­ber in time for pub­li­ca­tion in the Gazette

on 15 Oc­to­ber? Would log­books give de­tails? Ray­mond Pennock

A When Wil­liam Pennock died, it would not have been un­ex­pected if he had been in­terred at Narva. How­ever, if his son was on board, then the crew might have de­cided to bring his body home out of re­spect for his fam­ily. It was win­ter and the Baltic is cold, so a corpse would not de­com­pose quickly, but it is prob­a­ble that Cap­tain Pennock’s body was sealed up in a bar­rel of spir­its to pre­serve it.

The Lady Jo­ce­lyn was a small sail­ing vessel of 259 tons. It would have to wait for a favourable wind to de­part, and was a slow ship. Yet this was the era of steamships, which didn’t need a favourable wind and were faster, so the news of his death was prob­a­bly brought home by a Bri­tish steamship bound for north-east Eng­land. It was usual prac­tice for ur­gent news to be brought back home in this way. In 1859 you could cross the At­lantic by steam in un­der 10 days, so a steamship could eas­ily have reached Whitby from Narva within a week.

It would be worth trac­ing the crew list to see if Wil­liam’s son John was on board when he died. It was quite com­mon for boys to be ap­pren­ticed to fam­ily mem­bers. If a log­book has sur­vived it will be archived with the crew list, and these

‘The Baltic is cold, so a corpse would not de­com­pose quickly’

doc­u­ments may re­veal the cir­cum­stances of Wil­liam’s death. You’ll need the of­fi­cial num­ber of the Lady Jo­ce­lyn to iden­tify the crew list (via crewlist. org.uk/#Data) – the of­fi­cial num­ber is 24687. The Lady Jo­ce­lyn’s crew list for 1859 should be at The Na­tional Archives in BT98/6086.

Wil­liam Pennock’s son, also named Wil­liam, with one of his 14 chil­dren by his wife Mary (née Peene), who is pic­tured above

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