THOMAS and JOHANNAH to Canada
I would like to share my latest research results with you regarding our common ancestors and their emigration
to Canada. My newest information comes from National Archives files on microfiche, which I viewed personally, and facts derived
through various internet sources.
Some of the new information does not "fit" with what has been previously thought to be true based on handed
down stories, but is based on fact and cannot be disputed.
"Pa", as we know him, was not born during the voyage to Canada and may "possibly" have been born a bit before
1868 as was thought. In fact, his parents, Thomas and Johannah were residents of England at the time of their leaving for
Canada. They may have lived in England for quite some time as all of the children, with the exception of the youngest, Edward
(Ned) were noted on the 1871 and 1881 Canada Census as born in England. Family lore had it that Hannah had relatives in England
and would "go there" to have her kids. (personally I think the cost would have been prohibitive) Family lore also has it that
Pa was born on the Isle of Wight (on the way over) Lastly, our ancestral family surname may not be "O'Connor" at all, but
rather, "Connor" or "Connors". The last two names were used on the Canada Censuses of 1871 and 1881. On the ship's passenger
list (that they sailed on) the family is listed as "Connor". The earliest record I have been able to find, where the surname
is recorded as "O'Connor" is on the death certificate for Thomas Patrick Senior (Pa's father) According to what I have read
about genealogy searches, this is a common problem. In those days, persons recording such information were not overly attentive
to accuracy concerning spellings of names, also the Irish were known to frequently add or drop an "O" from their surnames,
for whatever purpose suited them.
Thomas Senior was a dockyard worker in Portsmouth, England at the time that they left for Canada. The Isle
of Wight is just a few miles off the Portsmouth harbour, so it is a possibility that Johannah had relatives on the Island
and that she and Tom lived on the island, with Tom taking a ferry to the mainland to work. Or they might have lived in Portsmouth,
but she travelled over to the island to have her kids, with Mom in attendance, "who knows"? Mystery yet to be solved. I am
working on it.
In 1869 times were tough in Portsmouth and 500 dockyard workers were unemployed and being assisted by the
local government. In mid April of 1869 the executive committee of the British and Colonial Emigration Society held a meeting
at their offices with a view to using their accumulated funds to relocate these unemployed dockyard workers to Canada ( those
who wanted to go) The British govt. donated 2 troopships from the Royal Navy, for this purpose, HMS CROCODILE and HMS SERAPIS.
The emigrants sailed on these troopships, from Portsmouth to Quebec City, but the ships were in a civil role and filed passenger
lists (which ships did not do when carrying troops) The emigrants got some money from the Society, some from the Govt. and
had to contribute some of their own, actually the cost per adult was 2pounds 5 shillings. The Crocodile was the first to sail,
followed 2 wks later by the Serapis.
Our ancestors sailed on the SERAPIS, leaving Portsmouth Apr.27/69 and arriving in Quebec May 15, a voyage
of some 19 days! There were a total of 707 passengers, 326 male, 166 female and 215 children under 12
The family was listed as CONNOR and the ages noted, were as follows: Thomas 30 Johannah32 Patrick 14 Mary
Ann 5 Thomas 3 Elizabeth infant
That contradicts ages on the census records. I know that the census used "age next year" and so with Pa being
recorded as 3 in 1871, he would actually be 3 in 1872 Yet on the ships passenger list of 1869 he is recorded as 3. So there
is much confusion on these points. Also Tom and Hanna are stated to be each 34 on the "71 censusand 44 each on the '81 yet
the ships list has them 2 years apart. On the '71 census Patrick is 18 so he would really be 17...that means 15 in 1869 and
that the age on the ships list is 14
Mary Ann is 6 on the '71 census so really 5...that means she would have to be 2 in 1869 but the ship list
has her as 5
Thomas (PA) is 4 on the '71 census, so really 3...that would make him 1 in 1869 and that would corroborate
his believed birthdate of 1868
Elizabeth is 3 on the '71 census so really 2...that would mean infant in 1869 and that agrees with the ship
Draw your own conclusions....
On all censuses though Tom and Hannah are stated to be born in Ireland
and it is noted he could neither read nor write, although she could.
I am attaching a picture of the SERAPIS
She was a magnificent ship, one of 5 sister ships built for the Royal Navy...the others were the CROCODILE,
JUMNA, EUPHRATES and MALABAR
The ship was about 6200 tons, had a single screw and three masts rigged for sail, with 1 funnel. She had a
speed of 15 knots (fairly fast). the hull was painted white and she had a "ram-bow" which was forward projecting. these ships
were built in 1866 and lasted nearly 30 years.
The following article was in the Montreal Gazette May 6, 1869 and described the first ship, CROCODILE leaving
Portsmouth harbour. I would imagine the SERAPI leaving would be very similar......" the ship, with its crowd of emigrant passengers
left the jetty at Portsmouth for Canada. During the morning the inhabitants of the town and the men still at work in the dockyard
there showed great intrest in the vessel and her unusual freight. when the ship was seen to move the efforts of the policemen
on duty to keep the workmen in their several sheds were entirely in vain. the men swarmed in hundreds along the face of the
jettyand wherever a view of the departing ship could be had, joined in rounds of hearty and prolonged cheers with those who
were before on the jetty. Those aboard acknowledged these cheers, men , women and children hurrahing and waving hats and handkerchiefs.
As the ship passed down the harbour crowds of people who had assembled on the Hard and Portsea along the Common Hard, at the
Albert Pier, at Point, at Victoria Pier and at Southsea, all cheered lustily. "
I have located and viewed the record of death certificate for Thomas Patrick but not for Johannah. He died
in Hamilton 23 Nov 1905 at the age of 67 death certificate # 03104805
This would have him born in 1838 which would have him age 33 in 1871 and recorded on that census as 34 (age
next year) Therefore I think the age on the ships passenger list was wrong.
I searched every record of death in ont. for johannah under Connor, Connors, and O'Connor from 1869 until
1905 and there is nothing. I am wondering if it was recorded under her maiden name of Bowen and intend to check that on microfiche
next chance I get.
Please give me your feedback on all of the foregoing information.
cousin KELLY O'CONNOR