Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fearless Females Blog Post: March 13 ~ She Buried A Child At Sea

I only have a couple of family lines that can be traced “across the pond” so far. My Smith lineage is fairly well documented back to Nathaniel Smith and Elizabeth Duck, who came from Yorkshire, England, and settled in Nova Scotia.

I can’t even imagine sailing across the Atlantic in a brig the size of the Albion. But, three years earlier, in 1771, my Hamilton ancestors left Ireland behind, and my 5th great grandmother, Agnes “Nancy” Ferguson Hamilton lost a newborn baby during the voyage.

Accounts differ as to the birth of little Archibald Hamilton. One says mid-March, while the family’s arrival in Halifax also mentions March of the same year.

They sailed on the aptly named brig “The Hope,” Robert, Nancy, five children, Robert’s younger brother Hants and at least one nephew. And, somewhere during the arduous voyage, in a private corner of the ship, Nancy gave birth to her fourth son.

There is no account that I have yet discovered as to the cause of baby Archibald’s death. Whether illness, malnutrition due to the health of his mother, or accident, it must have been a very traumatic event for Nancy, the entire family, and the crew as well.

An account of a typical service for an infant burial at sea reads thusly:

'' A little child died last night and was buried today … the little body was sewn up in a bag, and laid on the grating of the main hatch, covered with a Union Jack. At 10 a.m. all hands were called up to attend the funeral. A few boards were laid from the ship's side to the long boat. The boatswain stood on the boards, the little body before him stretched on a piece of plank, still covered by the Union Jack. The boatswain had hold of the plank in one hand and the flag in the other. The doctor read the service over the body, and at the word of command the sailor pulled off the flag and tipped up the plank, and, amidst the tears of some and the sigh of many, the little thing was launched into the deep, and in a moment was lost to sight, and in ten minutes all things were going on as before.”

Source of quote: British Deaths At Sea.

Lisa Alzo of  The Accidental Genealogist blog is presenting her Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month series in honor of National Women’s History Month.

1 comment:

  1. I needed a tissue for that one... so sad. I have a journal from an ancestor who was a whaling sea captain. He brought his little son on a voyage and the boy died. They put his body in a barrel to bring it home to the mother, because he couldn't bring himself to bury the boy at sea. Can you imagine?