Wednesday 5 April 2023

Any shipowners, shipbuilders or master mariners in your tree?

Last week, Lloyd's Register Foundation's Heritage Centre released an enormous one million records online from the Ship Plans and Survey Reports collection. This is the first time this set has been online – it marks the start of a five-year digitisation programme – and allows researchers to seek out ancestors who were shipbuilders, shipowners and master mariners. You can look at diagrams and pictues of ships, too, if that's what rocks your boat. (Sorry.)

I've been lost in the collection for hours, and so will others with shipowners among their ancestors. This morning I found documents relating to ships owned by my 3 x great grandfather Edward Doolittle and his brothers John and Thomas. Edward was born in 1812 in Wicklow Town and seems to have been quite a character.

When he died in 1886, the locals named the street where he had lived 'Monkton Row'. Monkton was the name of his ship in which he traded across the Irish Sea to Milford Haven in Wales, to Liverpool in England and other small ports between. The family's other ships had pretty regular names such as Ellen and Bess, but I've long wondered where the 'Monkton' came from. None of my family research had yielded any clues.

The papers I found today for Edward's ship finally solved the mystery, and the Monkton doesn't have a genealogical connection; I can put that notion to bed. The documents were dated 14 April 1848 and showed the two-year-old 51-ton coaster schooner had been named after the place where it was built: Monkton near Pembroke in Wales. See image below.

Thanks to the Pembroke and Monkton Local History Society, I now also know that there used to be a small quay on the shallow Pembroke River at Monkton where the Hurlow family of merchants and shipbuilders were based. Indeed, they were also the builders of other schooners and brigs that the Doolittles captained, even if they didn't own them.

I've hardly got a blink of work done this morning, but I've thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's always great to welcome some fresh new records.