Further Details on the Five Ships – Interview with Bob Starratt

Here are some comments from Mr. Bob Starratt who has done years of research with primary sources into the Scotch-Irish migration story.  If any of you would like to be in touch with him, he can be reached at: [bobstarr@blueyonder.co.uk]

The “five ships” story (reference to this post) would appear to be based on information extracted from issues of the Boston News-Letter of 1718 by Charles Knowles Bolton for his book, Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America, Boston: 1910 (repr. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967 and 1972).  

[From readex.com:  “The Boston News-Letter was the first continuously published newspaper in the British Colonies of North America, surviving for 72 years. It appeared 13 years after the one and only issue of America’s first multi-page newspaper, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, was published in 1690.”]

The Boston News-Letter was a weekly newspaper, so some of the dates of ships arriving at Boston are not accurate to the day, but pretty close to it. A probably more accurate source, which is held by The National Archives of the U.K. at Kew, near London, is:

CO5/848: List of Entry of Ships &c. Taken at the Naval Office, Boston N.England 1718

Below is a summary from that document that gives the date of arrival, master’s name, nature of vessel, vessel name, general cargo and port of departure. Amazingly, the information it contains for the five ships that carried passengers agrees almost exactly with the information you supplied. The other vessels listed as having arrived at Boston from Ireland and Scotland during July to November 2018 doesn’t appear to have been carrying passengers.

As regards the “surety” paid by the masters of the vessels that carried passengers, that was a form of promissory note required by the then government of Suffolk County by which captains of such vessels promised, upon penalty of the amount of surety, that the passengers they were carrying would not cause any trouble in Boston and would not be left there to become a burden on either the state or the established church.

I have a copy of the surety pertaining to James Law, Master of the McCallum, which mentions an attached list of passengers, so it might be worth checking the sureties of all five ships’ captains for any passenger lists they might contain. I think the original records of the Suffolk County Court of General Sessions of the Peace, Book III, Sessions 1712-1719, are held by the Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point,

In the meantime, as you probably already know, the towns of Londonderry, Derry and Windham, NH are organizing a 300th Anniversary event that’s scheduled to begin the weekend of the 12th to 14th of April 2019, details of which you can find on www.nutfieldhistory.org.

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