Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This photograph is one of the oldest we have of the Jaaps. Taken about 1888, it shows George and Jean Jaap with their six sons.
Standing (Left to Right) -  John Armour Jaap b.1868 (my grandfather), Walter Jaap b.1866, Richard Jaap b.1870, Robert Jaap b.1872
Centre - Andrew b.1875
Seated - George Jaap b.1834, James Jaap b.1878, Jean Armour b.1841. 

I've been reading again some of the material which I posted a while ago on my Eighty Plus Four blog, and the following article is worth repeating for the benefit of anyone who hasn't seen it before.

My great-grandfather George Jaap (1834-1908) was a coal miner. In 1865 he married Jean Armour (1841-1911). They had six sons, plus Jean’s own daughter Elizabeth who was brought up in the family as a Jaap.

Some time in the 1890s five of the boys went to the USA and found work in Andrew Carnegie’s steel works in Pittsburg. Two of them Robert and James decided to stay and brought their families to settle in the States. The others - Walter, my grandfather John (who hadn’t been on the American trip), Richard and Andrew remained in Scotland.

During the 19th century a great many Scots emigrated to the USA. Poverty and unemployment were perhaps the main causes of this great movement of the population, but for others there was the attraction of going to a country where, so it was believed, a higher standard of living was attainable.

It’s difficult to imagine the feelings of the brave souls who left their homes and friends behind, heading for the unknown. Certainly, for those whose adventure began in the earlier part of the 19th century, the journey was no “piece of cake.”

Liverpool was the main starting-off point and very often travellers had to wait for days, living in dirty, over-crowded lodging houses, being constantly harassed by pickpockets and thieves who would steal their luggage and make them pay for its return.

The journey by sailing ship took about 35 days. Most folk were accommodated in steerage, which was like a dormitory with bunks on both sides and tables down the middle. There was serious overcrowding, poor ventilation and, apart from seasickness, there were cases of cholera and typhus. What a nightmare it must have been!

Things had improved considerably by 1860 when steam ships had replaced sailing vessels. By that time healthy competition had grown between shipping companies who were keen to do what they could to attract customers, and 3rd class cabins had largely taken the place of steerage. And most important of all, the journey was now taking 7-10 days.

Of all those who emigrated, a surprising number were Mormon converts on their way to Utah. There had been a lot of Mormon activity particularly in England from 1835, and it was claimed that by 1850 they had made 30,000 converts. On two occasions they hired the SS Sailor Prince to convey their new members from Liverpool to New Orleans, and on the second trip in 1848 (which took 57 days) their number included members of a family who were related to one of our Jaaps.

If you are familiar with our Jaap family tree website, you will probably have seen the following paragraph which we obtained from Mormon archives.

In 1856, Brigham Young, the Mormon president, devised a plan whereby emigrants from Britain could come to Utah if they were willing to pull handcarts and walk the 1,300 miles from Iowa to Salt Lake City. Ellison Jaap, her husband Paul Gourlay and two small children were members of the Edward Martin Handcart Company. Unfortunately this group was late in beginning their trip in the fall of 1856, and met with disaster when winter storms trapped the emigrants along the Sweetwater River in Wyoming. Two hundred members of the company died of starvation and cold, before Brigham Young could send a rescue party of wagons from Salt Lake City. Ellison Jaap's two young children died. There are conflicting stories on the fate of Ellison. One report says she died in Wyoming, and the other states that she made it to Utah. A journal kept by one of the members of the Martin Company mentions the death of her seven month old child Margaret with the following entry: "15 August 1856, a child was buried this morning. The coffin had to be made, which delayed us until about eight o'clock."

A very sad story! We know that Ellison Jaap came from Fife where our ancestors lived, but as far as we know she was not related to our family.


This video has been made available on You Tube by Alex Airlie. When you look at those old photos of where people lived in the Glasgow of the 19th century, you can understand why so many folk were prepared to leave Scotland and begin afresh elsewhere.


My new blog A Touch of Culture begins tomorrow Friday 1st October at -


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