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

Thursday, January 26, 2012



Home is where the heart is (Pliny the Elder 23-79 AD)


The Last of the Clan
Thomas Faed (1826-1900)

This well-known painting was inspired by the Highland Clearances and shows a group of people watching the departure of their friends bound for the colonies.


Some time during the 1890s five brothers of my paternal grandfather went to the USA and found work in Andrew Carnegie’s steel works in Pittsburg. Two of them decided to stay and brought their families to settle in the States.

It was in the 19th century that a great many Scots emigrated to America. Poverty and unemployment were perhaps the main causes of this great movement of the population, but for some 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 that 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 my Jaap ancestors, and others whose connection with us in uncertain.

The following is an extract 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 Ellison’s 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, and it’s probable she was connected in some way.


Mount Nebo, Utah
The photographer - Cory Maylett
Taken from Wikipedia and shown here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Licence.


Next post here Monday 30th January


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