The estimate from the British National Archives came back fairly quick.  It seems the ‘pouch’ is only two pages, so that’s not much.  However, their charge to make a copy is £3.50 per page, and to have them mail it via airmail (the cheapest option) is another £11 (I have no idea why sending the equivalent of a two-page letter should cost so much).  I’ve asked for a revised estimate to have it made available for digital download instead, but I know what that will end up being:  no charge for the download, but the same per-page copying charge.

By contrast, the New Zealand Defence Force Archives sent me a file by parcel post with dozens of pages — for no charge at all.

That’s not to say that all the New Zealand archive sources are free.  The Births, Deaths, and Marriages office of the Department of Internal Affairs charges NZ$20 per registry copy, and NZ$26 for a certificate (but they don’t charge for postage, regardless of the destination).  I don’t know yet if the records from the Wellington City Archives will have a charge; they’ll let me know when they locate the record (I think I’m in a queue for that service).

ScotlandsPeople, a government office/website geared at Scottish genealogical information, has a different system.  There you purchase ‘credits’ for £7 per batch of 30.  Then it costs 1 credit to view a page of search results (this feels silly to me), and 5 credits to view and download an ‘image’ (which is essentially the document of interest).  It makes no difference how many pages comprise the document, however.  I thought this was going to be expensive, until I encountered the National Archives fee structure.  Now ScotlandsPeople feels positively cheap.

This is in contrast to online services like, which uses a flat monthly or annual membership fee.  Once the flat fee is paid, you have unlimited access to whatever they have until your membership expires.  It might seem expensive up front, at least for a ‘worldwide’ account, but pretty quickly one realizes what a great value it is.

On the other hand, is free.  They don’t have quite as much data as Ancestry, and the interface is not quite as nice, but they have different data, some of which is not available on Ancestry.  They’re especially good for UK census data.  Really, it seems that one needs to consult both.

Oh, and did I mention about the Yatman family history book?  My uncle confirmed that it was indeed the book he had referenced, and what’s more he had a spare copy to send me.  That’s $325 saved right there.  Thank you, Brian!

Of course, I’m not yet at the phase of travelling overseas for in-person research.

Gathering Data

I keep thinking I’m just about ready to publish the next piece about Captain Fraser, that I’ve found just about all the information I’m going to find and that I just need to go with it, and then suddenly a whole new trove of data — important data — opens up for me.  Yes, yes, we now have the basic facts of his life, birth, marriage, divorce, marriage, emigration, divorce, marriage, etc.  We know where he worked and basically what he did.  But records thought lost and unreconstructable are now proving to be available in archives, or sections within those archives, formerly unknown to me.  New avenues of research are appearing before me that are not just filled with trivia, but with the details that add life to his story, color to his sketch, and that will perhaps transport us back a little ways in time to put us briefly into his shoes.  I can almost smell the cordite and fear after the torpedo hit.  I can just about feel the cold of the Russian Arctic Convoys.  I can hear the angry longshoremen striking in Auckland Harbour.  Their voices are calling to me.  I just need… a little… more…

The New Zealand Defence Force Archives have proven their worth.  Included within the folder that came by post are copies of correspondence between a young Naval Reserve Lieutenant and the Navy Board about training exercises and promotions.  Enticing details on letterheads give clues about the Reserve Officer’s civilian job and life, such as a request for compassionate leave before the birth of a child, and the names of the merchant ships to which he was then assigned.  A fourteen-year period of the young Robert Fraser’s life emerges in a little more clarity.  Still, he didn’t enlist in the Naval Reserve until 1950, and by then he had already earned his Merchant Navy Master’s Certificate and been at sea for twelve years.  We need more.  We need to know about the Union Steam Ship Company.

And a search, often conducted, finally leads us to a new source.  A discussion board for ship enthusiasts and old sailors, Ships Nostalgia, has an entire forum for the Union Company!  I posted a question there to see if perhaps anyone who sailed with my father might recall him, and within a matter of hours someone replied to tell me where I might even find a photo taken of my father upon his promotion to Master (the caption says January 1957, but I believe this is incorrect; from other sources I believe the correct date is early 1956 or even late 1955):

Wellington Maritime Museum, New Zealand Ship and Marine Society

That’s him, all right, at the age of 35.  My correspondent went on to tell me that the Wellington City Archives kept copies of all the records, including personal files, of the Union Company, because the company with its 125-year history is considered significant to the national history.  For half of its existence it was the largest private employer in all of New Zealand.  So, I wrote to the Wellington City Archives, and they have agreed to search their files for my father.  That search is still ongoing at this writing, and I’m not certain how long it may take.

Before joining the Union Company, however, as a Cadet Robert Fraser worked for the British merchant company J & C Harrison’s, serving on at least three of their ships during the early years of the war.  That record, or rather his “seaman’s pouch”, has turned up with the British National Archives (aka Public Records Office), and I am currently awaiting an estimate on the cost of copying and posting it.  Since I’m not sure just how many pages might comprise the record, I don’t yet know if it will be cheap or expensive, but I expect it will be more on the inexpensive side.

In the midst of this research, I came across one final little oddity.  The New Zealand Defence Forces, just this year, have created a new medal, retroactive, to recognize those with at least three years of service in the post-war years.  With fourteen years in the Royal New Zealand Naval Reserve, my father qualifies.  It seems he might be receiving one last medal for his service to add to his collection, the New Zealand Defence Service Medal.  When I called him up and mentioned his medals (he has six now), he nonchalantly declaimed “oh, I don’t care about medals.”  When I mentioned that it looked like he would be getting a seventh, after all these years, his response was “Really?” and he got quite excited.  Doesn’t care, eh?  It seems deep down we all like to be recognized for our achievements, even if the proper response is to act as if we don’t.  It’s ok, Dad.  You certainly earned it.

Publishing Pedigrees

I’ve been doing some thinking about how best to publish a pedigree chart that would show the relationships between the various people I’ve mentioned to date and myself, and I admit this is where my newbie status as a blogger shows itself.  Indeed, this might be where it would be better to use a regular website and not a service like WordPress, which for all its power doesn’t seem to be very friendly to uploading formatted text, unless one is something of an expert with cascading style sheets and so forth.  I’m not, and nor do I really have a desire to be; I’m here to research and write, not spend all my time figuring out how to publish pretty pictures.  So, for those wanting to see a fancy chart, I’ll get there, but meanwhile I’ll have to resort to the old-fashioned descriptive text.

Of course, other genealogists (and genealogy bloggers) whose work I’ve followed seem to be of two minds about whether to even publish such charts in the first place.  For one thing, it seems there’s a trend toward “genealogy theft”, i.e. people simply lift the result of all your hard work and graft it onto their own family trees, for whatever reason I can’t quite fathom.  Why anyone not related to me would want to put my ancestors in their family tree is beyond me, but apparently it happens.  I suppose if I manage to somehow, some day, uncover the missing link between myself and some famous historical personage, it could be tempting for someone else with a family name appearing in my tree to “attach” themselves to that famous person.  It might look very impressive to their friends, but it wouldn’t be true.  Ah well, at this point I’ve not uncovered any such famous ancestors (well, maybe locally famous, but not such that they’d have a Wikipedia page or something).

Belay that last.  As I wrote that, I thought to myself, hmm, well, there is a line of ancestors on my father’s mother’s mother’s side that had a fair bit of money in the 19th century, a landed estate in England, and even a (rare) book* about them.  Perhaps I should check.  Wouldn’t you know it, my great-great-grandfather’s younger brother has his own Wikipedia entry after all.  It seems that 3x-great-uncle William Hamilton Yatman (1819-1913) was moderately famous for his feats as a rower while at Cambridge.  That, and a property he once owned is today a second home for Prince Charles.

Ok, maybe someone might want to lay claim to some of this line after all.  On the other hand, the Yatman family pedigree, at least as far as it went a hundred years ago, is well known, so anything I publish is not exactly going to be news.

Anyway, back to the original point, which was pedigrees for those mentioned so far — and yes, I realize I’ve now mentioned another one in this post.  In fact, let’s start with him.

William Hamilton Yatman (1819-1913) was the younger brother to John Augustus Yatman (1817-1894), about whom I will later have more to write.  John Augustus (or J.A.Y. as he sometimes signed papers) and his wife Anna Victoria Blachley Turner (1837-1922) had seven children, the eldest of whom was Frances Mary Yatman (1860-1949).  Frances (“Gran” to my father) married William Henry Statter (1857-1895), with whom she had three children.  She married again after William’s death (a Turner, but no relation to Anna Victoria as far as I can tell) and had two more children.  The youngest of her children by her first marriage was Gladys Annie Dinah Statter (1885-1980), affectionately known as “Nin” to those of us who knew her (she hated the name Gladys).  So far this has been an entirely English family, but Gladys married a New Zealander, John Fraser (1894-1964), and emigrated back to his country with him.  John and Gladys had six children (five who lived to adulthood), second eldest of whom was Robert William Campbell Fraser (1921-present day), my father.

In an earlier post about names, I introduced Alexander Fraser (1802-?) and his wife Grace Campbell (1811-?), residents of Perthshire, Scotland.  Alexander and Grace had ten children, second eldest of whom was Robert Campbell Fraser (1838-1905), who emigrated to New Zealand for reasons not yet known to me.  There he married a Kiwi girl, Sarah Ann Cliffe (1864-1936), and had eight children, four (or maybe five — I haven’t been able to track down what happened with one of the daughters) who lived to adulthood.  Third eldest of those living that long was my grandfather, John Fraser, the one who married Gladys of the Statter/Yatman family.

In The Voyage of the Adamant I introduced James Spratt (1844-1935) and his wife Maria Rawlinson (1844-1909), who emigrated from England to New Zealand.  See Emigrants to connect from the Spratts to me through my mother’s line.

* A History of Winscombe Hill and the Yatman Family, by Maria Forbes, published 2005, appears to be a very limited run.  I have found exactly one copy for sale, used, and the seller is asking for more than $300.  It might have to wait.  I have a few tantalizing photocopied pages sent me by my uncle which I believe are from this book, and which show my great-grandmother Frances and great-grandfather William at the time of their marriage.  I think the author wrote the book specifically for one modern descendant of the Yatmans, Sue Gunn, to whom it is dedicated, and who I believe may have been the last private owner of the family estate at Winscombe Hall.

Captain Fraser 1

A good place to start is with those still around to tell us their stories, and so a week ago I sat down with my father, set my iPhone in front of him on the Voice Memos app, and asked him to talk about anything he liked.  He was uncertain at first, even said I shouldn’t have told him I was recording so that he’d be more natural, but it didn’t take long before he forgot all about the recording device and just talked, and talked, and talked.

Mostly he talked about his time at sea, as those are the stories he remembers best and most likes to tell, and of course I had heard some of them before.  In times past he would suddenly launch into a detailed rendition about some naval engagement in World War II, and I would always regret that I didn’t have a tape recorder handy.  This time, with a little prompting, he went into much more detail, and the larger story of his early life began to emerge.  Before we were done that evening, I had recorded over an hour of our conversation, which I am still transcribing.  We covered the period of his life in some detail from the age of 17 until his late 20s, which covers the war years through obtaining his Master’s Certificate as a merchant mariner.  We touched on later events in a little less detail up until the time of his emigration to the United States at the age of 48, not much older than I am now.  I expect to follow up with him when he’s ready to go back into this period (1945-1969) in more detail, and also to press on to the later years, when of course I was more present in the picture and have a few memories of my own to complement.

Our discussion naturally raised more questions and left me with some leads for further investigation.  He mentioned attending “Clifton College” or the “University of Clifton” in Bristol, England, in 1938, studying in their Department of Navigation.  So, I contacted the Assistant Keeper of the Archives for Clifton College, which is a well-regarded public school (private school to Americans), knowing that it didn’t seem the sort of institution which would be training merchant mariners.  It is really more of a university-prep high school, and indeed the Archivist confirmed that my father was not on their rolls.  He suggested, however, that I try the City College of Bristol, which does have a marine studies program today.  I am waiting to hear back from them.

My father served on ships belonging to the J & C Harrison company out of England, but J & C Harrison is now out of business after having run steamships around the world for nearly 100 years.  He then served aboard ships for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand; they too are now defunct.

Southerly aspect from Norwich Quay. At No.4 Wh...
Union Steamship Company vessel MV Kaimiro at Lyttelton, New Zealand, in 1956

However, I have contacted Maritime New Zealand, which in the 40s and 50s was known as the Marine Department, and from them obtained a scan of handwritten entries in their register showing the dates my father’s 1st Mate‘s and then Master‘s Certificates were issued.  His received his 2nd Mate‘s Certificate in England, so they don’t have a direct record of that.  Unfortunately the actual Certificates, along with his papers detailing the ships he served aboard, have been mislaid during a house move in recent years, which is something of a tragedy.  I do hope that perhaps we will still find them among papers held in storage, but my confidence in this is not high.

I do have, however, a crew manifest from the Hartlepool upon her arrival in Astoria, Oregon, from Nagoya, Japan, in April 1939, in which my father’s name appears as a Cadet.  I also have a document from the British National Archives detailing one or more of the medals he was awarded for service aboard merchant ships during the war.  The actual medals still hang upon his wall in a frame.

Together we also applied for a copy of his service record from the New Zealand Defence Force Archives, as he was an active member and officer of the Royal New Zealand Naval Reserve.  I am still waiting to hear back, but as this is happening by regular postal mail, it may take a while.  It appears similar records may exist with the British Royal Naval Reserve and merchant service, but most of these do not appear to be available online; they will eventually require a personal visit to their offices.  Fortunately, I may be able to call upon family in England to help with that.

Slowly, piece by piece, his life is coming together as a coherent narrative.  For these early years, at least, it is a narrative of adventure, a boy running off to sea to find his future, a war shaping the boy into a man, and a man coming home only to sail over the horizon once more, commanding ships as they ply all the waters of the world.  There are torpedoes and dive bombers, cold Russian ports and warmer Pacific ones, romance across the Atlantic, and love found while far from home.

The Time Thief

Why are so many amateur genealogists retired?  Simple answer:  genealogy is time-consuming.  Don’t get me wrong, the detective work is fun, but after the initial rush when historical records just seem to fall in your lap, things really slow down and every new fact is hard-won, often involving many hours of research to locate and confirm.  For those who, like me, are still at work, weeks may pass between data points discovered.

So I find time wherever I can.  Sometimes I have twenty minutes at lunch, sometimes an hour in the evening, and like anything else, the context switch is expensive.  Computer scientists are familiar with this concept, the price (in time) paid to have a processor swap in and out of execution threads.  It works the same with people:  multitasking is expensive because of the time lost getting back up to speed on something after a context switch.  Everything is so much more efficient if one can just focus on it for several hours at a time, but those hours are necessarily taken at the expense of something else.

There is another aspect to time here, however.  Perhaps like many with this interest, I planned to research my roots “someday,” and it was only when I was laid up for a week with an injury that I felt “someday” had arrived and I began in earnest.  There is a cost to this delay:  those with direct memories of facts and events of interest are now getting on in years and may not be around later to tell what they know.  My father is now 90 years old, and his memory is not what it was even just a few years ago.  Names, dates, and places become confused, and everything must be carefully cross-checked.  He is also interested in seeing the results of my work, seeing his own links to ancestors — who knows, perhaps some famous ones? — and said to me pretty directly “You’d better hurry; I may not have much time, you know.”

So, I do feel a certain sense of urgency, and I am refocusing my research to fill in life details for more recent ancestors.  I know my father would like to know more about those a few generations back — his father never told him much about his grandfather — but his own story is so interesting that I want to make sure I get it right.  The stories of those more ancient will still be there waiting to speak to me.  Time is on their side; it is only the living who must steal it when they can.


Earlier I recounted a story of the emigrant ship Adamant on her 1875 voyage from England to New Zealand, but I didn’t give much detail about my connection to that ship.  The Adamant brought the Spratt family, of Liverpool, to New Zealand, where they settled in Invercargill, one of the most southern cities.  James and Maria Spratt (nee Rawlinson), both 31 years old, and four children, Maria (who turned 12 and became a “single woman” during the voyage), Elizabeth, Ada, and Harriet, all set out for a brave new world, leaving behind the life they had known.  James opened a shop in Invercargill as a sailmaker and cloth worker, and he and Maria had four more children after arriving in the new country.  One of these, Florence, born almost exactly four years after arrival, would become my great-grandmother.  James would live to the age of 90, and Maria to 65.

In 1905, at the age of 25, Florence Spratt married John Crabbe Winning, another native-born New Zealander of Scottish parents, moving their family slightly north to live in Dunedin, Waimate, and Timaru.  John was a butcher, and then a stationer, by trade, with a fancy goods shop in Waimate.  The both of them enjoyed singing, composing their own songs and performing in an orchestra.  They had two children, the elder of whom, Dulcie Rawlinson Winning, was my grandmother.  Florence would live to the age of 68, and John to 87.

Dulcie, born in 1908, at the age of 20 married a Christchurch man, John Charles Hargreaves, another native New Zealander born of English parents who would take her north to his town.  There they would have a daughter, Judith, who would later become my mother.  The family later moved to Wellington on the North Island, where John would rise to the position of managing director of a large department store, Kirkcaldie and Stains.  Unfortunately, Dulcie did not live a long life, passing away at the age of 47, and John went on to marry twice more, eventually being survived by his third wife when he died at the age of 84.

A year before her mother’s death, my mother married a dashing sailor, a merchant marine officer by the name of Robert Fraser from an Auckland family, and Auckland is where they chose to live, until 1969 when they emigrated to the United States with four children, one of whom was — me.

The Voyage of the Adamant

The Adamant sailed from England to the South Island of New Zealand in 1875, arriving at Bluff on December 4th after a voyage of 144 days.  It was one of the more unusual voyages for an emigrant ship, as you’ll see from this diary recorded by one of the passengers.  Among the passengers were the family of James and Maria Spratt, my ancestors.  My thanks to Elaine Mullins for passing this account on to me.

The Voyage of the Adamant

as recorded by Ben Ward, September 1875
A short sketch of the voyage, with an account of the ship running aground.

July 10th     We left Blackwall at about 2pm, and arrived off Gravesend about 4pm.
July 11th     More Emigrants arrive on board.
July 12th     The Government Inspector arrives on board and passed all correct. We had a splendid view of the Gravesend Regatta.
July 14th     At 1pm the Tugboat came alongside and we were tugged as far as Peachey Head.
July 16th     The Pilot leaves the ship. We had a splendid run down the Channel.
July 23rd     A child died belonging to Mr Hill, was buried with usual shipboard ceremony.
July 28th     A Mrs Phelps was confined of a son.
August 15th     One of the crew caught a shark which was cooked and some of us had the pleasure of tasting it.
August 21st     Crossed the line, seven of the crew undergo the curious old custom of being shaved.
August 28th     Concerts have been going on greatly to the amusement of the passengers for sometime past and they were enjoying themselves in this way this evening. Singing had not long commenced when the look-out on the forecastle shouted “Light ahead“. Some of us went forward to look at it. The Captain, First Mate, Boatswain, with others of the crew soon joined us, and using their glasses, came to the conclusion that it was a ship’s light. However, it did not appear to make way for us, for we were making right on it. After a short time, the Captain gave orders to bear off to the right. We were not sailing for more than fifteen minutes, if as long, when suddenly a light much larger than the first burst upon us. “Why” said some, “That’s another ship just put out her lights.” To the experienced, it was only too evident that a lighthouse which had hitherto had the dark part of the lantern towards us now glared in all its brightness towards us. Then came the scene.
Clear the deck, all married women below. All hands about ship,” were the orders given from the Captain in rapid succession. That, with the knowledge that the lights were land lights and not ship’s, caused some to think we were running aground. Indeed, one woman ran below wringing her hands, called for her children, shouting “What shall we do, we are on the rocks?” The ship was soon about and all was quiet, except among the women below, where there was some excitement and one or two fainted. The lights were watched for more than half an hour after the ship went about. The Captain certainly did not know where we were for he said the name of the place was Pernanbuco. Next day we learned that we were between 3 & 4 South Latitude. Pernanbuco is about 9º South, so much for the Captain’s care. This was the last concert held on board.

September 1st     Sighted an island named Fernando Noronha after tacking about. In fact it has been all tacking about on the coast, for we have had the south-east trades against us. We sight land again on the 4th, 5th, and 8th September. Still in sight of land, and we passed two black men in a boat, fishing.

September 9th     Saw lights from shore at 8pm.

September 10th     At 8pm, the Captain ordered married women below. They refused to obey as it was too soon and a beautiful night; at 8.15 he again ordered them below and again he was disobeyed. At 8.40 the Boatswain was ordered by him to play the hose upon them. The Boatswain acted as though he did not hear. At 9 o’clock he ordered them below again. At 9.15 they went below. As they were descending the hatchway, the captain threatened them in the following language, viz ; “The first time it blows half a gale of wind I will pay you for your trouble.” He made use of words to the same effect when going his rounds with the Doctor at 10pm.

September 11th     The following notice was affixed to the door of the stores, viz, “All married females are expected to go to their beds not later than 9.30pm, if ordered below earlier it will be for the working of the ship, or on account of bad weather.” by order Thomas Burch, Master. 11th Sept. ’75 G J Stewart, Surgeon.

September 13th     Once or twice it seemed as if we were trying how near we could get to land without meeting danger; more than once the rumour went around that we were very near running aground.

September 16th     The novelty of seeing land was now worn off. It was in sight all that day and we were slowly making on it; about 4pm, as the ship was put about, there was so little water that she actually stirred mud from the bottom. In spite of this, the Captain again ordered her about at 7pm. At 8pm rockets were fired from shore. One of the women on seeing them, said to the Captain, “Look at the lights“, on which he ordered the married women below, and the mainsail up ready to go about, and there, unfortunately, he stopped. At 8.30pm I was speaking to the Engineer. He told me he had stopped the engine, for we should not require any more water, and that he had packed up his box of tools in readiness to go ashore, as he said we should soon go aground if the Captain continued on the same tack as we were then going, and that he should not go to bed before he had seen the ship put about.

Being in such shallow water before on this tack, and so soon turning on it again, caused us to think we were getting in shallow water again. So they began sounding about 9.20pm. We were in nine and a half fathoms of water, at 9.50 the ship was put about.

At 10.5 the ship struck on a coral reef, but as the wind was very light, we did not go on with much force. I got up from bed and dressed myself, and when ascending the hatchway, I saw the Doctor, and he asked me what I wanted. Before I could reply to him, he told me to go below and pacify the women. I went below to please him.

There was some little excitement among them. It was no easy matter to pacify them. I then went on deck again, looked over the side, and found, as I had anticipated, that we were stuck fast. We must be thankful that it was a beautiful moonlight night and very little wind.

All the sails we set, including the Royals. Orders were given to square the yards to back her off. This was done several times, but finding they could not back her off in this way, word was given for all men to muster on the poop. They were desired to run from side to side. This had the effect of lifting the forepart of the keel, where she was caught, and the wind filling the sails from forward, they being square, drove her back, and we so got free, but only to get aground once more. The same means were again applied, and she was got off the second time. So we sailed away quite safe about 12pm. The whole time, the Doctor, 1st Mate, and 3rd mate acted manfully, the former in pacifying the women, the two latter in doing their utmost in getting the ship off.

The Captain, through whose intemperate habits we got aground, was holding himself on to the rails insensible through drink. The passengers did not care to go to their beds again, but gathered in groups expressing their indignation at the Captain’s conduct, and they determined to send in a requisition for the Captain to resign his post to the 1st Mate, owing to the former’s intemperate habits, also to put into the nearest port to have the ship examined. The passengers accordingly went on the poop to the 1st Mate and asked him if they were to send in a paper requesting the Captain to resign his post, would he take charge of the ship in his own hands. He gave them no definite answer, but requested them to go below, and assured them that he would answer for the safety of the ship for the future.

Going aground by no means came to us by surprise, for every thoughtful mind could see, by the way in which we were hugging so dangerous a coast, that it was next to impossible to escape some danger, more particularly when we consider that it was rumoured on good authority that the chart for the West Coast of South America was lost, and they were obliged to work on one that had become obsolete, and it was not for some time after we left the coast that the right chart was found.

September 17th     A requisition, signed by 106 male passengers as per copy was sent in to the Doctor. There was only a few who did not sign the requisition, most of them were employed on the ship, and so more or less, under a compliment to the Captain. The requisition was given to the Doctor who was somewhat against it. But seeing the passengers were firm, he handed it to the Captain, who threatened to log him for enticing the passengers to mutiny, which the Doctor rightly and stoutly denied. The Captain tore the paper up. This happened between 5 & 6 pm. The deputation waited for a reply to the requisition. The Captain replied he would send them an answer. After waiting some time, the following notice was affixed near the cabin door:

To Passengers in General
Please to mind your own business and leave navigation to myself.
Signed. Thomas Burch, Master
Charles Tupman ,1st Mate
O’Neill, 3rd Mate

We very much felt the need of some provisions in the law. Here was the Captain in command of a ship with about 250 souls on board. His intemperance unfitted him for his post.. He would not allow the 1st Mate to exercise his judgement, but insisted on commanding himself. We saw our danger, but to act determinedly would be mutiny. We ask him to put in at the nearest port, he coolly refuses. Would it be any use suggesting to the authorities that there be no strong drink except that used for medical comforts on board an Emigrant ship?

September 18th     We get a breeze from land which takes us out to sea.
September 21st     Sight land at daylight.
September 26th     The wheel was lashed.
September 28th     A Mrs Hart was confined of twins.
October 10th     Very rough, ship a heavy sea, which came between decks.
October 12th     A Mrs Phillips confined of a son.
October 13th     Passed the Cape of Good Hope.
October 17th     A Mrs Ayling confined of a daughter.
October 21st     Sight Prince Edwards Island, the top of which is covered with snow.
October 24th     At 4am, Mrs Ayling died, was buried at 1pm. Saw an iceberg.
October 27th     Saw two more icebergs.
November 3rd     A cask containing some rum was thrown overboard by the Chief Officer’s direction.
November 4th     Money left in the care of the Captain by passengers was returned to passengers by Chief Officer.
November 6th     At 5.40pm, the Captain died.
November 7th     The Captain was buried at 12 o’clock noon. The unfortunate gentleman was never seen on deck but twice since the ship ran aground.
November 17th     Mrs Hill confined of a daughter which only lived a short time.
November 22nd     Had cable up anchors, served out with the last of preserved meat, only had sufficient for the children.
November 23rd     The last of the pork is served out.
November 24th     Have porridge made for breakfast and served out with boiled rice for dinner in place of preserved meat.
November 25th     Store day. Each mess are served out with about 1lb of butter, no raisins. The single men receive no butter or tea.
November 27th     Pearl barley is issued in place of arrowroot or sago for children, and sugar in place of treacle.
November 28th     Sight a vessel Homeward bound from Melbourne. By orders of the Chief Officer, the lifeboat on the weather side is lowered and the 2nd and 3rd mates, accompanied by four of the crew rowed across to her, and returned with a small cask of flour, which fell overboard while hauling the boat up. After a short time, the boat on the lee side is lowered, and they succeeded in getting the cask again which they managed to get on board this time.

We had a very pleasant voyage. The food was very good with the exceptions of the potatoes and bread. The potatoes at the beginning of the voyage were so bad that at the rate of only one or two issued for a mess could be eaten. The bread was very bad for nearly all the way out, owing to having such bad flour for consumption. It was so bad at times that several batches were obliged at times to be thrown overboard. The oatmeal and rice were issued in a cooked state for about a week before arrival only.

We were fifty-one days in the tropics, and saw several kinds of fishes, amongst them may be mentioned whales.

The following is a correct copy of the requisition as given to the Doctor viz:-
To: George Stewart, Surgeon Superintendent
We the undersigned emigrants on board the ship “Adamant”, do earnestly request that the Captain give up the authority he now holds on board the above mentioned ship, to the 1st Mate before proceeding any further on our journey, as we consider our lives in peril through the ship being run aground about 10 o’clock pm, September 16th 1875. And likewise through the intemperate habits of the Captain, Thomas Burch. And if the Captain refuses to act in accordance with this requisition, we desire to be put in at the nearest port.

Ship “Adamant” September 17th, 1875

Daniel Smith                    F Fox                       M Butler
C F Hill                            Thomas Mason          Alfred Johnson
John Chittleburgh             F Gavey                    Thomas Brown
Duncan MacDonald           Thomas Lockerbie      Alfred Gilbert
Benjamin Ward                 John Hart                  J Thorn
Thomas McIntosh              Edward S Phillips       Stephen Henry Richard
G Conland                        George Beaxley          William Chantler
Benjamin Phelps               James Spratt            John Roderick
John Williams                   Frederick Sparke         John Disney
John Lightfoot                  Thomas Kelly              John Ford
Alfred Hart                       John O’Dwyer             John Irwin
Samuel C Lloyd                B Murphy                    Charles Rodan
Alfred Cowing                   M O’Neill                    Ben McGinn
Geaoge Ford                    William Bell                 M Connelly
William Hart                     James Stackpool         Dennis Kession
Robert Robertson              Henry Ker                  Thomas Joyce
Stephen Goldsworthy         Jos Perry                   James Feely
John Beer                          J W R McCandley       James Small
Hugh McShane                   R B Morris                 E Keenan
E Johnson                          Daniel Mc Coey         P Keenan
J Moseley                          Hugh Walker              C H Simmons
D J Service                        John Jackson             John Logan
J Wakeling                         William Shand            Henry Jones
G Culf                               P Walsh                      Alex McLennan
B Stackpool                       T Nille                        Alex McDonald
Dennis o’Neill                     Pat O’Connel              Nathan Ayling
Foster Wilkinson                 J Gifford                     M Cran
Stephen Burgess                Teress Fitzonan           W Keenan
T O’Sullivan                       William Batt                 Alfred Cochrane
George Geoffrey                 Richard Plaw               Robert McDougall
Dugald Livingstone             James Maher               Thomas McIntosh
John Bergin                        William Durie              James Deliny
D Donovan                         P Stackpool                 Kyren Clarke

The “Adamant” arrived at Bluff on December 4th,1875, after a voyage lasting 144 days. Maria Spratt turned twelve on the voyage, thus becoming a “single woman”, and was given into the care of the matron. This cost the New Zealand Company a further six pounds. The total cost to the company for the Spratt family to emigrate was sixty-six pounds. (Source, shipping list, Auckland Museum)

What’s in a name?

My name is Matthew Robert Campbell Fraser (but you can call me Matt).

I’ve long assumed that my middle names came from my father, Robert William Campbell Fraser, but the original source for the name Campbell was always a mystery to me until very recently.  For that matter, I didn’t know where William came from, and I don’t think I gave much thought to the origins of Robert, or even Matthew.  My mother once told me, when I was still a child, that she and my father nearly named me Christopher; as my father is fond of calling himself “Robin” instead of “Robert”, the temptation to call me “Christopher Robin” would probably have been too much, so perhaps I should be grateful for small mercies.

Back to the Campbell mystery, however.  As children we’re often told all sorts of apocryphal tales about our family histories.  I took it as an article of faith, based on these tales, that long ago in Scotland the Fraser and Campbell clans had fiercely feuded with each other, and so I wondered how that name should show up in mine.

Photo of Clan Fraser's gravestone located on t...
Image via Wikipedia

However, this story does not appear to be true.  While the Campbells certainly feuded a lot, I haven’t seen much historical evidence of it being with the Frasers, with one perhaps notable exception:  the clans were on opposing sides in 1746 at the Battle of Culloden, during the Jacobite Risings, and I can see how this may have led to some hard feelings.  Still in the past couple hundred years there are many instances of intermarriage between the clans, and today just as there are Campbell Frasers like me, there are also Fraser Campbells out there.  So, the feud story isn’t true.

In fact, it’s those intermarriages that finally explain the origin of the name.  A Campbell is indeed among my ancestors:  Grace Campbell, who in 1835 married Alexander Fraser in Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.  Grace and Alexander are my great-great-grandparents, and their names show up again among their descendants.  Their second son was — wait for it — Robert Campbell Fraser.

So, Campbell mystery solved, and now we know where Robert came from.  Was I named for my father or my great-grandfather?  Both, really, as my father was certainly named for his grandfather.

So what about William?  Where does my father obtain this middle name?  Here the tradition of naming for grandparents holds; once again, he was named for a grandfather, this time on his mother’s side:  William Henry Statter, an Englishman, whose daughter married the son of Robert Campbell Fraser.

Among Frasers there are some names that appear very frequently.  Hugh, Simon, Alexander, Robert, John:  these are all very popular first names for male Frasers.  So, how did I become a Matthew (besides avoiding a Milne reference that would have dogged me for life)?  I have a sister named Deborah, so I’ve theorized that my parents went through a phase of using Biblical names, but they didn’t stick exclusively to that.  It’s a mystery still.

I suppose I could just ask them.

A migration from Scotland, to New Zealand, to America


Welcome to the new blog and site for Clan Fraser in Seattle and our family history, stretching back to New Zealand, Scotland, and England (and maybe a little sideways into Australia, as we may discover).  I’m just getting started, both with publishing this blog, and with research into my own genealogical roots as I explore back in time.  Stay with me, and I hope you enjoy the result.