Q and A
WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS SAILOR’S WIDOW?
I know quite a lot about one of my great-great-grandfathers and his wife, thanks to family history word-of mouth through several generations added to by what I and others have found in public records. Now I would like to know more, but need help.
One of my great-great-grandfathers was Niels Peter JACOBSON, a naturalised Danish-born sea-captain who married Catherine JONES, a Welsh girl who had come to Liverpool with her father, a carpenter, and the rest of his family in the 19th century. The couple lived in a house Niels had bought in Seacombe Street, Everton.
Niels worked for the ship owners Hatton and Cookson of Liverpool, as master of their barque Heroine. Lloyds List, 24th December 1850, reported that on 20th December, while en route for Bonny (in what is now Nigeria) Heroine met a ship in distress, the Laura Campbell, en route to Liverpool. Heroine got a line aboard and towed her to Queenstown Harbour, Ireland, where a steamship completed the final stage of the rescue. Niels returned to Liverpool, I assume to establish a claim for a salvage award on behalf of his employers, himself and his crew.
On 23rd and 27th January 1851, Lloyds List reported that letters to Captain JACOBSEN of the barque Heroine, and identifiable wreckage, had been washed ashore at Howes Strand and Ballycroneen on the Irish coast. It was ‘feared that the vessel had been totally wrecked’. The loss of Heroine and all hands was reported in the Liverpool Telegraph and Shipping Gazette and the Liverpool Courier, though, as far as I know, without the ‘human interest’ stories (such as interviews with widows) which would be normal today. The Liverpool Times did not report the loss, but in Ireland the Cork Examiner reported serious storms at sea and heavy loss of life.
According to a genealogist who helped me in the 1980s, no will could be found. His widow, Catherine, was described as ‘annuitant’ in the 1851 census. There are three things I would very much like to know. First: did Catherine receive the salvage award that Niels would have been entitled to, and if so how much was it? Second: who bought Catherine’s annuity and how much was it? Third: would Catherine have been free to sell or let the house Niels had bought?
My interest is not in the money as such but the bearing it may have had on Catherine’s later life, much of which we now know in detail. She left Seacombe Street and in 1856 married David DAVIES, who had been a sailor but became a butcher. They settled in Llandudno along with her two children. The family story has it that DAVIES was a wastrel who squandered her money and even stole her possessions. This cannot be verified and could be no more than conjecture based on the suspicion that a man who marries a woman ten years older than he, with two young children, may have other motives than love alone. We know that when DAVIES was no longer alive she returned to Liverpool and did not have an easy life there. She ended her days as a pauper in a Liverpool Workhouse.
The answers to the three questions in your interesting narrative are, I regret, fairly short. Essentially, an annuity was a fixed income paid at regular intervals (usually annually) to a nominated person in return for a lump sum payment having been made into the scheme by the subscriber. The term of the payment was usually the lifetime of the nominee, who might have been the subscriber or a third person. On the census returns, the term annuitant could describe someone on an annual allowance as well as someone receiving annual income from an investment. It was also sometimes used for institutionalised pensioners. Possibly she was in receipt of some sort of pension from Hatton and Cookson.
Lloyds Marine Collection, held at Guildhall Library in London (Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH; tel: 020 7332 1862/3; email: email@example.com; website: www.history.ac.uk/gh) does not contain any insurance or administrative records. The records held relate only to the Corporation of Lloyd’s, and not to the individual insurance underwriting syndicates which are members of it. The individual syndicates may have their own records, but they would first need to be identified, and any records which have survived may not be available to the public. Lloyds List, to which you have referred, does contain Salvage Receivers Reports from October 1846 and Salvage Association Reports from 1870.
You say that a genealogist in the 1980s could not identify any will (or administration either presumably) for Niels JACOBSON. Before 1858, jurisdiction over those dying at sea rested with the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. PCC wills have been digitised and indexed on TNA’s Documents Online website (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline). For PCC administrations you will need to make searches at the Family Records Centre (until March 2008) or The National Archives. The records of two London Courts are also rich in wills and administrations for mariners dying overseas. Those for the Archdeaconry Court of London end in 1807, but the Commissary Court of London continues until 1857. These records are held at Guildhall Library.
Lastly, if Niels has bought the freehold of the house in Seacombe Street, I can see no reason why his widow could not have sold or let it as she wished. You could investigate the Electoral Registers to see what information is given at that address from 1851. I believe these to be held at the Liverpool Record Office (Central Library, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EW; tel: 0151 233 5817; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.liverpool.gov.uk/archives).
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