The Voyage to America
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Everyone that arrived on this continent from overseas, had to come by ship. From the early ships like the ungainly "Mayflower" to the majestic sailing ships of the mid 1800's, everyone had to endure 5 to six weeks on-board a sailing ship. These ships were not large and were primarily designed to fight wars or to transport goods from one place to another. Most of the paintings of ships are of War Ships and a few are of commercial ships.  We have not been able to find a painting of a passenger ship, probably because there weren't any.  When the migrations from Ireland started in 1714, vessels of all kinds were pressed into service for carrying passengers. Often times, 300 people were packed into a ship and assigned tiny cots lined up side by side to make maximum use of space. Extra floors were often installed so that more cots and hammocks could be setup to handle more people. The head room that resulted was barely enough to allow one to creep in a stooped position to an assigned cot. Men, women and children were all crammed together. Exercise room was very limited. Food was eaten "in place" with no dining rooms available. Food after the first week was moldy and sour. Water became foul and undrinkable. Disease was all too often present with disastrous results. Death at sea was a common occurrence - as was child-birth. People dying at sea where just thrown overboard because there was no way to preserve bodies long enough to reach shore. One considering a sea journey had to look beyond just the comfort aspects of the trip - there was a very real chance that one would not arrive at all.  Storms were an all too often occurrence as there was no way to predict the weather. Ships were often blown off course to arrive weeks late and to be forced into ports far from their original destination. Pirates were very common, operating without hindrance off the American coast during the first half of the  1700's.

Here are several pictures of sailing ships used during the 1700's. Their external beauty hides the harshness of their interiors. While there were minor changes in the design of hulls, the interiors of sailing ships remained essentially unchanged over the years from 1492 until the mid 1800's. With the advent of the iron hull and steam power, things began to change for the better.


British Frigate and Brig

Early Sailing Ship 1850's

In 1718 this is what you sailed on.


By Thomas Butterworth

By Gordon Grant


 During these years there were rarely any records kept of departing passengers on the Irish side and only few records of those arriving here. No ship passenger lists were available until much later on in the century. Records of the early arrivals of 1714 and later, only occurred if there was a problem. One of our most valuable records is the Journal of the Selectmen of Boston whose job it was to be sure amongst other things that no one remained in Boston that could not carry their own weight. Illness was no excuse.  The scheme of "warning out" those that were deemed by the Selectmen as not self-supporting, has given us our most valuable records on those early arrivals.  Our Robert Doak shows up as an arrival here ONLY because he was "warned out" of Boston and shows up on the records because of that. Only Heads of Family were warned out, so Robert's wife and all their children were not recorded.

  When Robert Doak arrived in 1718, the port of Boston looked something like this.