In Part 1 of this post I wrote about my husband's great great grandfather, Captain John Winn, a master mariner who disappeared in "North America" sometime between 1830 and 1848.
In trying to crack this major brick wall I have pursued many different lines of research. I began by reading this book, published by the Society of Genealogists:
I then explored the following sources:
I cannot find John Winn in the 1841 or 1851 British censuses, the 1840 or 1850 US Federal censuses or the 1851 Canadian census.
Lloyds Registers of Shipping
These annual lists can be fully viewed on Google Books. I have extracted the names of all merchant ships with a captain or owner called Winn between 1807 and 1865. I have eliminated those vessels where I have been able to discover the captain's first name and it is not John. I've also eliminated those still sailing from British ports after 1848.
This leaves me with six captains & vessels:
- 1811-12, Thirsk, J Winn, Hull coaster
- 1822, Holland, Winn, Exeter coaster
- 1830-33, Legatus, Winn, Sunderland, Bristol, Montreal
- 1832-33, Kate, Winn, New Brunswick, London, Halifax
- 1836-40, George Canning, Winn, Newcastle, Halifax, Bombay
- 1841-44, Rainbow, Winn, London, Cape of Good Hope
There are three masters called Winn on the Ship's List website but, from the names of their ships, I have eliminated all three as being different people. The captain of the Legatus is also mentioned there, spelled Wynn. Using One-Step Webpages I turned up a John Winn, ship master, aged 35 years & 4 months, who arrived in New York from the Turks on board the schooner "Deposit" on 23 August 1836. However, he is described as US born & resident.
I can find no will, and no action by the family to have him declared dead.
Records of Merchant Seamen
There are no records of merchant navy officers in the UK before 1845. I spent a day trawling through seamen's records and crew lists at the National Archives. There were many John Winns, all ordinary seamen, but nothing to identify my man.
I can find no reference to him (such as a missing person advert) in the British Library's 19th century newspaper collection.
Genealogy Bank turns up various references in US newspapers in the 1830s to John D Winn, captain of the Eliza from Salem, Massachusetts.
I can't find him listed as the captain of a ship that went down at any of the websites devoted to wrecks.
Where should I go next? Please leave your suggestions in the comments. I'll use them to draw up a future research strategy for Part 3 of this post.