Many of you reading this webpage will have ancestors who emigrated to various parts of the world in the middle 19th century America in particular. Their path to America from Dungiven was generally via Derry to Philadelphia on the little sailing ships of the era, a fairly awful voyage of some five or six weeks in squalor and great danger on the N.Atlantic.
Though overall the conditions on board were basically awful for all there was nevertheless just like in modern transport systems different "classes" of passenger accomodation. Each class would have to pay an appropriate fare. The information below is from the Solons voyage which left Derry 15th July 1843. Basically there were four classes of accomodation on board.
Housed on deck (one shudders at how humans could exist for five or six weeks on deck).
Between decks passengers housed immediately below the ships main deck.
The steerage passengers basically housed along the bottom of the ship effectively in its bilges.
The cabin passengers (the best housed) in a limited number of cabins probably in and around the captains and officers accomodation. This was the most comfortable but they had to pay extra for the privilege. Generally these people who were of some means eg merchants and larger farmers seeking a better life in the newly opening up America, in the between decks would be less well off perhaps small farmers and people with trades, those in the steerage would be the real famine era emigrants with few worldly goods and in the mid 1840's escaping starvation as the famine started to bite. We do not have a breakdown of the passengers for this particular voyage but here is the one for a voyage the Solon made in 1844.
Housed on deck: 8
Between decks: 198
Total Steerage: 206
Total Cabin: 5
Total Steerage & Cabin: 211
Looking at the passenger list the following people are as now positively identified.
Passengers No's 1 to 7 and passenger No. 14 are the Murrell family who had owned a linen mill at Ballyquin close to Limavady. The linen industry was in a slump at the time and it is thought they sought a better life in America. They emigrated into Ohio then on to S.W.Tennesee and eastern Indiana where they initially farmed.
Passenger's No's 7 to 10 were also a family unit linked to the Murrells. Robert Scott's wife Mary Ann was in fact Mary Ann Murrell also a member of the Murrell family.
It is of interest to note the breakdown of the passenger list on this mid summer sailing. Some 57 indicated they were servants, 44 as farmers, 33 as labourers, 25 as spinsters but very interestingly some 35 as seamstresses.This rather large number of seamstresses seems to suggest that many had been involved with the linen industry perhaps with Murrell's mill. The number of spinsters and noting their ages seems to suggest small groups of young unmarried ladies also seeking for a better life in America.
Many of the names on the list are ones still found in the Dungiven, Roe valley and Limavady area. If you can identify any of your ancestors we would like to hear from you.