Family History

With Charles Wilson-Watkins

Lloyds Register and Emigration

71 Charles pic 1

Continuing the theme of last month’s article on the docks in Swansea, this month’s topics will include the Lloyds Register and ship’s passenger’s lists. Lloyds Register was first published in 1764-66, 1786-71 and then annually since 1775. Vessels, self-propelled merchant ships of 100 gross tonnes or heavier, are listed alphabetically by their current name. The register charts their service history, and they remain on the register until the vessel is either, sunk, wrecked, broken up or hulked (the term used when a ship is given a change of use), for example a prison ship. There are two ways in which way to obtain the information from the register. The first is by visiting the Research Room, Lloyds

Headquarters, 71 Fenchurch Street, London, or secondly searching for the particular ship using the Lloyd’s Register of Ships Online. This online register does not have every year covered.

The extract that is being used (above) is from the 1939 register, for the newly constructed MV San Emiliano, a motor tanker owned by Eagle Oil & Shipping Co. Ltd. She left Swansea in April 1942, and was sunk by a German U boat (submarine) U-155 in August 1942 off the coast of Trinidad. From a crew of 48, there was a loss of 40, 3 of whom were Swansea men, Jack Bastow, John Charles Caplin and Ernest Woollard. The sinking of the MV San Emiliano was to feature on the 1969, The World at War TV series.

Whilst researching ones family history, it is interesting to discover why some family members have started new lives in different countries. We have to look at questions such as why do people set out on emigration, and what type of emigration there was at the time?

Emigrating from Wales started as early as the 1600s to one of the following destinations: United States/South America, Canada, India, Australia and New Zealand. Movement around the United Kingdom at this time didn’t require any documentation for people to settle down. Records were needed for the United States from 1776; Canada before 1865; Australia, New Zealand and South Africa during the 20th Century.

The different types of emigration are:

  1. Free Emigrants – During the 1660s times were turbulent, King Charles I lost his head! An act of Parliament, The Act of Uniformity, 1662 was passed, allowing the Church of England to follow the rites and ceremonies prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. One of those ministers who didn’t obey, was John Myles, from Ilston, Gower. He took the Ilston Book – the earliest record of Welsh Baptists – with him when he emigrated to North America with his congregation. Myles founded the town of Swansea, Massachusetts and establish-ed the First Baptist Church there. The church still holds records of those people to settle there. Other religious groups could include the Quakers, who also hold extensive records.
  1. Assisted Emigrants – During the period of 1815 – 1914, Pax Britannica (British Peace), a period when the British Empire rule was at its strongest. During this time, British merchants, shippers and bankers had overwhelming control over much of the British colonies over-seas. During the 1840s the Australian and the New Zealand governments offered money or land to skilled workers as an incentive to settle there. Those who have ancestors who emigrated can obtain ship’s passengers lists. The lists of those passengers leaving the UK from 1890-1960 are on Find My Past website, For those who had ancestors who immigrated to the UK dated from 1890-1960, these lists can be found on the Ancestry website, Confusing? Yes!
  1. Transported prisoners – Before 1775, more than 50,000 prisoners were transported primarily to Virginia and Maryland, America. During the period from 1788 to 1869, 160,000 prisoners were sent to Australia – out of this figure 2,500 prisoners were from Wales. From 1805 The Cambrian reported a series of cases of local Swansea people who had been transported, including John Pugh, footman and David Jones, groom who were convicted of stealing porter and transported for 7 years. I wonder what became of them afterwards. A story dating from 1867, suggested turning Lundy Island into a convict settlement. That would have been too close to home and the puffins would not have been too happy! Depending on which court the person was tried at will dictate whether the records have survived or not.

A final note – during the 1860s Swansea was ‘home’ to an influx of migrants from Ireland during the potato famine, who settled in the Greenhill area, known as the Little Ireland. Also people came from Devon to work in the Swansea Docks. A large number of people did emigrate from Wales, but they didn’t quite make it overseas, just to the North of England!

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I received this lovely photograph of Neville Rees (right) from Australia holding the February edition of the TheBAY which featured an article on his family home, the first house in Swansea to be bombed during the Second World War.


This April marks the 104th anniversary of the sinking of RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Titanic on the 15th April 1912, during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York with the loss of 1,500 lives. Many of those on board were embarking on a new life in America.

The RMS Titanic was only listed in the Lloyds Register once. It comes as no surprise that there is a connection with Swansea and the surrounding areas, with several men being either passengers or crew on the fated ship. They were David Bowen, boxer (victim) Evan Davies, Swansea Valley (victim); Wilfred Cyril Foley, Swansea born (survivor); William John Rogers, Swansea valley (victim); Robert William Norman Leyshon, living in Swansea; his father was a prominent Swansea solicitor (victim); Owen Wilmore Samuel, worked and lived at Ben Evans, Temple Street (victim) and Leslie Williams, boxer (and victim).71 Charles pic 2I was contacted by Mrs Moseley from Newton, regarding the Titanic. Here is her story;

71 Charles pic 3My mother’s first husband was on board the Titanic. Leslie Williams, 28, (pictured above left) came from Tonypandy and was a professional boxer. Travelling on the same ticket was a fellow boxer, David Bowen from Treorchy, Rhondda. Their manager, Charles A. Barnett had arranged a series of boxing fights in America for them. The two men boarded the Titanic at Southampton. Both men lost their lives in the sinking. 

 Leslie Williams was the 14th body to be recovered by the cable repair ship Mackay Bennett. Leslie was identified by his effects. He was wearing at the time, a blue serge suit, a red striped shirt, two scarves and a green overcoat. His effects included, two pocket books; two gold rings; a pair of silver cuff links; a ticket; papers; a pocketknife; $30 in gold; £3 10s and £2 6s 6d. in silver and copper coins. All his effects were returned to my mother who wanted Leslie to be brought back to Wales for burial. Unfortunately Leslie had been buried at sea on 22nd April 1912. His friend, David Bowen was never recovered. At the time of the sinking, Leslie and my mother had one son, also named Leslie, she gave birth to their second son, Harold in July 1912. My father, Dan Winter promised that if anything were to happen to Leslie he would look after my mother, which he did and they finally got married in 1914. 

There is no single or standard format for a completed passenger list, as they vary in size, depending on the shipping line. They are either hand-written as is the case in the RMS Titanic or they are typed.  Information that can be obtained from them may include, the person’s name, where they called home, their age, occupation and marital status.


Picture credits

MV San Emiliano

1939 Lloyds Register for MV San Emiliano

RMS Titanic

Leslie Williams, Boxer

Page from Titanic Passenger list courtesy of The National Archives, London

Leslie Williams and David Bowen entry from list courtesy of the National Archives, London

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