Do you have an ancestor who travelled on board?

05 February 2021


05 February 2021


Discover the incredible number of people with family connections to the SS Great Britain and how to check for your family.

The SS Great Britain carried an estimated 40,000 passengers and crew during her working life and the collections team regularly receive messages from people whose ancestors travelled on the SS Great Britain.

In fact, in Australia alone, there are up to 500,000 people alive today who descended from someone that travelled on the ship.

We were contacted by a descendant recently who discovered she had a whopping 16 ancestors who travelled on Brunel’s SS Great Britain! It is quite rare to find an individual with as many links as this.

Firstly, we discovered that her Great-Great-Grandfather, Giacomo Bombardieri, travelled on board, emigrating to Australia on Voyage 35 in 1870. He was travelling as part of a group of 14 men, all recorded as from ‘Other Parts’. He was born in Tirano, Northern Italy.

In this group there was another man with a similar surname Giovanni Bombardiere (the spelling is a little off – which isn’t unusual on the 19th century passenger lists), who could be one of Giacomo’s relatives.

Then, the descendant discovered another relative who travelled on board – her Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother Martha Bassett, who was travelling with her Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather John Bassett. They were both travelling on Voyage 21 in 1861 (9 years before the Bombardieri’s), with another woman, who we have recorded as Honour Semmons.  Honour was travelling with the Bassetts from Cornwall to Australia in order to marry the Bassetts’ son, James, who was already in Australia.

Also accompanying this group were two daughters of the Bassetts’, travelling with their respective families. They were on different ticket numbers, and have different surnames, so we wouldn’t have linked them without this contact. They were…


Martha Rowe (previously Bassett)

James Rowe (husband)

Julia Rowe

Martha Rowe

Nancy Rowe


Ann Davey (previously Bassett)

Jane Davey

Elizabeth Davey

John Davey

Stephen Davey


Ann Davey was travelling with her children, but no husband. It’s tempting to think that he was already in Australia, perhaps with James Bassett, although we don’t know that for sure yet.

Finally, it looks as if Jane Davey got married just before her voyage, and her husband John Trevise was also on the ship but travelling on a different ticket number.

So, for those of you who have lost count, that makes potentially 16 people related to this one descendant who is alive today – pretty unusual!

A quote from the descendant, “So I look up this ship and find it was a museum. Coming from Australia, I had not known this and can’t wait to get back to the UK to visit. Just to walk where my ancestors have walked is the most amazing feeling…I was like a little kid!!! So Excited. It’s the most incredible feeling to find this sort of information. To be able to share this with your museum I feel is a great legacy to be left”.

Why not use our Global Stories database to see if one of your ancestors travelled on Brunel’s SS Great Britain – and if you think you’ve found someone let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Author: Nick Booth

Global Stories

Find a passenger and discover the stories behind the SS Great Britain’s voyages using the Global Stories database.
Global Stories

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