Who would you travel with?

13 March 2013


13 March 2013


Who would you travel with if you were on one of the SS Great Britain's voyages?

As the Collections Team spend time updating the vast database of SS Great Britain passengers and crew on Global Stories (currently standing at over 33,000 people), one of the tasks has included grouping together those that travelled on the same ticket booking. This gives us an idea, of not just one list of names but a set of various social groups.

Voyages include solo Travellers, companions and couples. Others include large families, sometimes with an additional child, relative, friend or servant. Sometimes families travelled alongside other families. There were also passengers that travelled with a group that all shared the same job. On the passenger lists, we only have limited pieces of information including ticket number, gender, nationality, age and occupation. But with this, we can make a guess of different relationships and social dynamics on board.

Voyage 16 carried 372 passengers from Liverpool to Melbourne in 65 days. They arrived on 24 January 1859. We have a diary transcript of one solo steerage passenger onboard, ticket number 2604, 20-year-old Andrew Brotherston, a Brass Founder from Edinburgh. Maybe it was this lack of company that drove him to write a diary. He records how before being organised into messes “every one waiting on for himself at the galley for his rations”. He also records his struggle with sea sickness at the start of the journey. Without the support of family or companions, this would have been a challenge.

Other passengers had company. On this voyage we recorded 68 voyage groups:

This includes a group under ticket number 2658. Here Benjamin and Sarah Thomas are joined by Hannah and George Treverton. Each couple are in their 20’s and have a young baby, and both fathers are recorded as miners. You get the sense that these were two young families that are braving a brand-new start in Australia together.

Ticket number 352 shows a group consisting of just women and children. The Kay family includes Mary 35 recorded as married, Elizabeth 17 recorded as a spinster, Jane 11, Mary 8 and Robert Scott 6. We can’t know for sure of Elizabeth and Mary’s relationship. They could be sisters, mother and daughter or more distantly related. They also travelled with Hannah Peele 22, listed as spinster who could have also been related or just a friend.  Either way, Mary would have needed a hand from both Elizabeth and Hannah while looking after the three young children on such a long voyage. Perhaps they were travelling to Australia to meet Mary’s husband. Many men would travel out and be followed by their wives and families later. Just to make things confusing, these aren’t the only Kays onboard. A Kay family of three were on board, but in third class!

Other voyage groups are made up of male only parties such as those on ticket number 2655 , James and Gibb Stitt, and Hugh and James McKenzie both possibly sets of brothers. They were joined also by William McMichael. They are all listed as farmers and range from 16-30 years old.

Some voyage groups are slightly more mysterious. Ticket number 367, the Lake family consisting of Thomas 67, Susan 60, Richard 33, Emma 34 and William 44, perhaps a couple, a sibling and two older parents. But with them also travelled a nine year old girl called Bessey Jeffrey. What was her relationship to this older family? Further research will be needed to find out!


Author: Mollie Bowen, Collections Officer

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