35. Shiver Me Timbers! Thar Be Pirates In the Family Tree

The Conklin family were direct ancestors, and the Conklin pirates cousins, by way of the Bowers descent from the Speece and Robinson families. The descent, and many more, are fully described and referenced in the book The Omnibus Ancestry: 619 Documented American and European Lines. It is available for download through Lulu.

Over 20 years ago, “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, September 19th, was spontaneously invented by two racquetball players who somehow fell into a string of on-the-court comments like “That be a fine cannonade”. Finding it made the game more entertaining, they decided to start a new holiday, and arbitrarily selected the birthday of an ex-wife for its celebration. It languished for several years until humorist and columnist Dave Barry took up the — um, quill? — in 2002 and publicized it. The rest is history, and “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” is now practiced, tongue in cheek, across the world [1,2].

As it turns out, it is possible to Descend From a Pirate too.

Captain Kidd

William Kidd (abt 1645-1701) was a Scot who by 1689 was sailing the Caribbean as part of a mixed French and English pirate crew under Capt. Jean Fantin [3,10]. He soon became a captain himself, only to lose his ship when his crew abandoned him ashore. It was in pursuit of them that he sailed to New York, arriving in early 1691. Having just missed them, he settled there, and married for the third time [10].

In 1695 Kidd decided to seek a royal commission as a privateer. England was at war with France, and privateers were considered legitimate instruments of war. Traveling to London, he won the patronage of Robert Livingston, a fellow New Yorker who had also just come to the city, and more importantly, of the Earl of Bellomont. The three men hatched a plan premised on Kidd commanding a ship in order to capture pirates. Bellomont was to obtain the necessary commission, with the other two helping to finance the scheme [10].

Under their agreement, Kidd was to deliver any captured pirate ship, along with its booty, to Boston where Bellomont expected to be Governor of Massachusetts Bay. There, it was anticipated, the booty would be declared a prize of war and the proceeds distributed. As the scheme developed, two commissions were found to be required, one making Kidd a privateer and the other allowing him to hunt pirates. But in the end Bellomont was successful in obtaining them [10].

Having outfitted a new ship, the Adventure Galley, Kidd sailed from England in April 1696 with about 60 men. They were soon in New York. There he filled out his crew, recruiting about 90 men who came to him from as far as Philadelphia and New Jersey [10].

William_Kidd
Capt. William Kidd

Articles of Agreement and Voyage

Thus it was that first cousin several-times-removed Jacob Conklin (1676/7-1754), a native of Huntington, Long Island, New York, served as a seaman under the infamous Capt. Kidd. The articles of agreement under which the crew operated make fascinating reading, and they were followed by the signatures of all [4]:

Kidd.extract.cleaned

Other provisions included 600 pieces of eight “or six able Slaves” for loss of an eye, leg, or arm; loss of a share and whatever corporal punishment the Captain and majority of the crew saw fit, for disobeying a command or breeding mutiny; loss of a share and banishment to the first inhabited island for stealing; and significantly given later events, immediate sharing of any money or treasure taken aboard ship [8].

Down the list of signatures appeared [4]:

Conklin.on.Kidd.cleaned

Although descendants later admitted that Jacob served as a pirate, they maintained that he had been unwillingly impressed into service under Capt. Kidd [6]. This reassuring assertion, however, must be considered false for three reasons. First, while Kidd possessed an English commission to suppress piracy, he was not a naval officer with the authority to impress sailors. Second, the Governor of New York wrote in a letter in 1697 that when Kidd recruited there, “many flocked to him from all parts, men of desperate fortunes and necessities, in expectation of getting vast treasure” [9]. Kidd, in other words, hardly needed impression to complete his crew. Finally, as we will see from subsequent events, Jacob Conklin had no aversion to the use of ill-gotten gains.

Kidd’s fateful voyage to the Indian Ocean by way of the Cape of Good Hope began in September 1696. It did not have an auspicious beginning. Somewhere between a fifth and a third of the crew were lost to cholera on the Comoros Islands off east Africa, and others were lost to desertion [3,8,10].

Finding his enterprise failing, and probably facing pressure from his crew, Kidd sailed to the Red Sea and began attacking ships that fell outside the scope of his mission. In January 1698 he used the ruse of flying French colors to capture the Quedagh Merchant, an Indian ship that was “loaded with satins, muslins, gold, silver, an incredible variety of East Indian merchandise, and well as extremely valuable silks” [3]. He had hit the jackpot, but as a pirate, not a pirate hunter.

Renaming the Quedagh Merchant as the Adventure Prize, Kidd then retreated to the island of Saint Marie off Madagascar. His men insisted on and got a division of the loot, scooping money into their hats, and making off with bales of cloth many of which were sold locally for liquor and supplies [10]. It is at Saint Marie that Kidd encountered his first actual pirate of the voyage, Robert Culliford. According to a later account apparently based on trial testimony by two of Kidd’s crewmen, instead of attacking Culliford in accordance with the mission, Kidd drank his health and gifted him with an anchor and guns [3].

Wanting to continue in the quest for booty, most of Kidd’s crew deserted to sail with Culliford, presumably taking their shares with them. Only about 20 free men and boys, and a few slaves, remained to crew the Adventure Galley [10]. Given later events, Jacob Conklin must have been among the few sailors who remained with Kidd.

Finding the Adventure Galley worm-eaten, Kidd burned it to recover its iron fittings, and returned to the Caribbean aboard Adventure Prize. Having learned that he was considered a wanted pirate, he sold many of his textiles and abandoned the ship. Expecting to clear his name, he purchased a sloop and continued toward New York. In June 1699, he was in Oyster Bay off Long Island [3,10].

There crewman Jacob Conklin made an important decision:

. . . Conklin and others, having been sent on shore for water, hid themselves and did not return to the ship. Doubtless they feared Kidd’s arrest and trial, and dreaded lest they might be punished with him. They were for some time secreted among the Indians. [5]

Aftermath

Jacob had made a wise decision, because Kidd was lured to Boston, where he was arrested in July and sent to England for trial. Found guilty of murder and five acts of piracy, he was hanged in May 1701. His chained body was left suspended for three years alongside the River Thames, as a warning against piracy. Six crewmates were also convicted, but were pardoned just prior to their hanging [3,10]. Eight, however, died in jail [10].

Jacob Conklin’s sojourn with the Indians clearly did not last long. He resurfaced by late August 1699, to begin a spree of land purchases [6]. As a footnote to town records attests:

He bought large tracts of land, chiefly about Half Hollow Hills… How he acquired the large sums of money which he disbursed during this period in the purchase of lands was a mystery never fully solved. [7]

One can of course hazard a guess where a 22-year-old, who had been on a pirate voyage since the age of 19, had obtained the money. How much might he have had? Four of Kidd’s men, captured in 1699 at the Cape of Good Hope, had an average of £600 apiece with them [10]. Each had made a small fortune. In any case when Jacob Conklin died in 1754, he was “probably the richest man in Huntington” [6].

Yet Jacob was not the only member of the family to have the reputation of a pirate. His brother Thomas Conklin (1674/5-1734) was referred to as such in 1698, in a letter from the Governor of Connecticut to the Governor of New York and Massachusetts:

My Lord, upon ye advice your Lordship gave me of one Josiah Rayner, a pirate, being in this collony … I immediately granted a writ to ye high sheriff for ye seazing and aprehending of him since wch I am informed … he ye sd Rayner with one Tho Conclin (reported to be a pirate allsoe) who came from Long Island … did go through some of ye ypper town in this collony pretending to be bound for Boston… [6]

We descend from the Conklin family of Long Island through the Speece and Robinson lines. Jacob and Thomas Conklin were first cousins of our direct Conklin ancestor. Their own descendants, and those of close relatives, provide many a potential genealogy-qualified participant in “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”. So on September 19th, all hands hoay!


Notes:

[1] Information retrieved from http://www.talklikeapirate.com/wordpress/sample-page (2017).

[2] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Talk_Like_a_Pirate_Day (2017).

[3] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kidd (2017).

[4] Headlam, C. (1910). Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series. America and West Indies, 1700. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, vol. 18.

[5] Ross, P. (1902). A History of Long Island From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. NY: The Lewis Publishing Co., p. 976.

[6] The American Genealogist, vols. 21-22 (1944-6).

[7] Huntington Town Records… 1688-1775 (1888). Huntington, Long Island: The “Long Islander” Print, vol. 2.

[8] Information retrieved from http://captainkidd.org/Part%206.html & linked pages (2017).

[9] Fortescue, J.W. (1904). Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 15 May 1696 – 31 October, 1697. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, vol. 10.

[10] Ritchie, R.C. (1986). Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.


Picture attributions: All are in the public domain.

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27. Late Immigrants Anders Persson Malmberg and Emma Swanson (Svensson)

As far as can be determined, I have no ancestors who immigrated to America after the Revolutionary War. This has been a great boon for my genealogical research since it has guaranteed that in every line traced back from the present, several generations of records can be found — and in English, and relatively locally.

Not so my wife. Her ancestors came to this country over a wide swath of time, ranging from 1623 to 1893 with many gradations between. Among the earliest were the following [1]:

  • Roberts 1623
  • Parker 1633
  • Thurlow ca 1635
  • Emerson ca 1637
  • Assiter 1638
  • Martin bef 1640
  • Burnet(t) 1640/1
  • Walcott/Wolcott/Woolcott bef 1654
  • Polhemius 1665
  • Sebring bef 1660
  • Trotter bef 1664
  • Barber bef 1667
  • Hayden bef 1667
  • Pride bef 1669
  • Crocheron bef 1671
  • Gullett 1671
  • Brown bef 1675
  • Bodine 1677

But my wife also descends from a number of relatively late immigrants coming variously from Ireland, Luxembourg, Germany, and Sweden [1,2]:

  • Russell 1852
  • Sinnott ca 1853
  • Heisdorfer 1855
  • Rung 1865
  • Barth 1874
  • Malmberg 1891
  • Swanson 1893

All of these families and more, early immigrants or late, are covered in the Omnibus Ancestry, available for download through Lulu.

Embracing the Past

Recently on a pleasure trip to New York City we decided to embrace the pasts of a couple of the late immigrants, Anders Persson Malmberg and Emma Swanson (Svensson). Anders was born into poor circumstances in 1866 in Södra Sallerup parish, Malmöhus county, Sweden, to a couple living in Sallerup village. His surname, meaning “iron mountain”, was assigned to him when in 1886 he enlisted in Regiment 2, Sandby Squadron of Royal Swedish Hussars [1,2]. Anders’ eventual wife Emma was born in 1872 in Osby, Kristianstads county, Sweden, the daughter of crofters. According to family legend they met while working for the same family, he as an outdoor laborer and she as a maid [1,2].

After his discharge in 1891, Anders immigrated to America, according to his later naturalization record arriving in New York in November of that year. He passed through to the Midwest, where according to legend he made money working on Mississippi River levees and helping build an iron staircase for the upcoming World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Removing to Iowa, he sent for Emma to join him. After one false start foiled by an epidemic on board her ship, she arrived at New York in 1893. They married the following year, and raised a large family in southeastern Iowa [1,2].

As family records go, these lent an unusually good start to learning more about the immigration of this couple.

Anders Comes to America

One of the first questions raised by the family records was whether or not either of the pair immigrated through Ellis Island. In Anders’ case the answer is simple, and negative — since he had arrived in Nov 1891, he could not possibly have come through Ellis Island, which opened in Jan 1892.

Nor, oddly, would he have come through Castle Garden in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan, which is often represented as the earlier version of Ellis Island. For between Apr 1890, when Castle Garden closed, and Jan 1892 when Ellis Island opened, a narrow slice of arrivals passed through the Barge Office in Battery Park, which had been temporarily pressed into service as an immigration center.

barge-office
Barge Office, New York City, circa 1901

Unfortunately while pictures of the Barge Office survive (above), the office itself does not. The building was razed in 1911 [3].

Emma Comes to America

With Emma we enjoyed quite a bit more luck. Even before our trip to New York, I was able to access the on-line immigration records at the Ellis Island site. I found what surely is a match: Emma Svensson, age 21, native of Sweden, servant, arriving with one piece of luggage on 8 July 1893 on the ship New York from Southampton, England (presumably after transshipment from Sweden). True, my wife’s ancestor was actually 15 days short of age 21 on that date. But no one else was a better match in name, place, age, and date [4,6]. Arriving when she did, she of course must have been processed through Ellis Island.

Her ship, shown in the accompanying picture, was notable for being at that time (1892-3) the fastest in the world. Built in 1888 for the Inman & International Steamship Company as the ship City of New York, it was sold in 1893 to the American Line and renamed simply New York (picture below). It was destined to undergo other name changes as well as brief service in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American war, before being scrapped in 1923 [5].

ss-new-york

Arriving at Ellis Island, Emma would have been processed through the original wood-framed immigration facility, shown below.

ellis_island_first_bldg_burnt_15-june-1897

An interesting woodcut of the Great Hall inside this building is also available for viewing online [8].

Unfortunately the station burned in 1897, at which point immigrants were again received at the Barge Office. A new station was built at Ellis Island in the same spot, with the proviso that it not be of wood, and came into service in Dec 1900. It is the building that tourists visit today (below).

ellis-island
Ellis Island, 2016

According to Emma’s daughter Hulda Malmberg Barth, Emma had once worked drawing patterns for fashionable coats while in Sweden. However, Hulda also stated that Emma did not arrive in Chicago until Christmas or New Year’s Day. That leaves a period of about 6 months unaccounted for. It therefore seems possible that instead of drawing coat patterns in Sweden, Emma instead did so in New York, saving money before passing onward to Chicago. Perhaps she found employment in the Garment District, which by the late 1800s was already known for the production of clothing [7].

Our Visit To Ellis Island

Ellis Island is reachable only by ferry. We made reservations a day or two in advance, a necessity given the large tourist crowds of July. Although initially cowed by the size of those crowds, we found the park service intake on the tip of Manhattan to be efficient, moving people quickly through the airport-like security screening. Then it was simply a matter of getting on the boat.

We had only part of an afternoon for our trip due to an evening engagement and limited choices of ferry departures. (Lesson: Make reservations more than a day or two in advance!) Deciding to forgo the first stop, at the Statue of Liberty, we passed on to Ellis Island and disembarked there.

The main building was fully accessible, and the size of the crowds quite tolerable. There were extensive displays of immigrant stories, passports, and pictures of ships. We appreciated seeing the hospital-like inspection rooms, where the immigrants were screened for disease and “mental defect”.

All in all it was a very worthwhile experience. It was also a very American experience, the melting pot in evidence in the diverse faces of the crowd. Yet there was also a substantial contingent of international tourists, interested in the story of Ellis Island.

We did not, it must be said, find a lot on Swedish immigration in particular. Much of the emphasis seemed to be on Eastern Europe and Russia. However, it is true we only saw a fraction of the exhibits in our limited time.

At the return jetty the crowds were large and pressing. But the ferry service performed well, bringing on an empty boat after few passengers could get on a crowded boat carrying people from the Statue of Liberty. The weather cooperated, with a heavy storm starting while we were in the museum, then letting up just as we walked to the jetty to leave. How many times, I wondered as we walked, had our footsteps crossed those of Emma Swanson?

malmberg-family-ca-1917-8-for-blog
The Malmberg Family, circa 1917-8.  Emma and Anders on the ends; Hulda near the middle in the white dress.

Notes:

[1] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd ed. Available for immediate download through Lulu.

[2] Boles, D.B. (1993). Barth-Hickey Ancestry. Troy, NY: Private print. Available for mail order through Bolesbooks.

[3] Information retrieved from http://www.shorpy.com/node/17266 (2016). Another picture of the Barge Office is published at this site, interesting to inspect because it has very high resolution, revealing details such as a lunch wagon and a sign for the Ellis Island ferry.

[4] Other minor discrepancies from family legends include the “Minn” destination stated on her immigration record, i.e., Minneapolis; and that she came on a ship of the American line, not the White Star line (Barth-Hickey Ancestry, see note 2). However, out of ignorance of American geography she may not have known her exact destination, and so Minneapolis may have been entered simply as a “ballpark” midwestern place west of Chicago.   The White Star ship may have been the ship of her epidemic-shortened first effort to sail, or it may have been the one that brought her to Southampton for transshipment (see text).

[5] Information retrieved from http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org & linked pages (2016).

[6] The closest were two 19-year-olds: Emma Svensson, arriving 5 May 1893 on the ship Servia, destination Chicago but an English citizen; and Emma Ch. Svensson, arriving 30 June 1893 on the ship Virginia but of “Forslofs” (Förslöv), Sweden, a location nearly 60 road miles from Osby. Neither ship was of the White Star Line (ibid).

[7] Information retrieved from https://zady.com/features/the-history-of-the-new-york-city-garment-district (2016).

[8] Image retrieved from http://www.alamy.com, using search terms “ellis island great hall 1897”.


Picture Attributions:

Barge Office: From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York (https://collections.mcny.org).

S.S. New York: Personal photo of public-domain postcard.

Original immigration facility: Public domain.

Ellis Island, 2016: Personal photo.

The Malmberg Family: Personal photo, public domain.