July 2007 Westward Migration continued
Edition 27
Jerrems Family Newsletter
... from the Olde World to the New World
Dear Donald,
We are continuing Ray's synopsis of the perils of traveling by ship in the mid-1800's. This edition includes part 2 of 3. Certainly the modern Jerrems family can trace its roots to the momentous decision by Thomas Jerrems and his family to embark from England to Australia.
The Voyages of Ships from the United Kingdom to Australia in the 19th Century
Ray Jerrems, Family Historian   Our Ancestors were Migrants


Why go to Melbourne? Thomas's departure from England came about a year after news had broken in the UK about the Victorian gold strikes in Ballarat etc. The gold strikes had caused a mass exodus from Melbourne of a wide range of people, including seamen who had left their ships, public servants (e.g. police), workmen etc.

This was followed soon by a large influx of migrant diggers from overseas. Between 1851 and 1861 a total of 500,000 of the population of the British Isles migrated to Australia. The number to go to Melbourne alone was an amazing 300,000. The Victorian Governor of the early 1850s said that "The whole structure of society and the whole machinery of government is dislocated".

Presumably the news that reached Thomas in Gainsborough encouraged him to go to Melbourne to investigate. Perhaps the UK newspapers spoke euphorically of myriads of gold miners in Victoria who had "struck it rich" spending wildly, and of streets paved with gold. Clearly a merchant like Thomas could find lots of business. The dangers of the voyage and the hardships endured by the fossickers at the diggings may not have been disclosed in the UK press.

Thomas and his son no doubt set off on their voyage to Melbourne with high hopes of setting up a business in Melbourne and then sending for the rest of the family.

Although it is possible that Thomas (Senior) intended to try his hand at gold fossicking this in fact seems very unlikely. It would be a curious thing to do, to take a 15 year old son trained only in the grocery business on the rough and tumble of gold fossicking.

The fact that he did not send for his family until 6 years later indicates that Thomas soon had strong reservations about bringing them out prematurely, from both a financial and safety viewpoint. On the other hand he must have felt that there was potential in Melbourne otherwise he would have soon simply packed his bags and returned to England.

It was a big step to leave Gainsborough. Going to Melbourne with his son in 1853 was a big step. Thomas and his family had grown up in comfortable circumstances in Gainsborough. His forbears had been in the area for at least 130 years and he had had an established grocery business in Gainsborough employing an assistant. His father was a local identity with a retail business, a farm at nearby Willingham and a number of houses. His wife was the daughter of the local surgeon and two of her brothers were a surgeon and a solicitor. His brothers included an auctioneer and a chemist. A Street, Square, Yard and Terrace had been named after the family and there was a large support network of relatives there.

In addition, Gainsborough was an active town with a strong trade as a river port and serviced by two railways, which would not at that stage have had a significant impact on the port trade. England was expanding its empire and its economy under Queen Victoria, who had ascended to the throne in 1838.

There was also the cost aspect. Thomas's wife Elizabeth was no doubt of a genteel nature and a dedicated home-maker. Thomas would have had to leave her a considerable sum of money to tide her over until she and the remaining children joined him.

The routes taken to Australia. After the discovery of gold in Australia the fastest possible passage times were demanded by men desperate to get to the diggings as quickly as possible. The traditional route ships involved ships calling in at Cape Town in South Africa and then followed the Roaring Forties to Western Australia and thence along the south coast of Australia to Melbourne. However from 1852 many ships took the newly devised Great Circle route instead.

The new route, which reduced travelling time from 4 months to less than 3 months, took advantage of the curvature of the earth and prevailing winds, taking the ships south to 50 degrees of latitude and lower. These latitudes were previously only frequented by Antarctic explorers and sealer's in specially built ships. It required supreme navigational and seamanship skills. The winds, already very high in the Roaring Forties, reached prodigious speeds, frequently whipping the waves up to 12 metres, and there was the constant fear of icebergs (in 1854 the SS Great Britain recorded seeing 280 icebergs).

Passengers were confined to their quarters for weeks on end while the ships were in the Fifties. Steerage passengers, in particular, endured severe hardships because the tops of the stairways (the only source of ventilation) were battened down with hatch covers for longer periods than on the old route, so that waves breaking over the ships could not flow down the hatchways. At these times the stench from the passengers, cooking, oil lamps and toilet buckets (bad at the best of times) would have been overpowering.

By the end of the 1850s many of the passengers were more well-to-do and more interested in safety and a modicum of comfort. Also the ships mostly carried mixed cargo instead of cramming the maximum number of passengers in the holds. Accordingly conditions improved somewhat. Finally, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 eliminated the trip along the Forties and Fifties.

What sort of ships were used by the migrants? In 1852 (the year before the Thomases set sail) more than 1650 ships arrived in Melbourne, a staggering number. There was a lot of money to be made from transporting migrants and provisions to Melbourne, so every ship owner jumped on the bandwagon. Many of the ships would have been barely seaworthy for such a long and demanding trip.

At the top end of the scale was the famous SS Great Britain, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the early 1840s. It combined steel construction with a 1000 horsepower steam engine, weighed 4000 tons, and its length of 322 feet made it one third longer than any battleship in the navy. It could carry up to 650 passengers. It made no less than 32 round voyages to Australia between 1852 and 1875, bringing an estimated 15,000 passengers. Its long hull would have meant that it rode over the high seas better than smaller ships, but it would still have rolled a lot.

Another giant ship was the Black Ball Line's SS Schomberg, 288 feet long and 2600 tons, with a 210 foot main mast (pity help any sailor who fell from the top). It could carry 16,000 square metres of sail (about 3 football fields). On its maiden voyage in 1855 it carried 351 passengers, 2,000 tons of railway lines (showing a growing trend towards mixed cargo as the gold diggers trade dropped off), 17,093 letters, 31,800 newspapers and 90,000 gallons of water. Ignominiously it ran aground on a sandbank near Warrnambool on the south coast of Victoria. Fortunately it missed dangerous reefs and (somewhat ironically because the Schomberg did not have auxiliary steam engines) a steamship from Warrnambool took off the passengers and crew.

At the other end of the scale would have been hastily converted coastal colliers which lumbered along at slow speeds and gave a terrible ride for their passengers. For a much cheaper fare the living conditions would have been primitive and the food little better. Still, Irishmen who had survived the Great Potato Famine or Britons who had lived in terrible city slums had already experienced severe hardships and would be willing to endure more of them if it meant they could make a new life down under.

Shipwrecks. Not so fortunate as the Schomberg's passengers were the passengers and crews of the Dunbar, which sank outside Sydney Heads in August 1857 with the loss of 121 lives, and the Admella which sank near Cape Banks on the Victorian south coast a month before Elizabeth and her family left London, with the loss of 109 lives. Later, the Loch Ard was battered to pieces at the foot of 200 foot cliffs near the Twelve Apostles with the loss of 52 lives. Miraculously two people survived. A total of 18 sailing ships met their doom in the area.

In the case of the "Admella" it took 6 whole days for a rescue ship to finally reach the area, by which time most of the passengers (who had taken refuge on a wave-swept rock) had died of exposure or been swept away to their deaths. When the news of their plight first reached the outside world extra editions of the Adelaide newspapers were published and such was the gravity of the situation that both Houses of Parliament were adjourned.

Why so many Shipwrecks? The high rate of ship losses off the coast of south Victoria was due to the narrow Bass Strait and strong winds and storms which blew sailing ships northerly onto the rugged coastline, which was riddled with reefs. This occurred mostly at night when no navigational features except one sole lighthouse at the entrance to the strait could be seen. Sailing ships are very limited in their ability to sail up- wind, and the square riggers were the worst.

The toll on shipping only ended when the era of sail ended and mariners no longer faced the threat of being blown onto the coast. But steam was a long time coming, in 1882 only half of ships on the British register were steam driven.

Rescue boats were stationed at several ports on the Victorian south coast, including Port Fairy and Portland. They were large rowing boats manned by men who became legendary for their bravery. They were called upon when the seas were too rough or the winds too strong for ships to be used. But their range was limited to the distance the men could row in a day. My sister-in-law's great grandfather was one of these men, and his name is on a monument at Portland.

Other causes of Ship Loss. Statistics showing the number of ships lost at sea are difficult to find, but the proud Loch Line ships were ill-fated to a degree extraordinary even in that era of uncertain sea travel. Of 25 sailing ships (the owners stubbornly refused to adopt steam) 5 ships simply disappeared without trace after leaving port (not uncommon), and 11 sank from collisions at sea and from running aground.

The ships that simply disappeared may have hit icebergs at night or been trapped in icefields, if they had taken the Great Circle Route. They may also have foundered in heavy seas. Foundering could have been caused by a ship rolling over sideways or running down the front of a giant wave and disappearing into the next wave. If a sailing ship had been dismasted its chances of foundering increased significantly. Ships with heavy cargoes could founder if the load shifted.

High incidence of Disease. The other great peril for migrants was disease- typhus, cholera, diphtheria and influenza were the main causes of death. The diseases were often contracted in the overcrowded boarding houses in the ports prior to embarkation (people had to wait for the ships to arrive from a previous trip to Australia and may have had to wait for weeks for them to arrive). This was exacerbated by the appallingly unhygienic conditions on the ships, particularly for passengers who were lodged below decks. These diseases were spread by rodents, lice and contaminated water. The malnourished and frail were particularly susceptible.

The "Triconderoga" set out from Liverpool (the embarkation point of the Thomases) in August 1852 (a year before the Thomases). When she sailed into Melbourne 100 of the 714 passengers had died and a further 300 were sick. Further, 16 of the 57 crew had also died. The superintendent on board said that nearly all the diseases contracted were "of a Typhoid character".

Part 3 continued next month.

Letters to Ray
Sue Jerrems, Las Vegas   A Jerrems Connection in Canada?
"Hi Ray,

You probably thought I had fallen off the edge of the earth.

In truth I have been working on a rather big project for nearly a year. Jerry and I were involved in a thing called Garden Scale Model Railroading.

Essentially they are trains that are about 1:24 scale, or 1/2 inch to the foot scale. Bigger than most models but not little. Well we had been playing with them for years and collected quite a bit of the stuff to build one, but never got around to actually building it.

Well this year we were having a Convention (yes believe it or not, lots of people do this and love to come). So in Jerry's memory I built a garden railroad for the Convention. It really was no small undertaking and later I may send some pictures and perhaps something we could use as an article for the Journal.

Well, the point is this. Today I had my open house. This is where they bring bus loads of people to see the layouts on tours. Truly this is an international Convention. We had quite a few from Australia, second only to Canada and followed by England then Germany.

One of the gentlemen recognized the family name. He went to University in Victoria, I believe, possibly RMIT (at least that is where he retired from). Because of his name, the next in class after him was Jerrems, but he could not quite remember who it was. He majored in chemistry and he graduated in 1957. Any ideas who it might have been? This gentleman's name is John Izard.

I just thought this one of those very cool moments when things seem to come round in a big circle.

Any way we had a lovely visit, as well as we could considering there were so many people wandering around my yard at any particular time, but it was just great and he was a good laugh. He gave me a Koala with the Australian flag as a little collar pin. I have to give them credit too, the Aussies were about the only ones besides ourselves who were not melting and bemoaning the weather. I think all told I had about 300 people throughout the day.

I have his email and I told him I would check and see if if anyone might know which Jerrems it was. Once again I enjoyed the newsletter, I read it as soon as it comes. Just love it. Sue J July 1, 2007" 

Editors Note: The image shown is a sample Garden Scale Model not Sue's.

Who are you Serena?
Ray Jerrems   "Serena, Serena" or is it "Corina, Corina"?
Just when we thought that we had found all the Jerrems family (as regards people with the surname "Jerrems") in the United States back to the mid 1800s another person pops up. This time it is Serena Jerrems, who contributed a one page article to a book which Google has placed in its "Books" collection.

Serena's article was titled "To and From the Far Places" and it was included in a publication called "Japan: Overseas Travel Magazine" published in 1931.

Unfortunately in this instance Google, possibly to avoid breaching copyright has only made rather uninformative snippets of this article available. These are:

LHS column "An Everchanging Pageant-and its actors, they who come and go on the sea's highways. In that pageant".

RHS Column "And so we meet Joseph F. Rock, a vagabond perhaps, a scientist of high reputation, a rover and explorer".

Perhaps Serena was the wife of a Jerrems male. Her name is certainly very picturesque (rather like her article) and not a name I would have associated with the early 1900s, when presumably she was born.

It is difficult to imagine anyone adopting the surname "Jerrems" as a nom de plume!

The year of 1931 (when the magazine was published) was not an auspicious time to publish a book presumably intended to promote travel to Japan. Previously Japan had been an ally of the UK and US in the First World War, a member of the League of Nations and a signatory to international treaties. But relations were soured by Japan's invasion of Manchuria in September 1931. From then on relations continued on a downward slide, thanks to the increasing influence of a militaristic faction which gained power in Japan. Further, the world was in the grip of the Great Depression and travel was far from most people's minds.

Apart from this, in those days travel to the UK and Europe by ship was the most popular tourist activity. The ships were fast and luxurious. On the other hand Japan was one and a half times the distance and the ships would have been slow, most likely carrying mixed cargo and a handful of passengers. Intending passengers would also have had to get to the port of San Francisco by train, making a long total travelling time to and from Japan.

Before the days of travel agents, travelling in Japan would also have been quite hit and miss.

In conclusion, I think Serena had been overcome by the mystique of the Orient, to the exclusion of practical considerations. Still, her article was only one page so she would not have invested too much time in it.

The book came from the extensive Michigan University Library collection, which is apparently being progressively scanned. It was entered in Google late last year. We look forward to more references to Jerrems appearing on Google in due course. Google suggested that I buy the book, but the more practical option would be for a Jerrems Journal reader in the US to obtain it from the Library on an inter-library loan.

Serena, we know you are out there somewhere. Assuming you are now writing travel articles for St Peter, perhaps you will send us an email from heaven explaining who you are.

I have a recollection of a 1960s song "Serena" ("Serena, Serena, I love you so"), does anyone remember it? (Editor's Note: Ray's Musical Memory is fading slightly. Methinks he remembers "Corina, Corina".)

From the the 1969 release: "Early Steppenwolf" (recorded Live at the Matrix in San Francisco, May 14, 1967) Arrranged by John Kay

Corina Corina, Girl where you been so long
Corina Corina, where you been so long
I've been worried about you baby
Why won't you please come home

I got a bird that whistles I got a bird that sings
Got a bird that whistles I got a bird that sings
But I ain't got Corina and life don't mean a thing

Corina Corina Ah you're on my mind
Corina Corina you're on my mind
I think about you girl and I can't keep from crying

MCA Music (BMI)

Donald Jerrems, Publisher   Trying to Keep Up with the Times
We have not had a Jerrems Family Quiz for a while. Our Quizmaster has taken a long vacation.

Thanks to Ray and Sue for their contributions to this edition. We like these vignettes into the family - current and past.

Someday in the future, a little Jerrems will ask a parent: "Where did the Jerrems name and family come from?" Perhaps, these editions will provide revelation.


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