Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't rock the boat...find it!

According to the letter in my previous post, John and Mary Ann Porteous emigrated from Lincolnshire, England sailing to America and eventually settling in Lake County, Illinois, April 19, 1870, aboard the mail steam ship SS Malta

A drawing of the SS Malta, found on [].
She was a passenger cargo vessel, which was launched 1865 and
was found wrecked in 1889 off Cape Cornwall, near Lands End, England. 

[Shipping Times, Clydebuilt database - ]

Knowing this back in the 1990s when my brother gave me a copy of a copy of that original letter, it wasn't easy to find the passenger list. I was new to genealogy and internet searching. At the time, there wasn't much online or maybe I just didn't know where to go or how to search the limited sites. Today, and other such sites which carry the census and ships lists make the job ever so easy.

Anyway, I was looking for John PORTUS, then PORTEOUS; Malta; 1870. I didn't realize I could narrow my search. After a few failed searches, I just put it aside in frustration and didn't pick it up again for quite awhile. 

Much later, through some creative search criteria on a more advanced, I finally found my great grandparents family. I didn't expect the family listing to be so different from what I knew! Even though, they were my family! 

I felt so good finding this document. I just sat back and admired it. I just substantiated the information on the letter! It was tangible. It all added up! Wow!

Even though their surname was written on the manifest as PORTEUS, they were indexed on as PORSENS – Jno Porteus 28, M.A. 28, Georgina 4, Wm 3, and Jno (Infant).

SS Malta sailed from Liverpool and arrived New York on 3 May 1870. This manifest was delivered by Robert McDowall to the Collector of the Customns of the Collection District of New York. Source Citation: Year: 1870; Arrival: New York; Microfilm Serial: M237; Microfilm Roll: M237_326; Line: 57; List Number: 336 
The first page gives general information about the ship, its arrival place and date, where it sailed from, etc. 

The voyage took 16 days – from April 19 to May 3. I’m not sure it was a terrific voyage since the family was booked in steerage. 

My family was found on the second page. They are listed below the center fold about 12 lines where you see four check marks together. I searched the rest of the manifest for any other familiar Lincolnshire families, but none were found.


The family arrived at Port of New York which was Castle Gardens prior to Ellis Island. They probably took a train to Chicago and from there came out to Lake County to settle close to “Hunckle” [ John] and “Aunt” [Matilda] who arranged a place to for them to live until they were “on their feet” and could buy their own land.

John, Mary Ann, and their three children Georgiana, William Dennis (my grandfather), and John Henry made it to Fremont Township just in time for the 1870 census. Finding them in the census was also a task – looking page by page, line for line. Later I found them indexed as PORTOS. I suspect it was the heavy rural Lincolnshire accent that explains the different surname spelling. 

By the end of 1870, infant son John Henry, had died. The1880 census shows four more children were born into the family: Jesse J., Alfred, David, and Lillian. Of these four, only Jesse J. would live to adulthood. There would be two more sons born: Charles D. in 1883 and Benjamin F. in 1885. Ann Elizabeth, John and Mary Ann’s first born, died in 1864, and was buried in St. Michael's churchyard in Coningsby, Lincolnshire six years before the family emigrated.

In 1875, John’s parents William & Elizabeth immigrated to America. With them came John’s sister Jane (Jennie) and nephew William M. They would move on to settle in Garfield, Kansas. Three of Mary Ann’s brothers, John, James, and Henry Vamplew, followed several years later.

John & Mary Ann eventually bought land in Lake County, Ill. west of Diamond Lake and also land in Kansas south of Garfield along the Santa Fe Trail.

Looking back on the early research, I can say I have learned a couple things. Spellings aren't always what you expect, be conscious of variations. The spelling PORTEOUS was first seen as my surname in Illinois after 1870. In England the most common family surname spelling was PORTAS, John spelled his surname in that letter as PORTUS. 

Expect the unexpected while looking for family history.

1 comment:

  1. Karen, what a difficult surname to track with all those possible alternate spellings. I don't envy you the task--although, admittedly, the resources online for ship's lists was quite limited when you first started.