William Jewett McNamara Immigrates from Canada with Younger Siblings in 1852

William Jewett McNamara
Courtesy of the Jewett Family of America.

My 52nd and final entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

My 52nd ancestor is my husband Jeff’s 3rd great grandfather William Jewett McNamara (1834-1911).

William Jewett immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 18 with his five younger siblings in tow. They set sail on the Sch. Albatros [sic] from Horton (now Hortonville), Nova Scotia, Canada, and arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on 27 August 1852.

On the ship’s list, it looks like William identified his occupation as a seaman.

Traveling with William Jewett are: Elizabeth (age 12), Mary (age 10), James (age 8), and Margaret (age 6). Older brother Thomas (20 at this time) is absent from the passenger list, meaning he did not travel with his siblings.

McNamara William Jewitt - Ship List - Albatros - web
Courtesy of Ancestry.com. Click image for larger view.

When I first encountered this record, I dismissed it, because I couldn’t figure out why William would be immigrating with his younger siblings. But it kept showing up in Ancestry as a hint for all five siblings. So I took at closer look at the family, and noticed that their parents were dead by this time. Mother Lucy Perkins Jewett (1812-1850) died in 1850, and father William McNamara (1795-1851) followed suit in 1851. It appears that 18 year old William Jewett has assumed the role of head of the family and was now parent to 4 younger siblings.

This analysis prompts even more questions. Had older brother Thomas already immigrated to the U.S.? And why? If he was still in Nova Scotia, why wasn’t he — as the oldest son — functioning as head of the family after their parents died? Why did this role fall on his younger brother William?

By the time of the 1860 U.S. Census, William Jewett McNamara (age 26) had emigrated all the way across the country, settling in newly formed (1853) Humboldt County, California, where he would spend the rest of his life.

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