|Daguerreotype of a young sailor|
from the Library of Congress collection
When you think about the sailors in your family were they naval (military) sailors or commercial venture sailors?
The commercial venture sailors could have been involved in many different activities. They could have been on the merchant trade ships sailing to various parts of the world, selling their product and purchasing items to bring back home. Sometimes they would make intermediary stops to purchase items, such as sandalwood, which was of more interest to certain markets (such as China) than American goods. Of course, merchants were also tied up in the triangular trade of slavery.
Or they could have been on the ships that sought out raw materials or products to sell to near and distant markets. The sailors could have been involved in sea otter hunting in the northwest, seal hunting in the Pacific or whaling.
I'm quite astounded at the variety of activities a ship and its crew could be involved in, not to mention the dangers and diplomacy required on their missions.
Early African Americans were also among the ranks of sailors. On ships they often found more equality and career opportunities than they found at home on land.
Perhaps your ancestors were pirates. While we have romanticized the historical nature of piracy, this was a very real and active community for a number of centuries. Or perhaps your ancestor was a privateer, a euphemistic word for a state-sponsored pirate.
I can't also help but wonder that not so many of us have sailors in our family trees. The sailors weren't settled, traveling great distances on long journeys. Their career and lifestyle did not lend itself to starting a family. And the dangers of their jobs cut short many of their lives before they had the chance to retire to land and settle down.
Perhaps that 3rd great uncle without "issue" in your family tree that you didn't bother researching might just turn out to be a sailor or a pirate!
Have any of you researched sailor ancestors? If so, what did you learn about them? Do you know where they sailed or what their role was onboard? I am so curious to learn more!