logo Emigration Voyages


Two often asked questions are 'how long did it take' and 'how much did it cost'. This page looks at the journey to Ohio in the 1820's. Note that during the 1840's mass migration of Irish refugees from the famine, cheaper passages would have been available though it is unlikely that these would have been used by the Manx.

Although a steam ship crossed the Atlantic in 1838 it was not until the 1850's that steam displaced the sailing ships. During the 1820's and 1830's both the number of vessels on this route and their tonnage increased considerably.

I have also attempted to list known ships and give passenger lists on those which these early Manx emigrants came - as most in these early years came either as an extended family or amongst friends from the same parish these may help descendants locate their ancestors.

Historical Background

Manx emigrants would almost certainly have travelled from Liverpool then a large but still growing port; the first great dock had been opened in 1720 and Liverpool quickly became the second port in Britain with a huge trade to the English colonies in America as well as Ireland. Canals were dug to connect Liverpool with its hinterland, especially Manchester and Nantwich in the Cheshire plain from which came salt (needed to preserve fish) and cheese for export to London. Liverpool was also a main port in the triangular slave trade in which trade goods went to Africa, slaves from there to the West Indies and America with the final leg back to Liverpool. Several Manx captains were involved in this trade before it was outlawed in 1807. Until the emancipation of the slaves in the West Indian plantations in 1834 Liverpool had a very large trade in preserved herrings which formed a major part of their diet.

In the first half of the 19th century the transatlantic passenger packet trade to America was almost entirely run by Americans [Hollet p76]; these packet lines left on set dates independent of weather and number of passengers. Each ship would make three sailings per year - one of which would be midwinter in spite of its bad weather. Sailings to Canada, via the St. Lawrence, were provided by many ship-owners but were less punctual and impossible, due to ice, during the winter months. Most, if not all, Manx would travel via New York.

The first of these packet lines was the Black Ball (or 'Old Line') line which started its regular service on 1st January 1818 and whose services are described below. This company was founded by commercially minded Quakers. The Pacific was the first ship in the fleet (pre 1813), followed by the Amity in 1816 and the Courier in 1817.

The Red Star Line started in 1821 with the Panther, Hercules, Manhattan and Meteor. In 1822 the famous Swallow Tale Line was established by Mssrs Fish, Grinnel & Co. with the Silas Richards, Napoleon, George and York.

In 1836 E.K.Collins established the Dramatic Line (so called because the ships were named after famous actors and dramatists of the day) - this line played a big part in the emigration of the 1840's.

Route to Ohio

 map of North America

The map (adapted from that in Colman) shows the route taken by most emigrants - Liverpool to New York; by river boat to Albany and then via the Erie Canal to Buffalo and finally by lake steamer to Cleveland.

Time to cross the Atlantic

A detailed reply to this can be seen in the account by Hodson - the averages for the various months from Liverpool to New York range from 21-26 days (the return voyage was considerably slower). However these timings were for specially built packet ships - cheaper journeys would be on old freight vessels and would take several days longer. Obviously some voyages could be further extended by bad weather or mishap.

It would appear that each ship made some 3 round trips per year - spending around 20 days in each port. It is also apparent that the number of ships on the run increased each year. It was not only the Manx that were emigrating at that time - Hodgson's book was in most part concerned with emigration to both the USA and to Canada. Ohio alone saw a doubling of population each decade - most of whom would have entered via New York.


Cabin passengers paid £25 which included all food (and in those days all alcohol as well) - Hodgson gives an interesting account of this luxurious mode of travel - some 20-25 passengers travelled this way..

It is again midnight; but as we have 19 passengers, and as I cannot write in my state-room, I avail myself of a quiet moment, which can only occur when all are in bed, to write my journal,
" Noting, erethey fade away,
" The little lines of yesterday."
There is, however, little variety to note: the account of one day's routine will almost serve for all.–At 7 o'clock the bell rings to call up the passengers, who make their appearance at all hours from six to nine o'clock, when the bell rings for breakfast. When those who are up leave the deck, where they have been inquiring how fast we have gone during the night–which way the wind is–what are our prospects for that day, &c &c.– Breakfast usually consists of coffee, chocolate, and tea, veal cutlet, or beef-steaks, sausages, &c. and hot bread and butter; and when our poor cow, in the long-boat on deck, has been bountiful, we are indulged with milk or cream, but the frequent storms interfere with her bounty, and her supplies, when most generous, are often intercepted, as it is proper they should be, by some children who are on board. After breakfast, we usually go on deck with or without books, and muffled up in great coats, our vessel being too generally on her side during this stormy passage, to admit of exercise.–About eleven o'clock, those who are troubled with ennui, go down for a glass of wine and bitters. At twelve o'clock they descend again for lunch, and call for it, if not ready, with an impatience and impetuosity which would indicate the efficiency of the bitters in creating an appetite. Lunch consists of cold meat, cheese, biscuits, seed-cake, Port and Madeira wine, cider, ale, porter, &c. and about two-thirds of the -passengers usually attend. Those who begin to be tired of them selves by one o'clock, then " turn in," as they call it, or get into their births and try to sleep; the rest talk or read on the deck, or in the cabin till four o'clock, when dinner is announced. By the solicitude which is expressed for this hour, you would imagine that breakfasts and luncheons were omitted at sea. The dinners would really be considered as excellent on shore. They usually consist of soup, one or two roasted turkies, ducks and fowls, poultry-pies, and beef, or mutton, with hot tarts, or puddings, which last, on Sundays, are always plum puddings. There is then a dessert of apples, almonds and raisins, hickory-nuts, figs, prunes, &c.; and as the wines are found by the ship, I assure you they are not spared. There are generally three or four who stick to the bottle till seven o'clock, and then come on deck to smoke a cigar, while the table is preparing for tea, which is announced by a bell at eight o'clock. After tea, there is usually one party at whist, and another at chess or backgammon, the rest read in the cabin, or walk on deck. At nine, many of the passengers take a glass of hot whiskey-punch, and scone " turn in ;" others go on deck, and walk till eleven, when they come down, and take a last (or last but one,) glass of brandy and water; and thus, with the aid of the four meals, and two or three subsidiary morsels, and half a dozen glasses of spirits ends the day.–Some, however, are as abstemious as on shore, (others, against their will, much more so,) and we have three or four on board, who, amidst all the interruptions incident to a rough passage, and close quarters with 19 or 20 passengers, contrive to get five or six hours of steady reading, and three or four of agree able conversation; but much time is almost necessarily lost at sea, except it be employed in reflection, which there is much to excite, or in learning patience. With regard to lessons of patience; perhaps, the captain has the best chance; for we are all perpetually asking him questions, which it is impossible for him to answer.–" Captain, which way is the wind going to be to-morrow?"–" Captain, how far shall we have run by twelve o'clock tonight?" "Captain,how long will this wind hold?"–"Captain,shall we meet the James Monroe coming out of Liverpool .P– Captain, you said last night it looked easterly-like, and here's the wind blowing west, as steady as it can blow," &c. –Towards night, we all have our patience exercised, by pathetic soliloquies, and the exhibition of petty miseries re cannot relieve: " Oh, I wish I was in Liverpool." " Well, I'll never cross the Atlantic again, I can tell you. " It's very odd that medical men, whose business it is can give us no cure for sea-sickness.–Captain, have you nothing on board that will stay on one's stomach?–I have tried every thing at regular meals, and the steward has cooked me a great many things but I can: get nothing to do."–" Why, sir, we've arrow root and saga, and the steward will make you any kind of gruels or soups that you fancy."–" Oh, I've-tried all those, and they are all alike. I am as sick as ever.–I wish the ship would not roll so.–Do'nt you think, if you lowered the topsails she would roll less ?"–" No; I do'nt think she would, sir, and, at all events, she would not go so quick."–" Why, I am sure she is not going five knots an hour."–" Yes, sire she is going nine."– " I'lI bet you ten dollars she's not going more than seven."–" Yes, sir; we have just hove the log, and she's going nine."

23d.–Still a fair wind–an unfortunate row last night among some of the gay young passengers; but it was suppressed by the cool determination and gentlemanly conduct of the captain–256 miles.

24th.–We find we have sailed 1535 miles since this day week.

25th, Sunday.–Had service on board, at which many of the sailors attended, with far more apparent seriousness than some of the passengers.–So wet, that we were all confined below. The sermon read by Judge E–was one of Blair's. " Our times are in his hand." To-day, in the church prayers, we prayed for his Majesty King George–last Sunday, for the President of the United States.–At nine o'clock, a severe gale came on, and we were obliged to take down every sail–184 miles.

26th.–A fair wind, but less brisk; at twelve o'clock, we calculated that we were 520 miles from Cape Clear.– At night, passed a brig, bound to Europe, but did not speak her.–Have seen several sea-gulls during the last two days, sometimes swimming–184 miles.


However Hollett reckons that less than 2% of all emigrants travelled in such luxury. These passengers travelled steerage at a much lower rate (Hollett states that few lines advertised their costs - they could be 'obtained upon application'). Such steerage passengers would not have mixed with cabin passengers.

The account left by Thomas Tear is probably much more typical of the type of conditions encountered by the the 'middle class' Manx emigrants of the 1820's and 1830's.

We were finally put on board a small brig, if I remember rightly, of 200 tons, but seems wrong, to me, as she had on 200 passengers, mostly Irish [ see Act of 1819 which limited passengers 2 per 5 ton burthen]. Her name was Amelia of Liverpool, at the helm was, Captain Tagert. They had no such accommodations, as they advertised. We occupied what was called the second cabin, with some English people, and a few better class Irish, on the opposite side of the cabin. But It was not separated from the steerage, as I think it was called, by any door, which was on the same deck, and just forward of us, and was filled with Irish. It was separated from the cabin by a rough board partition, with cracks that the children could peek through.

The passenger quarters had three rows of berths all around, and there were two low benches, which was all the furniture there was in our part. There were two hatches over the passengers, affording all the light and ventilation that passengers had, and if It was rough, these were partly closed. There was a coal fire, in a grate on deck for the passengers to cook by. One man died on the passage, but to me, the wonder, is that half of them were not dead. The scent down there in that dirty, ill-ventilated hole, was anything but sweet. Mother was sick all the way, also Mrs. Gawne, but the rest, stood it well. The burden of cooking fell on my oldest sister, but she seemed to benefit by it. The passengers carried and cooked their own provisions, and as the fire would not accommodate them all at once. This made considerable dissatisfaction, eating was done, without setting of tables, and just as you could catch it.

Tear's voyage took some 40 days, a few days longer than the average by the faster packets for that time of year.

Thomas Kelly paid for an adult passage £3 16s. per Passenger. Children under 7 years 3 to a passenger (i.e. £1 5s each for the transatlantic journey). Note that this did not include food which had to be bought by the emigrant. This is borne out by Tear who quotes "The passage money, it seems to me, was 3 and a half pounds sterling: small children half price. "

It is difficult to map these costs into today's money. T. Quayle in 1812 quotes a wage of 10s per week (without any perks) as exceptional for a agricultural labourer. Mapping this back to around £4 per hour for a 40 hour week (they would have worked considerably longer hours then) gives a multiplier of around 350-400. Thus in today's terms each passage cost about £1200 or more. Not an inconsiderable sum.

It is interesting to note that the passage from Ramsey to Liverpool cost 5s per passenger - about £100 in today's terms - not too dissimilar from today's rather costly journey on this monopoly route! Tear's comment on this short section of the journey is interesting.

It was a small, decked vessel, of about 30 foot keel, owned and run by an old acquaintance. We went aboard near night, and sailed into Liverpool early next morning. It was the worst part of the passage to America. It was quite rough. The women and children were stowed below with the baggage, without proper care or attention, It was thought, were all sick.

New York to Ohio

Tear was in probably the first party to leave for Ohio (in 1826)- as he states:

I will mention here, before reaching Liverpool, they [his parents] expected to take passage to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Then travel by wagon, across the country to Jefferson County, Ohio. Two families were there, who had left the Island some 4 years before. At Liverpool, they were informed of the recent completion, of the Erie Canal, enabling them to reach Ohio by way of New York, by water, which was far more preferable. So they went to New York.

This route quickly became the standard route as taken by Thomas Kelly the following year. To continue with Tear's account:

We were in New York only a few hours, before starting for Albany, on the river. We were on some kind of boat, that was fastened to the side of a steamer, and drawn along, or towed. The boat was open and there were two boats on one side and one on the other side of the steamer. Thus we went up the Hudson River to Albany, in not over 24 hours.
We had gotten to Albany and while waiting on the dock, for a canal boat, on which to take passage, there was a great strife among the boats for the passengers.
We finally got aboard a boat, and reached Buffalo in a week.
At Buffalo, we were put aboard a schooner called,"The Lady of the Lake"; because of foul wind, the flat bottom of the vessel, and the unskillfulness of the seamen, we were two weeks in reaching Fairport, 160 miles. We landed early in the morning, before sunrise, on the 5th of July, 1826. A boat came from shore to take us In, the schooner was not able to enter the harbor, because of a bar.


D. Hollet Passage to the New World Abergavenny:P.M.Heaton Publishing 1995 (ISBN 1-872006-08-6) deals mainly with the Irish Mass emigration of the mid 1840's but chapter 5 gives a short history of the New York Packets

Adam Hodgson Letters from North America written during a Tour in the United States and Canada 2 vols (extract from vol 2 p343/7) 1824 Hurst Robinson & Co London and A. Constable & Co Edinburgh.

Tear's account is retold in chap 16/17 of Manx, Isle of Man History of Manx People who came to America Lake County Genealogical Society (ed. L McNaughton) 1991. This in turn is based on a Manuscript Notebook (50 pp) in Morely Library Painesville, Ohio.

 [Genealogy Index]


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001