To Nova Scotia: The Emigration

Why these settlers were chosen, how they were recruited, and their trip across the ocean

Summary written by Nancy Shaver (e-mail: nancy at flora dot org), main source is "The Foreign Protestants and the Settlement of Nova Scotia" by Winthrop Pickard Bell. The ancestor surnames listed are those of Carolyn Eileen (Zinck) Shaver, my mother.

The British governing board that looked after the settlement of Nova Scotia sought out foreign (i.e. non-British) protestants. The English were hard to persuade to emigrate, and often did not work out very well as settlers. The colonies to the south had had good results with foreign protestants and found them very hard-working and capable of settling new areas, so it was decided to recruit European protestants for Nova Scotia as well. Roman Catholics were not welcome.

The British government hired John Dick of Rotterdam as their agent to procure the emigrants and arrange for their transport to Nova Scotia. Dick sent agents up the Rhine River to find settlers. Posters and handbills were used to get the word out that the new colony of Nova Scotia was open for settlement.

There was a lot of competition between agents for the various colonies in those days, and competing agents spread rumours about how awful the Nova Scotia climate was, the lack of agricultural prospects, and the ferociousness of the Indian attacks. Also, once settlers arrived at Rotterdam they were sometimes convinced by another agent to sail for another colony.

Settlers were responsible for their own passage down the Rhine, although Dick's agents would help to arrange it. Tolls had to be paid along the way as the boats moved through different principalities, and this would also slow down the voyage.

The settlers were mostly redemptioners. This meant that in return for their passage across the Atlantic, they owed the British government labour when they arrived in the new colony. Some passengers with the means to pay their own way chose to be redemptioners instead, so that they could save their money to help them get established in their new land, and this was likely a good idea.

The board preferred as much as possible that young single men be recruited, but in actual fact many families, and even older family members, made the voyage. This was probably for the best in the long run, as records show that the families were more likely to remain in Nova Scotia and settle down there. There were some complaints from the board as to fact that older people were allowed to make the voyage, but entire families often moved together, and it was not really reasonable in those days of no social services to expect the old to be left behind. As well, emigrants aged 45 or more would be considered relatively old back then!

The emigrants were put aboard ships in Rotterdam.

The Ships

The Ann, 1750

Captain: John Spurrier
Sailed: around June 28th, 1750
Arrived: September 2nd or 13th
Voyage lasted: 71-76 days
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 322
Number alive at Halifax: 305
Number of deaths on the voyage: 17 (5.3%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Ann: Spindler, and possibly the Sperre's and Brunkers.

The passengers were put aboard a few at a time as they arrived at Rotterdam. All were aboard by June 21, 1750. The ship went to sea 1 week later from Helleoet Roads- ships would drop down the river to this point and wait for a good sailing wind. On arrival, the passengers were landed within 5 days, and thus were aboard for more than 12 weeks altogether.

Unlike the voyages in later years, there was no ventilating apparatus in the Ann. As well, drinking water was rationed as a lot of it leaked out during the voyage.

There were 2 other ships in 1750, the Alderney and the Nancy, but no ships lists survived.

The Speedwell, 1751

Sailed: 18 May, 1751
Arrived: 10 or 21 July, 1751
Voyage lasted: 72-80 days, from embarking to landing
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 229
Number alive at Halifax: 212
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 17 (7.4%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Speedwell in 1751: Hatt

The Gale, 1751

Arrived: 8 or 19 August, 1751
Voyage lasted: 70 days on board
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 214
Number alive at Halifax: 205
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 9 (4.2%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Gale in 1751:
Dimon, Bolivar, Deuthoff

The Pearl, 1751

Voyage lasted: 86 days on board
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 264
Number alive at Halifax: 232
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 32 (12.1%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Pearl in 1751: Loffler, Wacker, Hoffman, Reinhardt, Hubley

The Murdoch, 1751

Sailed: Fell down river the 22 of June, 1751
Arrived: 19 or 30 September, 1751
Voyage lasted: 98 days on board ship
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 298
Number alive at Halifax: 269
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 29 (9.7%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Murdoch in 1751: Zinck, Conrad, Schaffner, Wolff, Volcker

The Speedwell, 1752

Sailed: 16 May, 1752 from Hellevoet Roads (down river from Rotterdam)
Voyage lasted: 68-82 days on board
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 216
Number alive at Halifax:
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 13 (6.0%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Speedwell in 1752: Joudrie and Robert

The Betty, 1752:

Captain: Warden
Sailed: 16 May, 1752 from Hellevoet Roads (down river from Rotterdam)
Voyage lasted: 68-82 days on board
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 161
Number alive at Halifax: 154
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 7 (4.3%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Betty in 1752: Daree, Lowe, Vienot

The Betty and the Speedwell traveled together. The Betty's passengers were landed on St. George's Island.

The Sally, 1752

Sailed: from Rotterdam the 30 May, 1752
Arrived: 26 Aug. or 6 Sept., 1752, and not allowed to disembark until 26 Sept.
Voyage lasted: 90 days on board
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 258
Number alive at Halifax: 218
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 39 (15.5%) (including 2 of our ancestors)
Ancestors who arrived on the Sally in 1752: Boutilier, Barkhouse

It was a long and stormy passage. There was more illness than usual, and it continued for a time after landing, which is likely why the passengers had to stay on board for almost a month after arrival. Two of our Boutilier ancestors died on the voyage, they were the parents of the Boutilier (who was 21 at that time) that we are descended from. The master of the Sally died on the voyage as well.

The Gale, 1752

Sailed: Fell down river the 5 June
Arrived: 26 Aug. or 6 Sept., 1752 and not allowed to disembark until 26 Sept.
Voyage lasted: 110 days on board
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 249
Number alive at Halifax: 220
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 29 (11.6%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Gale in 1752: Knickle, Zwicker, Schmitt, Seiler, Wagner, and Himmelman

A long and stormy passage. Violent westerly gales. Some seamen died on the trip. More illness on this ship as well, so they too were delayed in disembarking. The delay may also have been partly due to the barracks to house them not yet being finished.

The Pearl, 1752

Sailed: Fell down river the 6 June
Arrived: 11 or 22 of August
Voyage lasted: 120 days on board
Number of souls who left Rotterdam: 251
Number alive at Halifax: 212
Number of deaths on the Voyage: 40 (15.5%)
Ancestors who arrived on the Pearl in 1752: Herman, Corkum

A long and stormy passage for this ship as well, with the same problem of illness in the passengers leading to a high mortality rate.

Shipboard Conditions

Conditions were rough! The emigrants were carried on the'tween decks of the ship, and the average height of the deck was only 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 feet. The bedplaces for "4 whole freights" were 6 feet square. ( 4 freights was equivalent to 4 adults over the age of 14. Kids 4-14 were considered a half freight and under 4 were carried free, so had no space allocated to them.) Berths were raised wooden structures, with a space underneath them for baggage. Berths were not completely divided off from each other, in order to allow air to circulate. The headroom within the berth was less than 4 feet, and sometimes as low as 2' 9" in those places where there was room for double berths. Altogether, it sounds rather claustrophobic and crowded.

Some of the ships stopped in England to replenish their food and water before setting out on the ocean crossing. Food and drink was often scanty and insufficient, with food turning putrid and wormy before the end of the voyage, and water being incredibly foul, especially towards the end of the voyage. The water would have a disgusting smell and taste, and there were often long green slimy growths within the water supply. Sometimes gin, brandy or possibly even vinegar would be added when drinking it to make it more palatable. Vinegar was also sometimes sprinkled around because of the stench in the air. At that time, sickness was believed to come from the air, and to counteract the smell on the ship it was believed that that would counteract disease to some degree.

Here is a schedule of rations for one week, for one of Dick's ships:

"Sunday: 1 lb boiled beef with as much boiled rice as they can eat.
Monday: Barley or grout (groats) boiled, which they eat with treacle, as much as will.
Tuesday: 1 lb boiled beef with as much boiled rice as they can eat.
Wednesday: Barley or rice boiled as on Mondays.
Thursday: 1/2 lb Porke, and a pound of flower (flour)
Friday: As much stock fish (dried salt codfish) boiled as they choose and one pound of butter.
Saturday: Boiled pease (dried peas) and a pound of cheese.

"With a measure (a measure=1 quart) of beer every day as long as it keeps good, and 2 measures of water, and 6 lbs of bread per week, and some gin to be distributed by the captain as he sees fit."

Children received half the rations of adults. Emigrants may have had to prepare some of their own food on ship, it is not really known. Fire grates on deck for cooking were common on ships of that time, although at least some of the food on Dick's ships seems to have been provided cooked. One account from that time but not from one of these ships tells of passengers collecting on deck and taking turns at the fire grates to make a sort of bannock out of their flour ration, which was often burnt on the outside and still doughy in the middle.

Children aged 1-7 often died on the voyage, especially the infants.

When the ships arrived at Halifax, they were detained for a period of 5-21 days, due to illness or there being no place to put the new immigrants. After spending a couple of months at sea, and some time before departure back in Europe, cooped up on ship, it must have been very frustrating to have arrived at their destination and not be allowed off, for a period of several more weeks in some cases!

All ships except the Ann had ventilators that were supposed to run 1 hour out of 4, to exchange air in the hold with fresh air, except during stormy weather. Many of the ships also had a "physician" of sorts, and there was a medicine chest. Many of these physicians were very young, and training for doctors in those times was not very rigorous.


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