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December 2016 Newsletter

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This Is What My Ancestor, a Ship Captain, Saw in 1769!

I found this 1769 newspaper article about my 5th great-grandfather James Garcelon (1739-1813). He was a ship captain.

Essex Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts), 2 May 1769, page 161

It documents that he was the captain of the schooner Alexander that had cleared the port of Salem, Massachusetts, on 1 May 1769 headed for Bilbao, Spain.

Wow. That’s incredible. I knew he was a ship captain – now I can look back in history and see when and where he went in the 1760s!

I used GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to document the ships he captained and their voyages to and from Europe and the Caribbean. Here is how I did it.

I searched for him using GenealogyBank’s Passenger Lists search page for old shipping records. GenealogyBank has these from 1704 to 1984.


These shipping list articles often print the name of the ship captain in abbreviated forms. I have found that the best search is to use only his surname: Garcelon.

In the 1769 newspaper article his name was given as “J. Garcelon,” but I have also seen it printed as:

  • James Garcelon
  • Jas. Garcelon
  • and simply Garcelon

In digging deeper to find more information about the port of Bilbao, Spain, I found this illustration of the port as it appeared in 1760.

Source: Vista de La Muy Noble Villa de Bilbao, 1760. Kiko, Juliete. Humanizacin de la Ria de Bilbao. SlideShare

Here is that same view today.

Source: Wikipedia. General view of the Bilbao estuary as it passes through the city.

What experiences he had!

Thanks to GenealogyBank I can document his voyages and pass them down for the family for years to come.

Use all of the tools at your disposal to explore your family history. GenealogyBank has the details of your ancestors’ lives.

I learned more about my 5th great-grandfather – what will you discover?