Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History

Emigrant Ships departing Weymouth

(and sources of tracing ancestors)

Although not generally used as an embarkation point for emigrants as much as other ports like Plymouth or Bristol, Weymouth was used for some of the first ships sailing to America. The reason that the early ships departed from Weymouth is that the start of emigration was organised by a local minister, the Reverend John White of St. Peters, Dorchester. He along with fellow residents of the Dorset County town founded the Massachusetts Bay Company. The Massachusetts Bay Company was originally concerned with fishing, but when that failed some years after its inception, the trade turned to emigrants. The Amity set sail from here in February 1625/6. The ship Abigail set sail from Weymouth in 1628 with many Dorset emigrants bound for New England. This particular passage was important as it carried the new government for the London Plantation in Massachusetts. The governor, the first of Massachusetts, was John Endicott.

There is a memorial to John Endicott sited by the Ferry Terminal in Weymouth. For more information please see the Abigail

Information as to passengers and even a port of departure for many ships in the early years of emigration to America are very sparse. Some records are available at the Public Record Office (now the National Archives) at Kew, England. Records of the Home Office relating to transportation of convicts are available in the form of registers at the PRO (NA). Often it is only by the use of other records that the ship of arrival is found. It is from such records that many of the early passenger lists have been compiled.

Several printed works, mainly of Charles E. Banks, particularly the Topographical Dictionary of 2885 English Emigrants to New England 1620-50 (published 1937) and The Winthrop Fleet (1930) are the most informative and useful in tracing ancestors who emigrated to America. Also the work of J.C. Hotten, Original List of Persons of Quality - Who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations (1874). The records of grants of land in America, particularly those of the early years during the establishment of the colonies, have greatly added to our knowledge of the lives of the emigrants. These records often include some detail of the passage to America and the origins of the emigrants. Some surnames are however peculiar to Dorset or at least the Westcountry and so even if an emigrant's origin is only given as England, they can usually be traced prior to arrival in America.

Another source of tracing ancestors who arrived in America from England is the work by P W Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage 1614-1775. This work includes convicts transported and the rebels of the Monmouth Rebellion who were sentenced at Judge Jeffreys' Bloody Assizes at Dorchester, Dorset in September 1685. Those sentenced to transportation throughout the years it operated were initially sent to Barbados usually in servitude, but in later years it was more usual for them to be sent to Virginia or Maryland. This continued until transportation became commonplace to Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand, eventually coming to an end in the late 19th century.


A chronology of ships known to have departed Weymouth bound for the Americas

Passengers, where known or ascertained from various sources are annotated with information from other miscellaneous sources.


1583 The Delight - Richard Clark's ship bound for Newfoundland (see the Abigail page for memorial details)


1624 The Zouch Phoenix - possibly departed Weymouth, arrived Cape Anne.

Passengers: Thomas Gardner and his wife, George Gardner, Richard Gardner, Joseph Gardner (all either of Weymouth or of Martock, Somerset), John Balch of Horton, Somerset, Mrs Agnes Balch, Benjamin Balch, John Balch, Thomas Gray, Walter Knight, William Trask of East Coker, Somerset, John Tilley, Peter Palfrey of Horton, Somerset, John Woodbury of Dorchester, Dorset.


1625/6 The Amity or Amytie - Master: Isaac Evans


1628 The Abigail


1633/4 The Recovery - (of London), arrived Dorchester Mass. Master: Gabriel Cornish.

Passengers: Antony Eames of Fordington, Dorset and his wife Margery, Thomas Newbery, Thomas Wakeley, Daniel Norchat, Joseph Androes, Robert Dible, John Pope, Stephen Terrey, Robert Elwell, John Watts, William Bowne, John Hardy, Sarah Hill, John Woolcocke, Thomas Shawe, Thomas Swift, George P--- (thought to be Phelps), Thomas Biscomb, Ezechia Hore, John Elderman, John Pinny.


1635 The Mary Gould - Master: Edward Cuttance


1635 The Unity - arrived Massachusetts Bay. Master: John Taylor

Passengers: Nicholas Tailor and family, Richard Davies and family, Hugh Corbin and family, William Buck and family, Robert Looke, wife and family, John Tise, wife and family, William Elwood, wife and family, Robert Cattell and family, Arther Hollman and family. PRO ref: E190/876/1


1636 The Hector


1636/7 an unidentified ship - Master: John Driver

Passengers: Joseph Hall of Somerset, minister, aged 40, Agnes his wife aged 25, seven children and three servants, Musachiell Bernard of Batcombe, clothier, Mary his wife, and two sons, Richard Persons, salter, and servant, Fras. Baber, chandler, Joseph Joyner, Walter Jesop, weaver, Timothy Tabor of Batcombe, Jane his wife, three daughters and servant, John Whitmarck, Alice his wife, and four children, Wm. Read of Batcombe, Susan his wife, two daughters, Rich. Adams, his servant, Mary his wife and child, Zachary Bickwell, Agnes his wife, son, and servant, George Allen, Katherine his wife, three sons and a servant, Henry Kingman, Joan his wife, five children and a servant, William King, Dorothy his wife, and four children, Thos. Holbrook of Broadway, Jane his wife, and four children, Thos. Dible, husbandman, and Frances his sister, Robt. Lovell, husbandman, Eliz. his wife, and five children and servant, Alice Kinham, Angell Holland, Katherine his wife, and two servants, Rich. Joanes of Dinder, Robt. Martyn of Badcombe, Joan Martyn, Hump. Shepheard, John Upham, Elizabeth his presumed wife and five children, Rich. Wade, Eliz. his wife, Dinah his daughter, and two servants, John Hoble and Robt. Huste, husbandmen, John Woodcock, Rich. Porter


1637 The Speedwell - Master: Robert Corbin - Goods shipped by Thomas Tayer and William Longe

Passengers: Edward Wiett and his wife, Elizabeth Winter and her two children, John Crocker his wife and his boy, Thomas Claff his wife and two friends, William Scaddinge, Walter Harris, his wife, six children and three servants, Giles Richard, his wife, three children, one boy and one maid, Thomas Farwell and two servants, Thomas Cooke his wife and three children, Wiliam Longe and his brother, Elizabeth Poole, two friends and 14 servants, Henry Cogan, his wife and two maidservants.


1679 The Elizabeth and Sarah - otherwise identified as the Elizabeth and Mary left Weymouth bound for Penn's Colony in Pennsylvania.

Passengers: William Biles of Dorchester, Dorset, his wife Johannah and children William, George, John, Elizabeth and Johannah, his servants Edward Hancock and Elizabeth Petty; Charles Biles of Dorchester, Dorset, Margaret Boare of Norton Bavant, Wiltshire the wife of Joshua, Robert Lucas of Deverel Longbridge, Wiltshire


1685 The Betty - a convict ship transported 80 convicts of the Monmouth Rebellion to Barbados. However, 8 died on voyage and were buried at sea.


1685 The Happy Return - a convict ship transported 91 rebels to Barbados. All survived the voyage.



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