Cation & Duncan Emigration

Our immigrant Duncans came to the United States from Scotland in the early 1840s.  Their first child born in the US joined us in 1846 near Rochester, New York.  From this I guessed that they entered somewhere on the eastern seaboard.  Before the internet I searched everything available on passenger lists for Boston, New York and Philadelphia primarily.

On two different ships I found a Thomas Duncan about the right age – both times traveling on his own.  I learned from the Eliza Duncan English interview that he did come over on his own before the family came over.  So perhaps one or both of these voyages are his, but it’s impossible to verify without more information.

It was only after the internet gave access to so many more records that I made any breakthrough.  I found Eliza Cation (her maiden name) with her three sons, William, Thomas, and John Duncan, traveling with Eliza’s relatives, William and Margaret Cation, and their children, William, Ann, James, and Margaret.  Young William Cation had a twin sister, Isabella, who was left behind in Arngask working as a servant.  This is according to Isabella’s son who told his grandson the story of great-grandmother Barclay.

yorkshire pass list col

Passenger list from the ship Yorkshire, 1843.

The most amazing thing to me is that they sailed on the Ship Yorkshire from Liverpool to New Orleans.  Neither port was exprected.  A Scottish friend told me that Liverpool isn’t a convenient port now for travel from Scotland to the US.  And New Orleans is certainly a long way from Liverpool and from New York.

eastern states ny wi no

The Yorkshire sailed 8 March 1843 from Liverpool and arrived in New Orleans 10 May May 1843 – 63 days at sea.  There were problems and this is known because there was a group of Mormons on board who kept diaries.

smith diary ship yorkshire

Smith diary

Following are entries which were taken from a journal kept by Andrew Jenson who was also a passenger on the Yorkshire.  They were found at

The Yorkshire is a splendid new vessel. The emigrants went aboard on the 6th and 7th of March 1843, and sailed from Liverpool. On the 9th, nearly all the passengers were seasick, which lasted for several days, as the winds were very contrary, and several days were spent in the Irish Sea. Once a terrible wave struck the vessel and water ran down the hatchway. April 4th, they caught the trade wind, going south and they rejoiced at having more favorable winds. After that the people began holding meetings, which however, were opposed by non-Mormon passengers on board. At length the heat became oppressive. They passed the West Indies between Cuba and Jamaica.

On May 3rd, early in the morning, the vessel was struck by a terrible squall, breaking off all the upper parts of the mast. All hands were called up and they raised the sails as best they could. This was off Cape Antonio. As soon as the sails were set, there was a good wind. On May 8th they met the pilot boat and were piloted over the Balize to New Orleans. It was a grand sight along the shores of the Mississippi, but Negro slavery disgusted the British. On the 10th they landed at New Orleans, being nine weeks on the voyage. The heat in New Orleans was intense. On the 13th of May the Claybourne [docked] in New Orleans, which had sailed from Liverpool later than the Yorkshire.

At New Orleans the Yorkshire passengers took passage up the Mississippi River on board the steamboat Dove, for Nauvoo, paying $3.50 per adult passenger. They left New Orleans on the 16th of May.

I left the parts in about the Mormons’ travel north to Nauvoo (Illinois) because it’s likely that the Cations also traveled by river – The Mississippi and maybe up the Ohio River to get to Rochester.

The following is from the History of Joseph Smith, under the date of May 2nd, 1843:

Between one and two o’clock next morning, when off Cape St. Antonio, Cuba, there was much vivid lightning, when a white squall caught the foretop royal sail, which careened the vessel, when the foremast, mainmast and mizenmast snapped asunder with an awful crash; the whole of the masts above, with the job and spanker, and sixteen sails and studding poles, were carried overboard with a tremendous splash and surge, when the vessel right.  At daybreak all on deck was in confusion and a complete wreck.  During the day a sail was hoisted from the stump of the main mast to the bow of the vessel, thus leaving nothing but the hull of the vessel to carry the Saints into New Orleans.

There’s more about this journey on the BYU Mormon Migration site.  I’ve never found a photograph of their ship Yorkshire.  Perhaps this voyage did it in, but in 1844 there was a new ship Yorkshire – and many photos of it!

This was a difficult journey for all, and Eliza traveled with three children, ages 4, 2, and 1.

The story of Thomas Duncan and Eliza Cation began here.

6 thoughts on “Cation & Duncan Emigration

  1. My great-great-great-great grandfather, William Duncan (probably little relation to this Duncan family) of St. Andrews, Scotland, at age 13 with his merchant father Henry left Liverpool in 1795 (and were eventually captured by pirates and taken to Hispaniola, but that’s another story). My understanding is that Liverpool was once a lively shipping center, and isn’t that far from St. Andrews, Scotland making it the natural departure point for my relatives. I just checked Wikipedia and Liverpool was built on the profits from the slave trade and commerce (sugar, cotton) from North America. It was once the second largest city in Britain, and its leading port.

    The arrival port of New Orleans is kind of surprising, if their eventual destination was originally intended to be Rochester, NY. They could much more easily have docked in New York City, gone up the Hudson, and traveled the Erie Canal (which had been open for 18 years and thus must have been well known to travelers) to upstate New York. Perhaps they intended to go to Wisconsin but somehow got diverted to New York?


    • I think Liverpool is worse for St Andrews than it was for Glasgow. Quite a trip – even today! And Glasgow was a big port too and the most likely for Scottish emigration. What were these people thinking?? 🙂


      • I have wondered if my 5th-great-grandfather might have had a financial interest in the ship that they were on (not unusual for an owner to ride along). Given that in 1795, Britain and the U.S. were cranking up for the War of 1812, they probably sailed to Nova Scotia and then south toward the Caribbean where they were captured. (Others of my Scottish ancestors started their emigration journey in Spinningdale, on the northeast corner of Scotland, and I’ve wondered if they sailed through the North Sea…YIKES.)

        Yes, I wonder what WERE they thinking? I’d like to know! Too bad they left these mysteries for posterity.


      • I have asked that very question. The family said ‘Cassion’ rhymes with passion. On an old death certificate the informer actually wrote the name as Cassion. However, I asked a Scotman and he said it would definitely not have been pronounced that way in Scotland. He predicted more of a Cat-ee-un, but wasn’t sure. So, do we stay with the Americanized Cassion? BTW, it is a terrible name to search for because you get all the education, publication, and other prefixed-cations.


  2. Pingback: William Duncan 1838-1863 Part 1 | This I Leave


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