Across the main to Maine

The Allan Line and the Dominion Line both served North American ports from their bases in Liverpool. The more northerly transatlantic routes were seasonal. Sailings to Quebec and Montreal in Canada took place in summer, when the St Lawrence River was navigable for ocean-going vessels as far as Montreal, but switched to Halifax NS and Portland ME during the winter months when the St Lawrence would freeze. The seasonal pattern to sailings means that if you know that a person you are looking for landed at, for example, Portland, they are far more likely to have arrived in the States after October and before April.

Many of the persons travelling to Quebec and Montreal were travelling on to destinations not within Canada but the USA, particularly in the Midwest: it is therefore always wise to consider passenger lists for Canadian ports when looking for evidence of American immigrants. It seems possible, from passengers’ occupations, that the fares to the four ports mentioned above might have been cheaper than those to Boston and New York further south, and this may have been part of their attraction.

Portland ME may not have the glamour of Boston or New York but by the 1890s it was a rapidly expanding town and busy entrepot, not just as a result of its being a hub receiving immigrants and other travellers, but also because of its handling of exports of goods (such as grain) from the Midwest.

Click on the link below to see the first page of a passenger list from December 1891. The ship was the Allan Line’s Numidian and it is notable that the transatlantic crossing from Liverpool to Portland was expected to take 37 days. The passengers detailed on this page are all recorded as being English – even the delightfully named single adult female Miss McGrotty, whom otherwise we might perhaps have expected to see in the “Scotch” column of the list. Other pages of the same passenger list show contingents of “Foreigners” with Northern European surnames such as Antila, Bender, Bilker, Jensen and Persson.


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