Some of the most fascinating of the passenger lists of the 1890s are those of the British & African Steam Navigation Company Ltd serving the West Coast of Africa. The lists themselves are pro forma, with “List of passengers per SS…” pre-printed at the top of the page followed by a space for the master to fill in the name of the ship, the date of departure from Liverpool and the destination. Each list is short, giving details of maybe a dozen or 15 passengers.
These handwritten documents are pleasing in themselves but what is particularly interesting about them is that the shipping company operated an “on demand” or “request” feeder service. In other words, rather than having a fixed itinerary, each sailing would call en route at those ports at which the fare-paying passengers wished to disembark. This means that, as a researcher, you do not know from one passenger list to the next where a ship will be calling. It also means that obscure and small ports or harbours sometimes appear in the lists.
The obscurity of some of the ports can create difficulties for us at ancestorsonboard when we come to check the transcription of lists and to match destination ports with countries for online searching. For instance, in the entire decade of the 1890s we appear to have just single sailings to places called Pedro and Jones River. The accuracy of the transcriptions has been checked and they are faithful to the original document. However, at the time of writing we remain uncertain as to the location of these two ports. We know of course that they must have been somewhere upon the route of the vessel indicated by the destinations of other passengers, but this simply means that we have to consider Madeira, the Canary Islands and the entire coast of Africa from Morocco round to the Congo. We believe that Pedro may well be San Pedro in the Ivory Coast. To date, however, we have not identified a Jones River in West Africa.
Click on the link below for a passenger list for a typical West Coast of Africa voyage from 1892. You can see the various stopping-off ports listed down the right-hand side. This list was chosen by way of example as it includes a Mr F M Hodgson travelling to Accra in what was then the Gold Coast Colony (now Ghana). Mr (later Sir) Frederick Mitchell Hodgson was the Governor of this British colony at various points between 1889 and 1900 and features at least seven times in the passenger lists for the 1890s. There are also two lists which presumably refer to his wife, the earlier one as Mrs and the later as Lady Hodgson. You can find other Administrators and Governors of British West African colonies in the BT27 passenger lists for the 1890s – for instance, try searching for Sir Robert Baxter Llewelyn (going to Gambia), or Frederick Cardew or William Hollingworth Quayle Jones (both Governors of Sierra Leone).