View Full Version : are boatsmen the same as shipwrights

16-10-2008, 9:19 PM
i am hoping someone could help me please

Elizabeth Thomas married Samuel Hodgkinson in newport 1862

Elizabeth father was William Thomas boatman

only william thomas i can find in wales is William Thomas shipwright

so my question is ...

is boatman the same as shipwright?

16-10-2008, 9:31 PM
According to the Index of Old Occupations (http://rmhh.co.uk/occup/index.html):

Boatman: 1) Worked on river and canal boats 2) Boat repairer

Shipright: Builder and repairer of ships

16-10-2008, 9:31 PM
According to http://rmhh.co.uk/occup/b.html a boatman worked on boats on canals and rivers or was a boat repairer.

A shipwright would, presumably, be dealing with sea-going vessels.

SNAP, Jan!

16-10-2008, 9:36 PM
so i am still stuck .....

and getting a headache

i cant find him any ideas for knocking down my brick wall ?

16-10-2008, 9:45 PM
Snap, Davran!

Supermum - one of the definitions of a boatman is a repairer of boats, and a shipright does the same for ships.

I know that the purists will probably say that a ship is not a boat (and vice versa) but we are going by people's 19th century interpretation of an occupation. It may also be that William was trying to make his occupation sound more important. ;)

I certainly would not dismiss the William Thomas that you have found.

16-10-2008, 9:48 PM
He could have changed or varied his job. One reference is for 1862; when is the reference to a shipwright dated?

16-10-2008, 9:53 PM
the william i found is a ships master by 1871

the father on the groom side was a labourer ...was he playing down his role?

thanks for your help

Guy Etchells
17-10-2008, 6:04 AM
I would suggest the compiler of the online occupations was perhaps not quite as thorough as he/she should have been.

According to The Dictionary of Occupational Terms published by the Ministry of Labour (the official listing).

A boat man (boatman)
(i) rows a boat (belonging to Customs service) from point to point in port or harbour, conveying Customs officers engaged in boarding ships for Customs examination; or is a member of crew of larger boat... (for same purpose)

(ii) Owning a boat in which he conveys Customs officers about harbour in the way described.

There are various other categories of boatmen but all own or row a boat servicing larger ships, or hiring boats out for pleasure.
The entry concerning shipbuilding has the boatman paying out ropes, gathering or selecting logs, securing floating timber after a launch etc. etc.
In other words even when used in the shipbuilding industry the job involved rowing a boat fetching and carrying, not building.


20-10-2008, 6:36 AM
i am still none the wiser

i am glad of all your responcies

but i just want to find elizabeth thomas with her family ....father occupation boatsman

& the one that comes close is shipwright

maybe when she got married the registar decided to write boats man for shipwright ?

20-10-2008, 6:50 AM
maybe when she got married the registar decided to write boats man for shipwright ?

I don't think so, they were clearly defined and different occupations.

Your problem in tracking a boatman is that the nature of his work meant that in many cases he would not stay in one place for very long.

Any hints at all as to whether this was someone who worked in either a harbour - or a river, or canal? Where according to census returns was Elizabeth born?

only william thomas i can find in wales

The problem is the opposite, the very large number of people called William Thomas in Wales and elsewhere. Although your lass may have been married in Newport - there is nothing in that to say that dad lived there - or nearby.

Do any later census returns show your lass with any family members - siblings, aunts, uncles, parents?

Mary Anne
20-10-2008, 11:41 AM

OK, I have an example for you - although my man lived in Québec City, not Britain...

John Alexander lived in Québec City all of his life (between 1827 and 1903). He lived for the most part on Champlain Street, right on the St. Lawrence River, where were shipyards manufacturing all manner and size of ships and boats. John was listed variously over the years, in censuses and directories as:

1847 and 1849: boat builder
1852: boat builder (census - he has a "boat shed" on his property); boatman (directory)
1854-1861: boat builder (census and directories)
1864-1868: spar maker or mast maker (directories)
1868-1892: he was listed variously as a boat builder and a spar maker and a mast maker (census and directories)
1893-1902: shipwright and mast maker (census and directories)
and finally, at his death in 1903, he was listed as a spar maker.

In my own interpretation of this terminology, I can see a progression to more specialization and probably more skill, as he grew older. Perhaps also, considering the period, a move from smaller to larger craft. He may have started out as more of a labourer, while developing the skills to not only build boats/ships and their parts, but also to supervise others who were doing so (as I believe he did in later years).

I hope this helps you with your William Thomas... Personally, I would be inclined to adopt the Welsh one until you find another one somewhere else!!!

And you're right, the best way to be *sure* would be to find him and the whole family together somewhere.

It's all just a continuing search really, isn't it?!;)

Good luck

Mary Anne

20-10-2008, 11:51 AM
thanks mary ann

i have ordered elizabeth 2nd marriage so fingers crossed she mentions william thomas as her father & mentions his job

the joys of genology