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    Genealogical research about Ephraim Knowlton Hanks, his family, and his ancestors.
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USS Columbus Deck logs
22 January 2005 02:33

The week before last I received in the mail from the National Archives (NARA) a microfilm containing about 40 days worth of deck logs from the USS Columbus. When Eph was aboard, the ship sailed from Boston on the 29th of August, 1842. The logs I have go from about 10 days prior to leaving the harbor, and about 30 days after that.

Sunday evening I visited the local family history center and made copies of about 20 days worth of logs.

I haven't seen Eph's name in the logs yet, but there's a good bet he might turn up. Probably our best chance for finding him would be to look even farther before the boat set sail. In the logs for the 10 days before the ship left, we see all the activity required to prepare such a large craft for a voyage. The logs report all supplies being brought on board from rope, to various knives, to compases, to sails and yards, to a pile of bricks. Each day's log is broken into a report from each "watch", the 24 hours being divided into 8 watches, 6 of which were 4 hours long, and 2 of which were 2 hours long (known as the "dog watches"). Each watch reports the direction of the wind, and the prevailing weather conditions, Any individuals coming aboard or leaving the vessel (even "the mortal remains of so-and-so") and their rate (rank) are reported. Also reported in the logs are names of individuals receiving punishment (by flogging) and the offense, including drunkeness, insolence, and even dropping a knife from the top. Once at sea the logs also contain hourly indications of the wind, direction of travel, and temperature of the air and water.

My guess is that Eph came on board probably within a few months of the ship sailing, and assisted the other men in preparing to set sail. In his pension letter previously posted, he mentions he was transferred from the USS Ohio, which action would probably have been reported in the logs. So if I order another couple monthe previous to the date range I've currently got, we may find him there.

There's a lot I could do with these logs. I think it would be fun to post each day's log on its anniversary day this year, along with commentary and explanation of the various terms used in each day's log entry. It would be fun to have graphics depicting the various configurations of the sails, masts and yards (sails were continually being adjusted to make best advantage of the wind). I think generating a list of all the men listed in the logs, and where they appear could prove to be a valuable genealogical resource for a lot of people. Perhaps I could apply for a grant to transcribe and post all the logs extant for the Columbus.

Ah well, there's lots of work to do, but it looks to be a lot of fun!


© 2008, Daniel C. Hanks