Friday, September 21, 2018

Meet Me at Alexandra Dock No. 3 on Saturday!

This just might work. If only it were Saturday, May 22, 1886, in Liverpool!

Ever the one to want to stand in exactly the same place where my ancestors have stood and to lead others to their ancestral spots, I had to know where the actual dock was where my Great-Great-Grandfather boarded the S.S. Nevada to come to America.

The Mormon Migration database is a great resource to find immigrant ancestors who came from Europe from the 1840s through the early 1900s. The Mormon immigrants were well organized by the British Mission with transport arranged at the lowest fares. The ships are documented with passenger lists and departure dates from Liverpool, England which saw no less than 1,695 Mormon emigrant ship sailings!

On my recent trip with Mormon Heritage Association, I found the Liverpool docks fascinating. Liverpool is on the Mersey Estuary with tides from the Irish Sea. The docks are not what I was used to in US harbors with piers sticking out into Elliott Bay (Seattle), San Francisco Bay, or the New York Harbor. Liverpool docks are more like rectangular pools of water separated from the Mersey by locks and short canals. As a tidal river, the Mersey mud is exposed at low tide. At high tide, the locks can be open and the ships enter and depart through the canals in or out of the various rectangular docks. "Sailing with the tide" now makes a lot more sense.

Canning Dock in the very nice public space of the Liverpool Waterfront.
The Mersey at low tide with mud exposed outside the docks.
The docks have been well-mapped through history and I thought we could find the actual docks from which each departure took place.

Liverpool and Its Docks, 1851
Liverpool Docks, 1935, at the Height of the Port Development
Some of the various docks are named in the narrative accounts of the Mormon Migration database, but most are not. I checked the Liverpool Mercury in the British Newspapers collection available online in any LDS Family History branch library. There are notices of each ship sailing with the date in the maritime news listings. However, the docks are not mentioned. A bit of inspiration grabbed me to check the ads just before a sailing, and there it was down at the bottom. A notice for the "saloon" passengers to be at Alexandra Dock No. 3 to embark at 11:30 a.m. the next day. The steerage passengers would have already been packed in a day or so ahead of departure.

Liverpool Mercury, 21 May 1886, p. 8.
It was fair weather but cloudy that Saturday on the Mersey. There had been thunderstorms over England. As the Nevada left its moorings that afternoon and passed through the locks out of the Alexandra docks, it headed to the south-west towards Ireland. My Great-Great Grandfather was maybe on deck, port side, watching the dark clouds over Snowdonia in his native Wales.

A recent photo of Alexandra Dock No. 3, still in operation at the Port of Liverpool.

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