Emigration to America


Hopkin Thomas, together with his wife, Catherine, and three children set sail for America in 1834.  The ship, the brigantine Egeria, left Newport, Wales  with 20 passengers and arrived in Philadelphia on August 15, 1834.  Being a small ship, it is likely that the voyage took more than a month. For example, the biography of Daniel Milson, a colleague and possibly a relative of Hopkin’s, is reported to have endured a long and dangerous journey of more than three months when he sailed from Wales to New York in 1851.

On the other hand, David Thomas sailed by clipper ship in 1839 and the voyage took a mere three weeks. Thomas was reported to have been exhausted by the venture, however.


A brigantine is a two-masted sailing ship with square rigging. It was designed for ship-worthiness, not for speed. 


Looking at the ship passenger list, below, you will see that Helen was a babe at the time of the voyage – actually about 14 months old. So what do you suppose was Catherine‘s reaction when Hopkin suggested that they sell everything in Merthyr Tydfil and take the children to America? With his credentials it is sure that he had a comfortable life in Merthyr – a burgeoning industrial town in Wales. Yes, there had been labor unrest, but would that be a cause to uproot one’s family and subject his wife and small children to the rigors of a trans-Atlantic voyage?


What was the attraction to America?  This writer certainly does not believe it was a case of the survival of down-trodden searching for opportunity for themselves and their children. Hopkin was a man of talent and superior training. He was skilled in the engineering of steam engines – a background that many industrial firms of the day would have valued highly.  Was it the case that he was informed about the emergence of locomotive design and erection firms in America -- in the Philadelphia and New York areas?   It would be interesting to delve into the information sources that people of that day had relative to developments in Europe and America. For example, was the Journal of the Franklin Institute available in England and Wales?  The Journal started publication in the 1820’s and did have many articles on subjects intriguing to Hopkin.


One can only speculate on these matters. Until some genealogist tracks down information on the Hopkin Thomas family of Merthyr Tydfil, 1834, the likelihood of any leads developing is miniscule.


Passenger List for the Brig Egeria

Source:  Passenger and Immigration Lists: Philadelphia, 1800 – 1850, Broderbund Software, 2000.


Arrived Philadelphia August 15, 1834, Departed Newport, Wales


Name                        Age        Occupation

Davis, Elizabeth         5

Davis, Elizabeth         28

Davis, Ferdinand       0

Davis, Jno.                31           Turner

Davis, Mary              7

Davis, Sophia            2

Hopkins, Anthony     40

Hopkins, Emp?          40

Hopkins, M?             19

Hopkins, Sarah          16

Howell, Elizabeth      12

Howell, Sarah            16

Hump, James             28

Humphreys, Evan      32

Lloyd, Thomas          24           Smith

Thomas, Catharine     31

Thomas, Ellen            0

Thomas, Hopkin        40           Engineer

Thomas, Mary           3

Thomas, William       5


Notes:         The name James Hump is likely Jane Humphrey (gender was given as F)

                  Ellen Thomas is Helen Thomas

                  The name of the sailing ship is Egeria, a brigantine.

                  This is the only sailing to Philadelphia found in the data base.

                  Original source:  Nat'l Archives Series No. 425, Microfilm 49, List 139

                  Searched source:  Family Tree Maker CD #359, Passenger and Immigration Lists: Philadelphia 1800 - 1850

Source information: Passenger Lists: Philadelphia, 1800-1850


Partly in an effort to alleviate overcrowding of passenger ships,  Congress enacted legislation (3 Stat. 489) on March 2, 1819 to  regulate the transport of passengers in ships arriving from foreign  ports.  As a provision of this act, masters of such ships were  required to submit a list of all passengers to the collector of  customs in the district in which the ship arrived.


The legislation also provided that the collector of customs submit  quarterly passenger list reports to the Secretary of State, who was,  in turn, required to submit the information to Congress. The  information was then published in the form of Congressional  documents. A further Congressional act passed on May 7, 1874  repealed the legislative provision requiring collectors to send  copies of passenger lists to the Secretary of State. Thereafter,  collectors of customs were to send only statistical reports on  passenger arrivals to the Department of Treasury.


These passenger lists are important primary sources of arrival data  for the vast majority of immigrants to the United States in the  nineteenth century. With the single exception of federal census  records they are the largest, the most continuous, and the most  uniform body of records of the entire country.(Michael Tepper.  "American Passenger Arrival Records." Baltimore: Genealogical  Publishing Company, Inc. 1993. Page 64.)


The information collected in this Family Archive was extracted from  the National Archives Microfilm Series M425, "Passenger Lists of  Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800-1882." This  microfilm series consists of baggage lists from 1800 through 1819  and original passenger lists from 1820 through 1882. Some later  baggage lists and copies of original lists have been inserted as  substitutes for missing or unreadable originals. While the entire  microfilm series spans 108 rolls, the information collected here  covers rolls 1 through 71. It includes individuals who arrived  between January 1, 1800 and December 23, 1850.



Return to the Table of Contents


About The Hopkin Thomas Project


Rev. January 2011