The Burgins Arrive NYC: May 3, 1864

In a period when the idea of immigration as a fundamental aspect of the American experience is on a lot of our minds, it was somewhat dumb luck that I happened across something we’ve been looking for for a long time: the (probable) record of the arrival of Jane Skudder Burgin and her children, via the steamship Cella, Edwin Billings master, in the port of New York from London, May 3, 1864.

These were the last/ most recent people in our family to leave their country, their friends their family, and most of their belongings, and come here.

(Off topic, but worth mentioning, it would take just eight years for Thomas Burgin to apply for and be granted his first patent.)

Looking at this list, I feel I was – almost – there to greet them.

And I suppose the larger point is worth making… Let’s continue to do everything we can to make the people coming today feel equally welcome and equally capable.



A transcription of the basic information is as follows:

Arrival Date: 3 May 1864

Family Ethnicity/ Nationality: British (English)

Place of Origin: Great Britain

Port of Departure: Le Havre, France and London, England

Destination: United States of America

Port of Arrival: New York, New York

Ship Name: Cella




A closeup of the top of the page



A closeup of the lower portion of the page, showing the names Thos. Burgin, age 9; Alfred, age 7; Jane [“Jennie”], age 4; Edwin, age 2; and Jane, written as being age 36 but who was really 37. Thomas, Sr. is absent. Had he gone ahead?



Of course, this could somehow be wrong, but the surname, the given names, the ages, and the date of arrival square exactly with what we know from census data in Britain and America.

I think this is IT.



Post Script:


My cousin Elisha had some valuable comments I thought I would pass along…

“Those are without doubt Thomas Burgin’s wife and children. I have always suspected that he came over ahead of them, but I’ve never been able to find any evidence to prove the theory. They would have entered through Castle Garden as Ellis Island wasn’t built until later, and I think most of the Castle Garden records were destroyed in a fire, so we may never know the answer to that question.

…the Cella…was built in Ireland by the Neptune Iron Shipyard in 1862. Her maiden voyage commenced on July 8, 1863. She was 172 feet long and supposedly the largest ship ever built in Ireland, at least up to that point. An 1866 advertisement in the Hamilton Evening Times quotes passage from London at $90, $60, and $30, payable in currency, or $75, $60 and $30 payable in gold. I assume that the notation “2nd Cabin” beside the Burgin names indicates that they were traveling in Second Class, which was twice as expensive as a passage in steerage. My point is this – Thomas Burgin may not have been a wealthy man, but he seems to have had the means to send his family over on a fairly new ship in relative comfort.

This is supposedly the Cella:




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