The LONG Crossing of the Hannah Parr - Background Essay
Copyrighted 2000 all rights reserved - by Clair O. Haugen

The Norwegian ship, Hannah Parr, from Christiania, bound to Quebec, put into Scattery roads yesterday, with foremast gone, and 400 emigrants. - Limerick Chronicle (May 7, 1868)

    Sailing ships in 1868 took an average of 51 days to get from Norway to Quebec, but when the Hannah Parr left Christiania that year, it was to be 107 days before her passengers disembarked in America. Not all that time was at sea, however, because storm damage led to an unexpected sojourn in Limerick, Ireland for repairs. They were caught in mid-Atlantic by a fierce storm, which could have destroyed the ship and all those on it. Linked to this page there are three written passenger accounts of the storm: a diary fragment by Gulbran Berge, one letter by Michel Rentz, and another by Iver Iversen Ruud. In addition, a number of stories appeared in the Limerick Chronicle while the ship was there. (See also, the chronology, link below) You will find links in the left frame that w! ill help you navigate through the different pages.

    According to a Chronicle story dated May 9th, 1868 (which seems to have details from the ship's log), the ship was at latitude 54.46, longitude 26.56 on April 28th when it was overtaken by dangerous weather. On the storm's second day, a wave broke over the stern, carrying away the pilothouse and its gear. Sail was reduced to a bare minimum, but that night even the reefed sails blew out, and the ship could not be steered. It broached, and the sea broke the foremast. Finally, at about 4:00 a.m. on the 30th, the wind subsided. The crew then cleared away the wreckage, rigged what sail they could, and made for the Shannon estuary. They docked at Limerick on May 7th.

    The ship, owned by Søren Parr, was built in Bordeaux in 1847. Parr acquired it in 1867, and before he named it the Hannah Parr, it had been called the Sønner av Norge. It was a three masted, full-rigged ship of about 768 tons [1] (384 Commercial lasts, Norwegian), newly reconditioned in 1867. It arrived in Quebec City July 27th with 377 passengers (269 adults, 109 children, 19 infants) on its manifest. Ole Christian Larsen was captain in 1868. Other ship's officers were Eilert Hagerup (first lieutenant) and Andreas Wettre. The Hannah Parr continued in service through at least 1875, but its only voyage with emigrants was in 1868. Parr was an ice exporter.

    The passenger lists

    Each Norwegian emigrant ship bound for Quebec generated two passenger lists. Norwegian police in port cities made lists (Christiania lists start in 1867.) of people leaving the country; this practice substituted for individual passports. Additionally, ship captains made manifests which were submitted to the authorities in Canada for their records and to provide the basis for the debarkation fees.

    The two Hannah Parr lists disagree somewhat with each other. There are names on each that are not included on the other; name spellings and ages conflict in some instances; and the Quebec list has 22 more passenger names. The list made in Christiania [2] has more information and fewer internal problems, and an analysis of it creates a reliable picture of the passengers. (One serious internal problem in the Quebec manifest is that it reports 377 passengers in its totals but lists 400 names.)

    Except for a few from the cities of Christiania and Drammen, the emigrants came from communities around Lake Mjøsa, from what now are the counties of Hedmark and Oppland. By far the greatest number came from the parish of Gausdal, in Gudbrandsdal, on the west side of the lake.

    There were 96 tickets issued to 378 passengers. 34 were for passengers traveling alone; the rest were for groups, the largest of which was 13 and the smallest, 2. Median group size was 5 to 6. The oldest emigrant was 80 years; the youngest was 3 months; average age was 23 years. Of the holders of single tickets, 1 was a ten-year-old boy; only 4 of them were married; 6 were female and 28, male.

    An adult traveling alone paid a fare of 12 to 15 specie dollars.[3] A child was charged half fare, and an infant traveled free. For the purpose of ticketing and landing duties, an adult was 14 or older; a child, from 2 to 13 years old; and an infant, less than 2. Most tickets were issued to groups of people, usually families. The most paid for a group ticket was 173 specie dollars, the least, 21; median group ticket cost was 53.5. The actual ticket prices were greater or less depending on how much baggage accompanied the passengers.

    Fares between Norway and Canada had become much less expensive after 1849, when the British navigation laws were altered. Previously, only British ships were allowed to transport goods from British ports. With the changes in the law it was possible for Norwegian ship owners to profit from Canadian trade. Some ships came empty to Canada and hauled cargoes of grain and lumber to England, but more enterprising owners equipped their ships to carry people to Canada and earned a bonus even at the relatively low fares they charged.

    The passengers

    In a story in the March 1868 Skilling Magazin, "C.A." narrated a hypothetical visit to the docks where an emigrant ship prepared to embark. [4]

      If a person goes for a walk on an April day down to the customs shed and the new quay, pretty soon his eye will be caught by a group of well dressed farm families--husband, wife, and child that have traveled here with their baggage, a collection of casks and cases varied beyond description. One reads, Paul Larsen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, North Amerika; Ole Andersen, Chicago, Illinois, North Amerika; Peder Gulbrandsen, Madison, Wisconsin, North Amerika; Olivia Eriksdatter Nordeie, Iowa, Minnesota; and a multitude of other names and addresses. Here sacks of potatoes, pots, pans, pokers, skimmers, tins, sacks of bread, kegs of beer and brandy, herring casks, sewn up casings of cured meat, sweets for the children, animal feed and bedding straw lie strewn around in chaos. Everything goes on board. Two large ferries pull silently up to a wharf to haul it all away to the edge of the solid ice where it is dragged to the ship on long sleds. With the help of block and tackle rigged to the fore and mainmasts, the baggage is hoisted aboard in large loads, lowered between the cabins, and stowed away in the hold.
    A man sits enjoying his pipe. He is on deck, seated on a sack of potatoes, obeying a sign that says "smoking is strictly forbidden between decks."

    The emigrants were human cargo. Only minimal concessions were made to passenger comfort. On the Hannah Parr, as on most Norwegian emigrant ships which also hauled freight, there were no separate passenger cabins. C.A. described the scene in the between decks of his fictional emigrant ship. "We go below into the room. On both sides two tiers of bunks have been put up from stem to stern. On each bunk, which is marked with its particular number, there is a place for five." He felt sorry for the women, who had to make do in such a place. He could see the blond heads of children sticking out all over from the bunks. The adults were bustling about, arranging their property, pounding in nails and pegs, stuffing straw into the bunks, making the best of things.

    People came to Christiania before the date announced for their sailing; the Hannah Parr emigrants could board the ship starting on April 8th. There were several things to do. They must register their departures with the police. There were last minute purchases to be made. Peter Brettingen (from Gausdal) and his family had a family picture made; others may have done the same.

    All of them had to turn their thoughts from Norway to America. Skilling Magazin described one family boarding a ship. There is an old grandfather, led by his eldest daughter, and a younger girl with her small brother by the hand. The little boy is shrieking. "Hush!" the sister says. "How can you yell like that when we're going to America to Uncle Hans?! There--see the ship!"

    For the emigrants the ship was a place in between. C.A. writes, "The house and little holding were sold; the most important household possessions were packed; and with a farewell to Norway, they proceeded to climb aboard."

    Ahead lay the promise of prosperity someday and the likelihood of hardship soon. Even before reaching Quebec some mostly children would die. But for those who survived, despite dangers known and unknown, these everyday people of the Hannah Parr set out in hope and lived through the long crossing with courage and determination.


    Clair O. Haugen and James Overdahl collaborated on the Hannah Parr research. The Ruud and Rentz translations, all the endnotes, and this background essay are by Haugen. Thanks go to other Hannah Parr descendants who contributed information and enthusiasm to this project. Special thanks to Even Bergsengstuen. Anyone with information about the ship and its people, questions, or corrections is urged to contact J. Overdahl.



      It was a little smaller than the Cutty Sark, which is on exhibit in Greenwich, England, and about a sixth larger than the average sailing ship that came from Norway to Canada in 1868.
      age ranges

      23 infants under 2 years old
      57 children from 2 through 7
      46 children from 8 through 13
      48 adults from 14 through 19
      131 adults from 20 through 35
      45 adults from 36 through 50
      21 adults from 51 through 65
      7 adults over 65
      males and females
      200 men and boys
      178 women and girls
      marital status
      106 married
      272 unmarried or single
      region emigrating from
      49 Hedmark
      215 Gudbrandsdal
      74 Valdres
      16 other Oppland
      8 Christiania
      6 Drammen
      10 region not known
      To indicate the real cost of a ticket: In 1868 one specie dollar exchanged for about $1.12 US. In the US Midwest, $1.00 was a common day's wage for a farm laborer, and a milk cow could be bought for $25. Farm laborers in Hedmark typically earned 5 spd a year. One Hedmark crofter (Peder Monsen, Grefsheim) in the 1860's paid an annual rent of 9 spd for 8½ acres of land. Adjusted for inflation, the buying power in 1999 of one 1868 specie dollar would be about $12.60 US.
      The ship, which was not named, was to sail on April 12th. Tempting though it is to think the story is about the Hannah Parr, that could not be. None of the names in the story are on the passenger list; the voyage C.A. describes is not like the Hannah Parr's; and the magazine is dated March 1868.

    James Overdahl