Paying Devoirs

Tuesday 28th
The weather continued fine until yesterday
at about 7 o’clk P.M. when it grew cloudy
& commenced raining; it rained all night. This
morning the wind shifted to the N.E. Orders
were rapidly given to the men. The “ailes” or
studding sails brought down & the square sails
hauled close to the wind. We are now running
along finely. The mate came out of his state
room this morning in a very picturesque cos-
tume. He wore a round yellow sou’wester, blue
frock, white duck trousers & long boots reaching
above his knees & with his ferocious beard &
moustache, presented quite a picture. I put on
his great yellow “capote” & went on deck. His
spirits seemed in no-wise affected by
the weather, but he went trudging back &
forth, on the “dunnette” or quarter-deck, accomoda-
ting his gait to the roll of the vessel sing-
ing merrily – Last night he performed a very
interesting trick with cards. Throwing out the [sevens]
& all below, he took them all together & af[ter]
allowing them to be cut several times, he took off
the four from the bottom & then told every
remaining card. The mode wa consisted in
associating a each card with certain words.
He afterwards told my fortune, as follows.
He said that I was paying my devoirs to
a married lady of dark appearance, & that
a blonde lady who was unmarried, & w[ho]
came often to my house was jealous of
her, also that I was shortly to be made
fortunate by a present of money.
(to be continued…)

Sunday at Sea

On the second day of his voyage, GH drops some hints about himself. He refers to Lexington as though it is his home town with the statement that he “fancied how affairs were going on at Lexington”. (Lexington Massachusetts is only about 14 miles from Boston). An 1853 map of Lexington shows several Robinson homesites; C Robinson in the northeast, Robinson to the northwest of Lexington Village, GW Robinson only slightly northwest of the Village and J Robinson in the East Lexington downtown area. GH writes about how he customarily takes a Sunday morning walk about the farm so we can probably rule out the J Robinson home since it doesn’t appear to be rural enough. He also mentions hearing “the peal of the church-bell” which probably rules out the C Robinson family since they are so far from downtown. GW Robinson’s land is approximately 5-6 miles from the nearest church as far as I can tell from the map and the Robinson property is a bit farther still, past the Poor House.
We can also deduce that he is a passenger, not part of the crew, from page 1 and his reference to “Mr. Scudder (another passenger)”. The author also comments on when meals are served and that there is “Plenty of Claret Wine and Cognac on board”.
The future research plan is to see what I can find using Census records.

See map courtesy of


The Meeting of Sky and Water

On the second day of the journey, the author drops a few clues about his identity.

Sunday – June 26th
Was awakened last night by a violent
rocking & rolling of the vessel. Looked out &
saw that there was considerable motion to the
water. Mr. Scudder (another passenger) came to
berth & said the wind had freshened into
quite a brisk breeze – as the air felt cold
from without & I was very comfortable in
my berth I though I would not get up.
Turned out at about 8 o’clk. Found the prom
deck very enlivening. The vessel was careening
finely with all sails set. The sun had just
arisen & shone across the waves casting a
silvery glow upon their crests. Land was entire-
ly out of sight & for the first time I experienced
being the centre of a circle bounded by the
meeting of sky & water. A Bark was in view
towards the south under full sail keeping ap-
parently the same course as ourselves.
Took breakfast at 10 o’clk & then went on
deck again & sat on the hen-coop _ Called my
unpractical imagination into play, & fancied how
affairs were going on at Lexington. The same
sun which here was extremely grateful in
tempering the chill air which blew across the
water, there was met by little opposing influences
so that its rays were even oppressive. I could [fan-
cy] the drowsy stillness of a Sabbath morning
on shore. The warm sun, the mild atmosphere,
the singing of birds & finally the peal of the
church-bell. Here the air was cool & pen-
etrating, – the only sounds the rustling and dashing
of the waters, the creaking & rattling of the
rigging & the occasional orders to the men, varied
by frequent calls for the “Mousse” – Then I
thought of internal the interior & domestic move-
ments at home; of being roused at length after 
oft-repeated calls, of taking my customary late
breakfast, & Sunday morning walk about the farm
again of getting ready for church, & particularly
of shaving, from which ‘lingering penance”, I
mean to exempt myself, during the voyage at
least. Still with all these thoughts I was
not home-sick, nor sea-sick. In fact, I feel
as if I should like to be just a little sick.
Have passed the day in lounging & walking on
deck, & in eating, sleeping & reading below. Have
read part of the Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne.

GH Robinson sets sail

And so it commences. GH Robinson’s first day at sea. Below is my transcription and my commentary on his entry from June 25, 1853.

Journal of A Voyage to St. Pierre, 1853

Journal of the “Raven’d Salt Sea Shark”
As I sailed,
As I sailed!

Saturday June 25th 53

At Sea. 7 P.M.
To-day commences my experiences
of the Sea. Having taken passage in the
French Barque Sidi Elly, Capt. Joseph Boudon,
for St. Pierre Miq. We left the wharf at Boston
to-day at about 10 o’clk A.M. with a fair breeze
from the westward. There was but little wind until
we had left the harbor, when the breeze freshened &
we began to move along finely at a rate of about
6 or 8 Knots per hour. The Sidi Elly is a fine
little Barque of about 130 Tons. She bears on her
bow the figure of the Arabian Chief for whom
she was named. The Captain & mate are fine
fellows. Can understand them very well. Think I
shall have a very pleasant passage. We have only
two meals per day. Breakfast at 11 A.M. & Dinner
at 6 P.M. Plenty of Claret Wine and Cognac on
board. Have not yet felt any sickness. Hope
I shall be troubled but little in that way
for the voyage is not very long & I wish to
enjoy it as much as possible.

My commentary:

The Journals of GH Robinson

Many years ago I obtained these journals from the estate of a close family friend. My dream has been to digitize their pages, transcribe them and make them available. Finally, I am launching this project. You are invited to travel along with us. Together, we will find out who is GH Robinson and what did he experience on the high seas and in ports around the world.


I am excited to share my genealogy and history-related experiences with you! I am a professional genealogist and, when I am not working for clients I have some ideas, discoveries, and pet projects that I hope you will enjoy. If you have specific questions or ideas to share, please email me and I will try to include them in “The Acorn”.

Maybe you are wondering why I am calling my News page “The Acorn”? Well, an acorn is the start of something big. Oftentimes in genealogy, we come across something small and seemingly insignificant that with time and attention can be the answer or the defining step in finding the answer that we are looking for. Maybe some of these acorns I offer here will do that for you!