Sunday, 29 July 2012

Can you spell that?

In the course of Friday's (excellent) seminar on Shipping Records, discussion turned to the many and varied versions of ships' names that may be found. The Rajahgopaul was cited as one example of a name that is often mangled by family historians.

This is a vessel close to my heart because it was the birthplace of Catherine Corry. So I was interested to find the definitive answer to how it should be named.

A Google search [rajahgopaul] produces an immediate suggestion that I may have it wrong; followed by an array of "hits" on different spelling forms.

Employing the time-honoured maxim that he who agrees with me must be correct, I went to the New South Wales State Records result first.

There I found that the image of the passenger list includes (in a beautiful copperplate hand) yet another spelling.

So the name could be one word (with two internal variants) or two capitalised words (with or without a hyphen)!

When you need a definitive ruling, you should seek an authoritative source and what could be more authoritative in the maritime field than Lloyd's Register, available for search through Google Books.

The 1855 edition includes our vessel and the issue is resolved — one word, with a "u".

Now to confirm that fact by referring to the 1860 edition of Lloyd's (because you cannot have too many supporting references).

And the conclusion? The ways in which the names of ships are recorded are no more (or less) reliable than those of the names of the people and places we seek out.

Take care that you consider all the obvious variations (and even some not so obvious). The obituary of Mrs Maria Holgate (eldest sister of Catherine Corry) in The Central Queensland Herald of 5 October 1933 reported that she had "come to Australia with her parents in the ship, Rajah de Paul".

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