|H. A. Burnham|
Essex, Massachusetts Wooden Ship Builder
Just take a look in the Essex Massachusetts Vital Records, and count up the Burnhams. According to the list of 1782 Householders in Chebacco Parish, Ipswich, Massachusetts (now known as the town of Essex) transcribed by Kurt Wilhelm on the Rootsweb.com site for Essex, there were 23 families under the name of Burnham. The next most popular surnames were Andrews with 12 households, followed by Choate and Story with 10 households each. I have so many Burnham lineages, I have lost count. My grandfather was from Essex, and his ancestry goes back to the original settlers of Chebacco Parish, who were the Burnhams, as well as a handful of other families who all intermarried with the Burnhams. Many of his ancestors were Burnhams who married Burnhams. You can click on the name BURNHAM in the right column of this blog to find all the stories I have posted about this family.
By 1820 there were 43 different surnames in the town of Essex. Burnham had 53 households, Andrews 29, Low had 18, Story had 17 and Choate had 11. According to the census there were 292 people named Burnham, 166 named Andrews, 85 named Low, 93 named Story and 65 named Choate.
By 1830 there were 336 Burnhams, 136 Andrews, 119 Storys, 111 Lows, and 55 Choates.
By 1850 there were 399 Burnhams, 184 Andrews, 144 Storys, 64 Lows, 44 Perkins, 33 Cogswells, 31 Haskells, 25 Choates and 22 Allens. The town was becoming more diverse with more surnames in total, but the number of Burnhams had exploded! The three biggest occupations were farming (118), shipbuilding and shoemaking. An amazing total of 34 schooners were built and several more started. 170 men were listed in trades having to do with shipbuilding (mariners, shipwrights, caulkers, ropemakers, etc), not including all the blacksmiths, carpenters, painters, teamsters and day laborers.
And by 1860 there were 356 Burnhams, 172 Andrews, 148 Storys, 70 Lows, 38 Cogswells, 46 Mears, 28 Haskells, 25 Lufkins, 22 Polands, 21 Allens, and 19 Choates. According to the Essex Rootsweb calculations by Kurt Wilhelm “The six most commonly found names in Essex, accounting for 50% of the population, were Burnham with 356 people (21% of town population); Andrews with 172 (10%); Story with 148 (9%), Low with 70 (4%); Mears with 46 (3%); and Perkins with 45 (3%). Forty percent of the town were named Burnham, Andrews, or Story.” 170 men were involved with shipbuilding, as well as 11 mariners, out of 604 listed male occupations. That means that 33% or one-third of the men were involved with ship building.
More two masted ships were built in Essex, Massachusetts than any other town in the world. This is an amazing statistic, considering that in 1850 there were only 1,585 people in Essex. In 1860 there were only 1,701 people in town. A small town with a lot of ships, and a lot of Burnhams! There are still wooden ships being built in Essex, and there is still a ship building company with a Burnham name.
Click here for a video of the Essex built schooner Isabella, being laid, built and launched in 2005 -2006 by Harold Burnham.
This blog post was written for the 100th Carnival of Genealogy "There's One in Every Family"
For more information on Essex Shipbuilding:
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~macessex/index.html Town of Essex website, hosted by Kurt Wilhelm, acting curator of the Essex Historical Society and the Ship Building Museum, also chairman of the Essex Historical Commision. Kurt's analysis of the 19th century Essex census records gave me most of the details I used in this post about the Burnhams in Essex.
A blog by Laurie Fullerton about the Burham Boatbuilding company - "Boat Building with Burnham" http://boatbuildingwithburnham.blogspot.com/
Essex Shipbuilding Museum - http://www.essexshipbuildingmuseum.org/
Frame Up!: A Story of Essex, Its Shipyards and Its People, by Dana A. Story, The History Press, 2004
Growing Up in a Shipyard: Reminiscences of a Shipbuilding Life in Essex, Massachusetts, by Dana A. Story, Mystic Seaport Museum, 1991
Essex Shipbuilding, by Courtney Ellis Peckham, Acadia Publishing, 2002 (Images of America Series)
Images of America, Essex, by Dawn Robertson and Kurt Wilhelm, Acadia Publishing, 2010
Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo