Interesting birth at sea for my relative

+17 votes

The lady in the middle of this picture is my great-grandmother, Margaret Card. Her mother was Martha Card and her mother was Mary Chaplin, born on the SS Zebra circa 1813. This is a mystery waiting to be solved. I know that Mary Chaplin was born at sea on the bombship SS Zebra but  I have no knowledge of her parents, who they were or where they came from. Whilst researching my family history, I discovered that the SS Zebra was one of twelve bombships protecting HMS Victory. Other ships had the names SS Lion, SS Giraffe etc. By the time my ancestor was born, the ship would have been doing minor duties, perhaps sailing between England and France, but I don't know for sure.

The baby Mary ? was brought up by the ship's carpenter, Edward Chaplin, who later married her when she was about 17 years old. He would have been much older, perhaps 60 or more. Mary was deaf and dumb. They lived in Wrentham, Suffolk, on the east coast of England.Together they had many children, which started the line to which I belong.

I would love to know who her parents were. Perhaps one of them was French? or German. Who knows? I continue to search.

My grandmother, Stella, is on the back row in the picture, the lady with the striped collar, Jenner-541


in The Tree House by Anonymous Mills G2G6 Mach 1 (11.3k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
This post should be in the weekend chat but I couldn't see where to put it as an answer to that topic?

Just go to the weekend chat and at the beginning of the chat just click on the answer link. You'll get to add it there and have people comment on it. I hope this helps.  


Thanks for a terrific story!  Wikipedia has a good article about Zebra, which says the Royal Navy sold her in 1812. (  It doesn't say who bought her, or what her new use became.  Maybe her post-Naval history holds some genealogical clues.  Anyway, the disposition explains why she wasn't designated 'HMS.'  I don't understand the 'SS,' though, which I understand to mean 'steamship.'  Could she have been converted?

Thank you Herbert. Yes, probably downgraded and used for merchandising purposes. At first I thought it really strange that anyone would want to, or have to, give birth on a ship, but apparently it was not unusual. The ships log book is kept at the Public Records Office at Kew in London and some years ago an acquaintance of mine, who had special access, spent some time on my behalf, trawling through the log book in search of my four greats grandmother. She never did find anything specific but she did find a few things of interest, which I can put on here later when I have time.

Whilst I was visiting an antique shop in Wrentham a few years ago, I found an old chest, which had once belonged to someone aboard the S S Lion. If had been the Zebra, I would have bought it.

I don't know for sure which year my ancestor was born, but I think it was circa 1813.
Thank you.

Great story and photo Stella, you can also join the Photo of the week Project :)

Wonderful photo of your relatives, I really enjoy looking at there outfits and hair style thank you for sharing

3 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer

Bomb vessels DiscoveryExplosionHeclaSulphurTerrorVolcano, and Zebra participated in the 1st Battle of Copenhagen in 1801   from   Navy sold the ship in 1812.  Zebra was laid up in May 1809 at Deptford. She was put up for sale on 13 August 1812.[40] She was sold there at that time.[4]   I would try to find out who bought the boat.  Sometimes owners carried their family with them and what she was going to be used for after being retired from the Navy.  Might be some clues in that as well.  

Good luck!

by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (650k points)
selected by Anonymous Mills
I have saved a copy of the article in the London Gazette from July 25, 1812 that lists the ship going up for sale.  It does not say who it was sold to.  Just says it was going up for sale.   If you want a copy of this article send me an email at rlboz at sign att dot net (I think you can figure that out) and I will send it to you.  I think if you can find out who bought it there might be clues there...
+6 votes
Thanks for sharing your wonderful story and family photo!
by John Noel G2G6 Pilot (711k points)
+3 votes
Thanks for sharing Stella.
by John Susnir G2G6 Pilot (108k points)

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