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A couple months ago, I posted about finding Bartholomew Oliver’s ticket from the British Registry of Seamen through FindMyPast, an interesting document that showcases a glimpse of the shipping history in the British Isles. However, it was only a taste of the genealogy gold on my seafaring ancestor. Thanks to one of my cousins, I now have the Master’s Certificate for Bartholomew Oliver. Not only does it provide his date and place of birth, but includes details about all the voyages he undertook up to that time. Under the specifics of his service, it names the vessels, the capacity in which he served, and dates of the voyages. For me, it is a rich source of information and probes a few interesting facts about Oliver’s life.


Master's Certificate of Service 23 December 1850

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Master’s Certificate of Service, Bartholomew Oliver, No. 44.815 (23 Dec 1850): accessed at “UK and Ireland, Master and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927.” (online database, Ancestry.com.)

This document confirms he was in fact master of the brig St. John which wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod in 1849. Previous sources misidentify Capt. Oliver or fail to mention his first name[1], but now I have source to confirm that Bartholomew Oliver was commanding this ship when it endured massive carnage and loss near Cohasset Bay.

I have a newspaper account to provide more details of his voyage on the Mariner, on which he served as First Mate from April 1842 to April 1844. The brig sprung a major leak and for days, Oliver and his crew had to funnel water out of the hull to keep it afloat, until an American bring John Baring encountered the Mariner and saved the crew. However, the crew of the John Baring were very much “jaded” after taking on the crew of the Mariner until it made it to port in New York 37 days later. The article states that the crew of John Baring sued Capt. Michaels for misconduct and “putting them on allowance”, which leaves me puzzled, considering as P. McDonough, master of the Mariner, said keeping his ship and its 23 men afloat was acting in the “most humane way.” [2] Apparently, the seafaring life rarely caught Bartholomew Oliver any breaks or ease in his transit across the Atlantic Ocean.


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“Galway Shipping Intelligence – Loss of the Mariner.” Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser (Galway, Ireland), 9 Mar 1944, p.2.

Determining the actual birth date of Capt. Oliver

Between both of Bartholomew Oliver’s maritime documents, there are discrepancies in his year of birth. His register ticket states it was 1818, while the master’s certificate is 1820, both sharing the day of May 1st.[3] However, the registers of St. Nicholas parish in Galway show a Bartly Oliver baptized on May 5th 1817 in presence of his parents Bartholomew and Sarah Oliver, so my inference is that Bartholomew was born 1 May 1817.[4] I am thankful the Catholic parish registers are now online, thus allowing me to make this discovery. There are other Olivers mentioned in these sources, so it will take some more time before I post about the Olivers of Galway and determine their exact kinship.


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5 May 1817 – Bartholomew & Sarah Oliver, son Bartley, Quay Street, witnesses are Martin Oliver and Margaret Halloran


By the year alone, it would discount that Master Mariner Bartholomew Oliver is my 4th great-grandfather, but more likely a sibling of Denis James and John Bartholomew Oliver, the brothers who migrated to San Francisco, California. If born in 1817, he only precedes Denis by about 6 years and John, 12, which would be certainly too young to be the father. An important clue lies in the calendar of the will of Bartholomew Oliver, deceased 1834, who is also a mariner (described as pilot) and father of Bartholomew Oliver.[5] It could be very easy to confuse the generations and mix up these two as the same individual.


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Letters of administration for personal estate of Bartholomew Oliver were granted by the probate court 5 Nov 1889 when he died 15 Nov 1834. Executor of estate is “Bartholomew Oliver of Galway Master Mariner the Son.”


I look forward to digging up more clues about the Olivers in Galway, how they struggled in the seafaring life and to maintain order in the harbor against ruffians known as men of the Claddagh. This is some rich family history not to be overlooked!

Researching Master’s and Mates Certificates

For those interested in researching these certificates, they are searchable through Ancestry.com on the collection, “UK and Ireland, Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927.” These certificates were first introduced in 1845 as part of the process of examination for men of these capacities, but were not fully compulsory until 1854. Bartholomew Oliver was inspected before 1854 because in 1850, inspection was required of master mariners and mates involved in foreign trade.[6] Originals of these certificates are held by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, UK. Copies can be made using this request form.


[1] “Martin Oliver (captain).” Wikipedia, (accessed 20 Apr 2016: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Oliver_(captain); “The Shipwreck of the St. John” Clare County Library (accessed 24 Apr 2009: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/shipwreck_st_john.htm); Daniel Wadsworth, “A Shipwreck On Our Shores,” TIARA Newsletter Vol. 8 No. 3 (Summer 1991.)

[2] “Galway Shipping Intelligence – Loss of the Mariner.” Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser (Galway, Ireland), 9 Mar 1944, p.2: accessed at “Irish Newspapers” (online database, findmypast.com.)

[3] Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Registry of Seamen’s Ticket, Bartholomew Oliver, no. 253.765, National Archives volume no. 113, piece no. 127: accessed at “British, Merchant Seamen, 1835-1857” (online database, findmypast.com.); Master’s Certificate of Service, Bartholomew Oliver, No. 44,815 (23 Dec 1850): accessed at “UK and Ireland, Master and Mate’s Certificates, 1850-1927.” (online database, Ancestry.com.)

[4] Baptisms in Galway City, Bartly Oliver (5 May 1817), accessed at “Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915” (online database, ancestry.com), image 8 of 44.

[5] Bartholomew Oliver (1889), page 570. “Calendar of Wills and Administrations.” National Archives of Ireland (accessed 20 Apr 2016: http://www.willcalendars.nationalarchives.ie/reels/cwa/005014903/005014903_00301.pdf)

[6] “Research guide C2: The Merchant Navy.” Royal Museums Greenwich. (accessed 20 Apr 2016: http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/researchers/research-guides/research-guide-c2-merchant-navy-tracing-people-master-mariners)

Copyright (c) 2016 Jake Fletcher.

Jake Fletcher. “Bartholomew Oliver’s Master Mariner Certificate.” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 20 Apr 2016. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/bartholomew-olivers-master-mariner-certificate