Researching a New England sea captain prior to the US Revolution



My many-greats grandfather, James Newton Sparrell (~1740-1773), was a sea captain who settled in Scituate, MA after marrying Ruth Vinal, a local.

Verbal tradition has that he was born in England, emigrated to North Carolina, and was fishing off Massachusetts and selling the season's salted catch in the South. I have had more success with finding him in Massachusetts than in North Carolina and England. Where can I search for more information about him?


Posted 2012-10-12T21:38:17.213

Reputation: 3 685

I have edited date of death (from 1733) to 1773 to match the information in the tree linked by Duncan. So "prior to the Revolutionary War" is a time marker only. – Fortiter – 2012-10-14T02:02:29.180

oops. yes I did mean 1773 for date of death and I meant not myheritage. I use and and I just didn't type what I meant to. – Duncan – 2012-10-14T02:23:25.677

I removed the tag for since the question isn't about WeRelate, it just contains a link to it. – None – 2012-10-14T02:50:10.997

1I've removed the tag "" from this question -- that's a political website. Perhaps you meant, which is a genealogy website. However, I don't see the connection between this question and either. If you were asking a question about the website or features, then the tag would be appropriate. That said, I hope someone has an answer for your question :) – efgen – 2012-10-12T21:57:30.497

I like this question, too! +1 – GeneJ – 2012-10-12T22:44:00.400

1Question: Did you mean to write, ~1740-1833? – GeneJ – 2012-10-12T22:45:06.983

1Question title not clear. Sea captains for what country? Which Revolution? – TamuraJones – 2012-10-12T23:42:49.447

I have edited the question title, Tamura. – GeneJ – 2012-10-13T18:51:03.830



One possibility worth exploring is that Captain Sparrell took to seafaring in England and that he made his way to America as crew (or even as a master). If that is the case, then there may be some records of him in a collection held at the UK National Archives at Kew.

There is a class of records called Merchant shipping: crew lists and agreements 1747-1860. A guide to these records called Domestic Records Information 92 is available at Note however that most of these lists assume you know the likely port from which he sailed. So you may have a long search ahead.

If you knew he was a ship's master in England then The Registry of Shipping, later renamed Lloyd’s Register, could possibly include him. But its first issue was printed in 1764 by which time James was probably across the Atlantic. However, if all else fails you can find most of these in Google Book Search.


Posted 2012-10-12T21:38:17.213

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