Voyage from the Albert Docks: A Family History Experience

Contributed By By Courtney Connelly, Church News contributor

  • 19 December 2014

Courtney Connelly stands at the docks where her ancestors boarded a ship to America.  Photo courtesy Courtney Connelly.

Article Highlights

  • A member recounts her experience of visiting the same location her ancestors visited.

“I was literally walking where my ancestors had walked 150 years ago!”
—Courtney Connelly, FamilySearch user

As I stood at the Albert Boat Docks in Liverpool, England, on vacation from the United States, my thoughts turned to my ancestors who left their beautiful homeland, family, friends, and all they had ever known to go to America.

I could picture my family walking along the dock, hand-in-hand, with excitement and apprehension in the salty air. I walked through the tall stone archway that all the emigrants were required to go through to get to their ship. I was literally walking where my ancestors had walked 150 years ago! My heart was full of gratitude and love for my ancestors.

That morning I decided to look for my family members who were from Liverpool, England, before we headed to the Albert Docks. I used the FamilySearch Tree mobile app on my cell phone and came across the Clayton family who lived in Liverpool, England, in the 1840s and died in Utah in the early 1900s. I felt that they must have gone through the Albert Docks to come to America. I thought of the Clayton family often while I was in Liverpool, and I couldn’t wait to learn more about them when I got home.

I began researching the Clayton family after arriving home and soon discovered that Isabella Peet Clayton was baptized as a member of the Church at age 25 in Liverpool, England. She then had to wait 21 years before she could join the Saints in Utah. Isabella, along with her husband, Richard, and their son Franklin (17), daughter Margaret (14), and daughter Elizabeth (11), finally boarded the ship John Bright on June 4, 1868.

A statue at the docks. Photo by Courtney Connelly.

Her ancestors left their family, friends, and homeland to join the Saints in Utah. Photo by Courtney Connelly.

FamilySearch now has a mobile app to assist in family history. Photo by Courtney Connelly.

I was thrilled to learn what my ancestors may have felt and experienced in the John Bright voyage notes. “The Saints were in fine spirits, and were full of joy at being really on their way to Zion, an event for which they had long labored, and hoped, and prayed.” After Elder C. W. Penrose dedicated the vessel “with all on board to the care and protection of Almighty God,” the company sang, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”

As one of their descendants in America, and having recently stood on the Albert Docks where their ship waited in the harbor, it brought tears to my eyes to imagine this scene. My ancestors’ hearts must have been full of joy and gratitude to finally have the chance to leave for Zion. This hymn now has new meaning to me. “But if our lives are spared again, to see the Saints their rest obtain. Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell. All is well! All is well!”

All but one on the John Bright ship made it safely to America. My ancestors then traveled by train and wagon to Utah. Words can’t express how grateful I am to these ancestors, for their example of patience, dedication, and faith. Because of their sacrifice, I can now enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel and the freedoms of this great land.