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Title: John Kerr to Uncle
CollectionUlster Migration to America. Letters from three Irish Families [R.A. Wells]
SenderKerr, John
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationunemployed
Sender Religionunknown
OriginNew York, USA
DestinationNewpark, Co. Antrim
RecipientGraham, James
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1607
Genrechange of residence, prospects, emigration, advice
TranscriptFrom: New York
Dale: 5 June 1847

I have removed to New York. I came here about a week ago. I am living at present
with the Rev. A. H. Wright who now preaches in this city—he has a congregation
here. I have not got into any situation here yet, but I have not been well since I came;
indeed I have serious intentions of going to sea for a year or two to recruit my health.
My strength is diminished and my constitution impaired by a close sedentary life,
and close study, although I cannot say close either, but I believe the teaching and
study both together, and especially the former injured me. Mr. Wright thinks that
sea life for a year or so would recruit me. I am afraid of nothing but my lungs, and
if they become affected I know I am gone, although so far as I can tell, there is no
appearance of that having taken place yet. I could get just now a berth on a ship going
on [a whaling expedition?] which require about 20 months. I could not make much
it is true, but it might restore me to health and strength, and if it would be of any use
to me, make me a good sailor. I have, however, declined going at present until David
Kerr gets here, and until I shall [have procurred?] him a situation to learn a trade.
I intend to wait here until he comes, if he is still determined, and when he will be
settled, I can, if 1 do not feel recovered go to sea. I could make about 300 dollars
by the expedition. Every man and sailor goes on the shares.
If David intends coming, let him some immediately—without any delay. I
believe now the best trade he can learn is a Ship Carpenter, and he can become an
apprentice to that here I think without much doubt. He will get as much during his
apprenticeship as will maintain him. If he does not choose to learn this trade, he can
take his choice. If he be disposed to learn a trade in Ireland, I would advise him to
choose that one, the Journeyman of which gels the highest wages. If he were to learn
the Carpenter trade (I mean the common Carpenter) there it would be of little use
to him if he would ever come here. There is so much difference in the manner of
working and in the kind of work done, but Ship Carpenter, Coachmaker, Saddler,
Painter, Cabinet Maker are the same or nearly so in both countries. I spoke in a
former letter of another trade, a Pattern Maker. It is very good but I think a Ship
Carpenter better as the Journeyman, at this time gets higher wages. And I say to him
a trade is far [superior?] to learning to be a Storekeeper, far surer. A Tradesman can
get employment here at present almost in any city in the Union, whereas a man who
may have served his time in a store or shop and who may be a good Clerk and bookkeeper
will find it difficult to get employment at any place, at any time, without
influence, and often not them. Send David if he intends to come, off at once, as soon as he can get things bought,
come quickly. Try to sail from Belfast in a Trading vessel which carries no
passengers. If you cannot sail from Belfast, [you?] must go to Liverpool, but do not
engage your passage with an agent in Belfast—it is a wrong method. Try to come
in a Trading vessel for that place which I think you can do, if you look round for a
week. If you come in one of the crowded passenger vessels you will be miserable
and run a risk of losing your life from Ship fever. You can get a vessel at Liverpool
to sail on any day for New York. Therefore it is wrong to engage your passage in
Belfast, you pay more and will always have to wait in Liverpool perhaps a week or two.
Write to me before she starts the name of the vessel, the day she is to sail, and let
David remain on the vessel when he arrives in N. York until I come down, and let
him watch his trunks etc. On his passage he must be very careful in stormy weather
that he does not get thrown overboard by the heaving of the ship etc. My best advice
is when on deck take good hold of a stout rope with your hands. David, the first time
you ask the old cook for anything, if you want to get it, slip him a shilling. Do the
same with the steward if you want anything from him: and mind, keep4or5 shillings
and sixpences in your pocket for this purpose. When you are sick and weak get some
oatmeal gruel made, which the old cook will do if there be few passengers. Now
for the clothes to bring. One fine frock coat made well. You can get all made in
Magee's in Belfast cheaper than you can if you buy the cloth and get anyone to make
them. One warm winter frock coat, heavy cloth. A pair of fine trousers, d[it]o heavy
trousers. A warm vest for winter, one dark one of a light material for summer, and
one light coloured vest single breasted without folding collar. A good silk
handkerchief, half a dozen check shirts such as I had, as many linen ones. Get the
collar of your shirts made low and stitched on the wrong side so that it may be folded
over your handkerchief as they arc worn here. Bring a dozen of cotton socks and
as many woollen. A pair or two of shoes made light. That is about all. If you could
get half a dozen of lined shirts for me made as I told you to get yours made I would
like it. I should want them made large and wide enough round the neck, and made
perhaps large enough for Uncle James: they will then sure enough fit me. Don't wait
a day on them though after you have your own things ready. I want you here as soon
as possible. Recollect this: you must be here by yourself perhaps for years together.
I cannot promise to be in the same town with you always, therefore before you come
you must make up your mind to be in a great measure alone in the world, and to push
a good deal for yourself. I would have you, therefore, to study this well before you
come so that you will not be likely to regret so much afterwards that you came here.
There are many difficulties to be encountered especially by the friendless in coming here; and people come here from Europe with so high expectations that in reality
they must be disappointed. You needn't come with the expectation of making a
fortune in a few years, or indeed in many years, but remember that the most you can
do is by industry and economy to make livelihood. If you do not come I would
advise you to go to a trade in Belfast—some of the trades I have mentioned, and if
you come, do so without delay. Uncle David perhaps will go with you to Liverpool
if you go there and when you have taken your passage write me a letter and send it
by the Steamer, if she is about to sail. If not send it by some of the packets to New
York which you will think will be here before you. If there be none such, then you
must write me one when you land in New York, and get it put in the Post Office and
I will get it the next morning after. It would be well though for Uncle to let me know
by letter what vessel you sailed on. The street in which I live and in which I will be
then is far from the wharf and difficult to find—beside you must watch your trunks
when and after you land in New York; and don't pay a cent to a single being under
any pretense when you land here, unless it may be for something you have bought,
without asking the Captain first. Watch yourself when you're out in the world. I
will be looking out for you however. You need not bring a great many cooking
utensils, as few as possible. Bring no whiskey, it is of no use. Drink sea water Lo
settle your stomach. Be very sure to have salts and take a teaspoonful or two at night
or perhaps 3 spoonful in half a pint or a pint of water from the very first you go
abroad, until you find you are regular in your bowels. Do not, when you are sick,
let your stomach be too empty, if so you will, strain it retching etc. Bring a small
flask of molasses with you. Plenty of oat bread which you will like better than
biscuit, plenty of eggs on their ends, small end up, a little hang beef which you need,
which will keep well if right packed in salt. I would bring no other flesh meat nor
pan for frying. I must close. To which place direct your letters: I live 62 James
Street, New York. Now stir yourselves. I remain the same to all.

John Kerr