Louisa O, having been 'born on the high seas aboard HMS Orontes'

July 07, 2009

Hello Mac 

I hope you don't mind my sending you this enquiry about life on board H.M.S Orontes? I asked a friend of mine who likes to research military history, he came across your website and suggested I ask you as you are very knowledgeable!

I have recently started to trace my family history, and when finding information on 1901 census, I found details of my great-grandmother, Louisa O, having been 'born on the high seas aboard HMS Orontes', she was listed as age last birthday being 30, so of course I am looking at her being born in 1870. 

I did read a blog about the Orontes being docked at Portsmouth in 1871, where was it the year before this, do you know to any links I could look at?

I am very new to researching my ancestors, and trying to find out details about my great-grandmother but have come to a bit of a standstill at present. Apparently, she died when she was about 33, her husband married again, and all my remaining relatives remember their Grandfathers' 2nd wife but not very much is known about his 1st wife, as the children from the 1st marriage were very small when their mother Louisa died.

As Orontes was a troopship, I am wondering about why Louisa's mother would be giving birth onboard the ship, also why she would be on it in the first place? Were women employed on it as workers, maybe as nurses? Or for entertainment? I am so eager to find out more but really don't know where to look next, apart from, of course, continuing to try to find Louisa's birth details, maiden name etc, my own illness allowing.

I would be grateful for any information you are able to provide as to women being employed on this ship, and babies being born, I wondered if there are records available for me to research? I would appreciate any info especially on this last paragraph. Thank you.

Kindest regards
Wendy Vincent 


Thank you for your very flattering remarks, but they may be unwarranted.

Here is HMS Orontes as a troopsjp in 1871. 

                  The troop transport vessel Orontes
leaving Quebec City on 11 November 1871.
                  HMS Orontes was built as a
steam-propelled troop-ship in 1862 by
Liverpool shipbuilder Cammell Laird.
This engraving from the 'Canadian
Illustrated News' of 9 December 1871
shows the vessel departing from Quebec
carrying the final Imperial garrison of
Quebec. (Library and Archives Canada,

                        Name Orontes 
                        Type Troopship  
                        Launched 22 November 1862
                        Hull Iron
                        Propulsion Screw
                        Builders measure 2812 tons
                        Displacement 4857 tons
                        Guns 3
                        Fate 1893
                        Ships book ADM 135/340
                        Note 1876 lengthened 5600 disp
                        Snippets concerning this vessels career
                        Date Event
                        20 April 1863 Commanded by Captain
Henry William Hire
                        23 March 1870 Commanded by Captain
John Laisné Perry
                        21 March 1879 Commanded by Captain
Richard George Kinahan


                  As with most Royal Navy ships, full
details of each ship's maintenance
history (the "Ship's Book"), together
with their logs, can be found at the UK
National Archives (formerly the Public
Record Office) at Kew in West London.
For example, National Archive document
number ADM53/11707 is the Orontes log
for the period from 12th January 1880 to
16th April 1881 and document ADM53/11708
is the log from 17th April 1881 to 5th
June 1882.

                  1868 - 1870. 1st Battalion, 15th
Regiment (Yorkshire)
                  The Battalion left Bermuda on HMS
Orontes on June 12, 1870. It disembarked
at Kingstown, Ireland, on December 28
December 1870 and went to Birr.

 Here is someone else born aboard HMS Orontes,

I have confirmed the fact that my great
grandfather, William George SMITH was
born aboard the H.M.S. Orontes, a
British Troopship, in March of 1873,
sailing from the Caribbean back to

Wendy, there were obviously women on board HMS Orontes in both 1870 and again in 1873, but I am unable to track down a specific reference.

Here is the UK National Archives URL:


UK Births, Deaths, Marriages site:



URL:http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/search/search_results.aspx?st=q&queryText=HMS%20Orontes%20&aqgQueryText=HMS%20Orontes%20&dateFrom=1870&dateTo=1873&queryType=ALL for HMS Orontes 33130 Kept log by Midshipman Charles Needam Date Range 1865-1871.

That is all I can find at this stage.


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