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Friday, May 15, 2009

Finding a Death at Sea

Terry asked
We are looking for an Uncle who apparently died at sea. He came from the Village of Nahorinka, County of Buchach in Austria on his way to Alberta, Canada. His name was Mihailo or MacHako Martyniuk or Martymek or something similar. He was travelling with his Mother Maria and younger sister Barbara or Varvara Martyniuk. The spelling varies. He was born in 1907 we think, but it could be as late 1910. We believe the family arrived in Canada around 1913 or 1914. The father Hryhory or Harry was already in Canada. Can you help us. I have search and as you can tell I come up with variess spelling and discrepancies in years. Our living family member states that he was born in 1907 by the name of Mihailo Martyniuk and died at sea before the family landed in Canada in 1914. Any help would be appreciated.

Hello Terry, I did take a quick peek in the 1916 census for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba which is online on I needed to know the dates of birth for your Mihailo's sibling and parents. Because you can't always trust family memories, you can use the 1916 census as a guide to immigration dates. Barbara was born ca 1909 in Austria, and her next youngest Anna was born ca 1914 in Canada. So you know that between 1909-1914 (give or take a year on either side), the mother and her children came to Canada. Yes, she gives 1912 as her immigration year, but that is often mis-remembered.

Your next step would be to find the family on a ships' passenger list. The names of all passengers were recorded at the port of departure so if Mihail travelled with them, he will be on the list. If he died at sea, his name will be recorded on the passenger manifest - either with a notation beside his name on the list, or on the last page of the full manifest.

As you have learned, the names can be recorded in a dizzying variety of ways! First there is the phonetic representation. Then you have the aspect of human error when the lists were indexed! So you must be very creative and use wildcards if you are searching online. has Canadian passenger lists if you think they came in to a Canadian port. They also have ships to New York and other popular ports in USA and there is a chance the family took that route to get to their final destination. So you have a bit of a search ahead of you!

Remember too that on you can search using only ages and years of immigration, you do not need to put in any names. You can also search by first names only, there are many options. My advice: don't be too restrictive in your searches.


  1. With a surname like Martyniuk, you are more likely to find them leaving Europe in the Hamburg Passenger lists. Also check for Anglicized first names in the census records. That is how I found my grandparents from Hungary.

  2. Maria, MacHako and Warnara MARTYMEK are listed in the Canada to US Border Crossings in April 1913. Ship Name: Graf Waldersee
    Port of Arrival: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

  3. This family settled near Smokey Lake Alberta and a family history can be found in the local History for Smokey Lake, 'Our Legacy