Ship Hector project tracks descendants of passengers

PICTOU — A web site has been officially launched to help people trace their connection to passengers who came to Pictou on the Ship Hector.

Nearly 30 people attended the McCulloch House Museum and Genealogy Centre as Brenda Hutchinson shared a video presentation of the Ship Hector Descendant Project on September 15, the 244th anniversary of the arrival of the passengers in 1773. The site has existed since April but was officially introduced on Friday.

Originally from Truro, Hutchinson was working and living in Calgary before retiring to Braeshore and immersing herself in Pictou’s history and heritage.

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“I chose Pictou because, whenever I came back to connect with family, there was something special about Pictou,” she said. “I love to do genealogy. I started the project in the fall of 2015 and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Hutchinson highlighted the original passenger list that was a starting point for the project. She shared a list of 30 distinguished descendants and many graduates of Pictou Academy contained on the site.

The database has more than 10,000 names, while Hutchinson has tracked 1,410 unique surnames and 3,167 unique families. There have been more than 1,600 web site visits and more than 300 Facebook followers.

Hutchinson was joined by Carol MacKay, who provided context for the project as she traced her ancestry from her time living in Durham to numerous families whose forebears crossed from Scotland on the Hector.

“I have developed a passion for the Hector,” she said. “There’s a parallel history. Some came for religious reasons, some came for economic reasons, but most came due to poverty.”

Norma MacCara paid tribute to the quilts she’s made and that formed a backdrop for the launch. She said the quilt-making was an inevitable transition from making table runners and tree skirts.

“I think they tell stories,” she said.

To underscore how the project remains a work in progress, Hutchinson has set a goal to find more descendants, connect with Scottish clans and genealogy societies elsewhere and create a Ship Hector Descendant Society.

She also emphasized the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Ship Hector and compared it to the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the ship Mayflower in 1620 at Plymouth, Ma.

“While there are millions of Mayflower descendants, we have 10,000 names and it’s the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “It will build over time.”

She plans on that vein to create an organizing committee for the 2023 celebration.

Donna Bullerwell, who chairs the McCulloch Centre board and emceed the event, said she’s pleased Hutchinson has taken on the project.

“I’m happy for her and for a lot of people,” she said. “She was searching for that big project. Now she’s an authority and she started with a clean and no pre-conceived notions.”

Visit the site and see for yourself: www.shiphectordescendants.ca


From left: Carol MacKay, Norma MacCara, Donna Bullerwell and Brenda Hutchinson stands beside the award-winning Canada 150 quilt at the McCulloch House Museum and Genealogy Centre in Pictou. (Goodwin photo)

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Steve Goodwin was born in Amherst, N.S. and has been a journalist for more than 40 years. He has been a resident of Pictou County for nearly 40 years.