Joseph Haber Cree, his wife Martha (née Millward) and their family of six young children left their home in Swanwick, Derbyshire, England, in 1843 to seek a new life in America. This is their story and also to some extent the story of those they left behind, Joseph's parents, brothers and sisters.

Cover of the 1848 letter. Click to enlarge.

It is mainly told through letters written to Joseph and Martha which were kept in a leather pouch in an old oak chest which they had brought from England. The oak chest, the pouch and the letters survived being carried across the Atlantic, from New York City to Upper New York State and then to Iowa, and are still in the care of his descendants in America. Through these letters, Joseph's family and friends speak directly to us of their lives, their feelings and hopes and their reactions to good times and bad. There is just one letter written by Joseph Cree himself.

The letters cover the period from 1844, just after the family migrated to America, to 1870, just before Joseph's death.


i Discovering the letters

ii Joseph Cree's ancestry

iii Alfreton in the 1840s

The Letters:

1. 1844: This letter was written to Joseph and Martha by Joseph's mother Elizebeth (Cutts) Cree a couple of months after they left England.

2. 1846: This letter to Joseph is from William Greaves, a friend he had known back home and who was now living in Philadelphia.

3. 1848: This letter to the whole family is from Joseph's mother Elizabeth.

4. 1852: From Thomas Jefferson Cree of Wheelock, Vermont, to Joseph Cree replying to a letter from Joseph enquiring whether they might be related.

5. 1853: To Joseph and Martha from Joseph's sister Rebecca Cree. There is also a note from Joe's mother Elizebeth Cree

6. 1856: To Joseph from his sister Rebecca Cree. There are also letters from his mother Elizabeth and his nephew William Frisby.

7. c1864: To Joseph from Robert Hogbin, a friend he had known in New York.

8. 1870: To Joseph from his son-in-law Chris Hodsdon in Fremont, Iowa.

9. 1870: From Joseph to Mary and Chris Hodsdon, his daughter and son-in-law in Fremont, Iowa

10. 1870: From Chris Hodsdon to his wife Mary, who was visiting her father Joseph in Pompey, New York State.

Postscript: What happened afterwards

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All the transcriptions, notes and commentaries are copyright © Mike Spathaky 2009.