On October 29, 1868, six year old Laura Jernegan sailed from New Bedford with her family on the bark Roman. They were off in search of whales. It was the height of the whaling era and whale oil was still in demand. Because whaling journeys often kept men away from their families for as long as three and four years, Captain Jared Jernegan decided to bring his young family along. Laura, her mother Helen, and her younger brother Prescott joined the Captain and a crew of 31 men as they headed around Cape Horn for the rich whaling grounds of the Pacific Ocean.

We know about this voyage because of a journal that Laura kept between the years of 1868 and 1871. We also have letters, ships’ logs, newspaper articles and other accounts that tell us the story of this family from Edgartown on the island of Martha’s Vineyard as they traveled to Hawaii and back. Although the ship’s log from the Roman was lost, there is enough information available to experience where they went and what life might have been like in those times.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum