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Levi Younger, Mariner and Prisoner of War

During the War of 1812, Britain imposed its power over the newly minted United States of America and thus impressed thousands of American soldiers into British service. The Royal Navy had 175 ships of the line and 600 ships overall, requiring 140,000 sailors. Volunteers alone were not enough to recruit enough seamen. New England lost many fishermen, sailors and mariners to forced labor or imprisonment.

Levi Younger was a Gloucester sailor. Like many men from Gloucester, Massachusetts, the members of his family were fishermen and seamen. There are many Youngers and other cousins listed as “Lost at sea” or who died on voyages in the Gloucester vital records. I often think of the famous fisherman statue when I read about this side of my family tree, or of the wives and sweethearts left behind. However, Levi not only survived many adventures at sea, he survived long enough to have two wives!

Levi was born in 1786 in Gloucester, son of Levi, Sr. who was a sailor, and who was also captured during the American Revolution by the British Navy and served time aboard the prison ship “Favorite” in New York harbor. He was exchanged for a seaman named James Price. I’ve read horrible stories about the deaths and disease on the prison ships in New York, and I’m grateful that he survived.

Levi, Jr., was a young man, only 14 years old when he was first issued a certificate of protection on 20 February 1801. It describes him as “Levi Younger, age 14, of Gloucester, Mass, light complexion, was issued a certificate of protection #649” He reapplied in 1809 and 1815, as far as I can see, in the records. These certificates were granted by Congress in 1796 to maintain a record of all personnel serving at sea, vouching for citizenship and giving identifying information such as height or eye color. The purpose of these certificates was to discourage impressments, and they were issued at the custom house in Gloucester.

However, the next records I found were in the “Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States” with a letter issued in 1812 requesting the names of some sailors who had been imprisoned. The return letter from Mr. Beasley, Wimpole St., London, on Oct. 21, 1812 states “Sir: Agreeably to the request contained in your letter of the 19th instatnt, I now transmit to you a list of impressed American seamen on board British ships of war, who, having heard of the war, offered to give themselves up as prisoners, and for so doing, or for refusing to do so service have been punished.” The letter goes on to list many sailors, including “Thomas W. Marshall, Peter Lazette, Edward Whittle Banks, and Levi Younger, on board the Royal William, gave themselves up as prisoners and were in consequence thereof put into close confinement for eight days."

Levi married on 23 October 1816 to Catherine Plummer Jones, and seems to have removed to Boston. He had at least two children before his young wife passed away in 1828. His sister Mary adopted his daughter, who was raised in Boston. He remarried to a woman named Margaret from New Castle, New Hampshire. He was living in Love Lane, later called Tileston Street in Boston’s North End, near his first wife’s family. In the 1850 Boston City Directory he was living at 238 Hanover Street, which is now the main street in the North End (where all the best Italian restaurants are located!) In the 1855 Boston City Directory he is living at 38 Charter Street, which is near Snelling Place, (his brother in law was from the Snelling family.) In the Boston death records it states “December 8, 1858, Levi Younger, age 72 years, 7 months, 7 days, died in Boston, of Old Age, male, married, born in Gloucester, son of Levi and Mary”

Younger Genealogy:

Gen. 1: William Younger married on 6 March 1749/50 in Gloucester to Lucy Foster, daughter of Benjamin Foster and Susanna Andrews, born 15 June 1723 in Gloucester.

Gen. 2: Levi Younger, born 7 Feburary 1756 in Gloucester, died intestate before 4 Feb 1806 in Gloucester; married on 17 June 1784 in Gloucester to Mary Wotten, daughter of John Wotten and Mary Hall, born on 15 August 1755.

Gen. 3: Levi Younger, Jr., born on 1 May 1786 in Gloucester; died on 8 December 1858 in Boston; married on 23 October 1816 in Boston to Catherine Plummer Jones, daughter of Owen Jones and Elizabeth Lambert, born about 1700 in Boston, died on 2 May 1828 in Boston. Two children:

1.) Levi Younger, born about 1820 and died on 10 August 1827 in Boston

2.) Mary Esther Younger, born 17 February 1826 in Boston; married on 11 August 1845 in Boston to George Emerson, son of Romanus Emerson and Jemima Burnham, born 11 July 1817 in South Boston, died 11 January 1890 in Dorchester. Mary Esther was adopted in 1828 by her father's sister, Mary Younger, who was married to David Harris. In some records she is known as Esther Harris.

For more information:

Stimpson’s Boston Directories, available at local libraries or at this online searchable database at

“The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States" Thirteenth Congress, first and second sessions, May 24, 1813 to April 18, 1814 inclusive, compiled from authentic materials, Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1854, page 2267

Seamans Certificates of Protection are available at the National Archives and also on There is also a database at the Mystic Seaport website


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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