QUESTION: I have discovered that a person I am researching went to the California gold fields in 1849 as a part of the Hartford (CT) Mining & Trading company. The only further information I can discover is that he "drowned in Central America in 1856". That information is included in his widow's application to collect their deceased son's Civil War pension. What are my chances of finding any further information about this death in Central America, and where should I start?
ANSWER: Thank you for your note. I believe that your relative did not drown in Central America in 1856, but rather drowned aboard the S.S. CENTRAL AMERICA, in September 1857.
The Civil War pension file you quoted does give 1856, however the date could be off slightly. The connection to the gold fields of California and this vessel is very strong due to her cargo. I am not certain if a passenger list survives for this vessel, however it was a very important shipwreck with the gold treasure discovered in the 1980s. You may discover more about the vessel and the fateful voyage online at: http://www.shipofgold.com/journey.html