Letters to the Hydrographer

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (or UKHO) was, at the time of the Franklin Expedition, led by Sir Francis Beaufort. The Hydrographic Office was responsible for organisational support surrounding the Royal Navy, but also merchant and private shipping enterprises. It is then no surprise that during the search for Franklin’s lost expedition, the UKHO also saw an influx of letters from people who weren’t the primary searchers, that is the men on the ships. In the UKHO’s archives remain multiple letters to Sir Francis Beaufort from people who can be summarised as “family”.

These letters were written by family members seeking information about the searches ongoing. While formal, they still express a certain amount of emotions and worry concerning their lost family member, even into the later years of the search, with the writer often showing a great amount of interest in the details, revealing a certain (newly gained?) knowledge of naval business and possible routes.


Cracroft, Sophia (1852)

A letter trying to procure several maps from the Admiralty for her aunt, Lady Franklin as she tries to help out the American search for the lost Franklin Expedition.

Cracroft, Sophia (Undated, C741)

Undated, but concerning the same subject as the other one, Sophia Cracroft writes to ask about maps for American searchers.

Des Voeux, Rev. Henry (1852-3)

A letter asking Adm. Sir Beaufort’s opinion on the route of the proposed (and later aborted) search of Captain Donald Beatson. He offers to pay for some of the expenses and mentions ‘a parent’s painful anxiety’, referring to his son, Charles Frederick Des Voeux. Also contains a 2nd letter/note thanking Beaufort for his reply.

Lady Franklin, Jane (Undated, F273)

Dated 1851 on the source, but likely to be 1848. Concerning Captain Kellett, Mr. Pullen and Captain Moore.

Lady Franklin, Jane (Undated, F432)

Likely written in 1854. Concerning various American searches and Lady Franklin’s pamphlet to the Admiralty Board.

Lady Franklin, Jane (Undated, F414)

Dated 1853 by the source, but likely to be 1854. Concerning the American searches and the relations between Sir Francis Beaufort and Mr. John Pendleton Kennedy of the American Navy.

Little, Simon (1851)

Asking for a chart concerning the searches of Austin and Penny, mentioning his son Edward Little.