Robert Forster and Catherine Aynesly

Robert Forster was born at Preston, North Shields, Northumberland, England in 1785 to parents Robert Forster (b 1760) and Elizabeth Brisco (1767-1807).

Christchurch Tynemouth

He was baptised on 17 April 1785 at Christchurch, Tynemouth, Northumberland, the eldest of 11 children born to the couple.

His parents Robert, a mariner, and Elizabeth were married at Christchurch, Tynemouth on 24 March 1788. Elizabeth died in childbirth with their last child George in February 1807. She was buried on 18 February 1807 at Christchurch, Tynemouth aged 40.

Robert, like his father was also a master mariner. This refers to a  licensed mariner who holds the highest grade of seafarer qualification; namely, an unlimited master’s license. There are no limits on the tonnage, power, or geographic location of the vessel that the holder of the license is allowed to serve upon.

A master mariner would therefore be allowed to serve as the master of a merchant ship of any size, of any type, operating anywhere in the world, and it reflects the highest level of professional qualification amongst mariners and deck officers.

Britain Merchant Seaman – Robert Forster

Robert’s Merchant Navy Ticket No was 12041, birthplace given as North Shields.

On 18 August 1817 at the age of 32 Robert married Catherine Aynsley at Christchurch, Tynemouth by banns. The witnesses were John Melvan and James Pye.

Christchurch Tynemouth Marriages 1817

Catherine Aynsley was born in 1788 and baptised on 24 December 1788 at St Andrews, Hartburn, a village 8 miles from Tynemouth. She was the daughter of Robert Aynsley and Mary Whelance. She was one of six children born to the couple.

Robert and Catherine Forster had six children – 1 girl, 1 boy that died as a baby, and 4 boys all of whom served in the Merchant Navy.

  1. Elizabeth b 1818 Preston, North Shields, Northumberland
  2. George Aynsley b 1819 Preston, North Shields, d 1863 Point De Galle, Ceylon. Master Mariner. Merchant Seaman Ticket 11783.George was apprenticed to sea in 1836 at the age of 17. Merchant seaman 1844-1846 “Elliott”, 2nd Mate “Minerva” 1848, 1st Mate “Pursuit” 1849, Chief mate & Master “Hope” 1849. Married Isabella Morris 1845 Tynemouth. No children. Click to enlarge.

    Died 28 Feb 1863 Ceylon. Aged 44, late chief mate of the ship Bucephalus. (newspaper death notice Newcastle Journal 20 June 1863 FMP). No children.

3. Robert b 1821 Preston, North Shields, d 1881 Seaham Harbour. Master Mariner. Apprenticed to sea at 16, 1837. Merchant Seaman Ticket No 110834. Married Mary Ann Thompson 1864 Tynemouth. No children. Click to enlarge pics.

Masters Certificate of Service 1870. Served onboard “Miazen” 1871. “Norval” 1881. Drowned aboard “Norval” 18 May 1881 (see above article link).

William Forster .Merchant Seaman Ticket enlarged

Body recovered wearing his brother George’s engraved mourning ring.

4. William b 1824 Preston, North Shields. d 1892 Tynemouth.

Married Mary Ann Elliott. 5 children. Apprenticed to sea at 18 in 1842 Merchant Navy. “Green P”.

Merchant Seaman Ticket No 239467 in 1846. Served aboard “Jane Price” 1854.

5. Thomas b 1827 Preston, North Shields, d 1883 Seaham Harbour.

Thomas Forster. Merchant Seaman Registered Ticket

Married Barbara Cole. 8 children. Merchant Seaman Ticket No 104020.
Apprenticed at aged 11 “Fair Ella” in 1838. Voyages 1845 to 1851.

At sea in 1851 and 1871 census. 1881 aboard the “Norval”.

6. Nicholas b 1830 and d 1830 Preston, North Shields.

On the 1881 census,  “Norval” passenger lists for 1881, four of the same family members are sailing together – two of the brothers’s above including Robert aged 60 (the captain) and Thomas aged 53 (mate). Also aboard is Thomas’s son Thomas (cook and seaman) aged 24, and Timothy Dyer (able seaman) the husband of Mary Catherine (Thomas and Barbara’s daughter).

1881 Kent census, Vessels, ship “Norval”


Christchurch Tynemouth

Sadly Robert’s wife Catherine died in childbirth with their last son Nicholas in July 1830. She was buried, aged 42 at Christ Church, Tynemouth.

Robert only lived for one more year and died on 14 June 1831 at Preston, North Shields. He was buried at Christchurch, Tynemouth, where he was baptised, aged 46.