Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


1497: John Cabot’s voyage to America

Henry VII issued these letters to John Cabot, authorising his voyage in search of unknown lands. This gave Cabot ‘free and full authority’ to ‘find, discover and investigate whatsoever Islands or Countries, Regions or Provinces of heathens and infidels in whatsoever part of the world placed which before this time were unknown to all Christians.’

Henry was willing to support anyone who might add to England’s wealth by opening up new trade routes. Cabot was a Venetian who had settled in England. He hoped to discover a new route to Asia, which was believed to be a source of gold, gems and spices. He was keen to get a share of any profits.

With the king’s backing, Cabot sailed west across the North Atlantic Ocean. When he saw land on 24th June 1497, it was not Asia that he had discovered, but Newfoundland (now part of Canada). Cabot did not realise it, but he had found a continent that was unknown in Europe. He claimed it in the name of England and returned home. The following year he set out again with 5 ships with the aim of sailing to Japan. He was never seen again.

source-The National Archives

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