On 24th January 1848, a man called James Marshall from New Jersey, was helping to build a sawmill on the America River for a man called Johann Sutter. He went to free the wheel in the millrace and saw, in the shallow pool that formed, a nuggett of gold, just over the size of a pea.
Sutter tried to keep the news of the find quiet but the rush was on and people travelled from all over to become part of the California gold rush.
The small town of San Fransisco with a population of just 750 at the time grew rapidly. By the end of the year 6000 people had arrived to work the gold field.
These first miners, later called ‘forty eighters’ came mainly from America but as the new year arrived so did miners from all over the world.
An intriguing idea but if your ancestor does not appear on the 1851 UK census, could it be that they emigrated to America to join the gold rush?