Research

Online Resources for Maritime Topics

Looking for more information on a specific ship, shipwreck, or seafarer? Studying your family tree?
Below are a few links that you might find helpful on your search. 

Looking for Maritime History on the Internet Research Tools?
Go to Peter McCracken's Maritime History on the Internet >>

Looking for a particular museum to do on-site research?
Go to Museums, Programs, Historic Sites >>

Looking for a particular image?
Check out the Maritime Image Collections >>

Bearded sailor
Union sailor (photo: Library of Congress)

American Merchant Marine at War >>

As the name suggests, this site covers the US merchant marine in wartime. In addition to a variety of articles, it contains lists of WWII merchant marine casualties, POWs, and ship lists.

 

Cyndi’s List >>

The grandaddy of genealogy websites, Cyndi’s List has a generous offering of resources for the researcher. Not only are there links to historical websites and databases of ships, shipwrecks, seafarers, and passengers, but also links to listservs and discussion groups about specific maritime topics. Sometimes the best answers can be gotten from someone who has conducted similar research to your own.

 

Fr. Edward J. Dowling, S.J. Marine Historical Collection >>

This collection, managed by the University of Detroit Mercy, is considered “one of the most complete private collections of information on the subject of Great Lakes marine history.”  Only a portion is digitized, but it’s worth a look.

Historical Collections of the Great Lakes >>

Hosted by the libraries of Bowling Green University, this collection consist of manuscript and archival materials: books, pamphlets, periodicals, marine architectural drawings, maps, and charts; and photographs. Some of the information is searchable online.

 

The Maritime Heritage Project >>

The MHP is a free resource with listings for passengers, ships, captains, merchants and merchandise sailing into California during the mid-to-late 1800s. Also included are contemporary news articles and other helpful and interesting information about California emigration.

San Francisco Gold
Ship Dock Fish Dealer
Kingdom (photo: Library of Congress)

The Maritime History Virtual Archives >>

This site is an eclectic collection of historic texts and articles and a listing of preserved historic ships. The compiler is based in Sweden, so many of the historic texts are in Swedish, but there is a good deal in English as well.

 

Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston >>

The Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes houses an extensive collection of information about the Great Lakes with a Canadian focus. It has made several databases of Canadian ships searchable via this online portal.

Merchant Mariner Muster (Maine Maritime Museum) >>

By far the most alliterative resource we’ve found, the Merchant Mariner Muster has records dating back more than 200 years from the archives of the Maine Maritime Museum, covering 17,746 mariners, 1,015 vessels, and 3672 voyages.

 

Mystic Seaport Museum >>

Mystic, the Museum of America and the Sea, oversees a Collections Research Center (CRC), an astonishing collection of artifacts, ships’ registers, oral histories and video. Make arrangements for a visit, or peruse the resources that are available online.

Charles W. Morgan
Boston Navy Yard USS Mason Af Am Sailors Admin Hist A
Sailors from USS Mason (photo: National Archives)

National Archives >>

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a system of collections held around the country. Increasingly, the Archives’ massive holdings are offered in digitized format, making this a great resource for online research.  There are several dozen genealogical search resources as well, including a guide on How to Do Genealogical Research, Searchable Databases, Vital Records, Genealogy Blogs, State Archives and Other Helpful Genealogy Sites and Resources.

 

Naval History and Heritage Command >>

This website provides online access to the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships as well as an overview of the NHHC’s archival collections and research guidance.

 

Ancestry.com Military Records >>

This Ancestry.com site provides a searchable database collection of U.S. Military Records.

Online Military Indexes and Records >>

This site offers links to research members of the US armed forces from the Revolutionary War to the present, including the US Navy.

 

Ship Index

Ship Index >>

Run by Peter McCracken, author of the Sea History series Maritime History on the Internet, Ship Index is a database of references to named ships in books, magazines, newspapers, and websites. Some of the resources are free, and there are for-fee expanded options available for short-term or long-term use.

SSHSA Red Star Line

The Steamship Historical Society >>

The Steamship Historical Society publishes PowerShips—formerly Steamboat Bill—and oversees a collection of ships’ plans and blueprints, ephemera, video and audio, and artwork. Some of these resources are available online, including the Posner Virtual Museum and their Image Porthole.

Steamboat History

A helpful collection of steamboat resources, recommended by a young maritime scholar.

Tall Ships America >>

Tall Ships America is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization focused on youth education, leadership development and the preservation of the maritime heritage of North America. In addition to organizing the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Series, Tall Ships America manages scholarship programs to make sail training experiences more affordable for young people, grant programs to assist crew of member vessels with the costs of professional development courses and licensing requirements and publishes SAIL TALL SHIPS! A Directory of Sail Training and Adventure at Sea.

Timeline of Ships, Boats, and Yachts >>

Ships and boats are two of the oldest types of transportation and were first built thousands of years ago. This helpful timeline was recommended by a young scholar interested in maritime and sailing history.

Titanic Historical Society >>

This group publishes the Titanic Commutator; its website contains articles, links, and a forum for discussing Titanic and the White Star Line.

Wooden Boat Building Resources

Interested in building your own boat?  Check out these helpful sites:

How to Make a Cedar Dugout Canoe >>
How to Make Your Own Canoe Paddle >>
Build Your Own Wood Kayak >>
How to Set Up Your Own Mini-Shipyard >>
DIY Canoe Stabilizer
Build a Simple Kayak Rack >>.

Historic Ships

Historic vessels—craft that sailed in another era and survived to give us a glimpse of their history today—are a vital part of our maritime heritage. We tell their stories in the pages of Sea History.  NMHS continues its tradition of rallying support for historic vessels in need of assistance. In Historic Ships on a Lee Shore, for example, we spotlight vessels in need of preservation, restoration, or a new home.  Please see our Historic Ships and Sea History magazine pages; for specific inquiries, explore the hyperlinked Sea History Index.

Adventure – historic schooner,Gloucester, MA

USS Alabama – WWII battleship, Mobile, AL

HMS Belfast – WWII cruiser,London, UK

Californian – official tall ship of the State of California, San Diego, CA

USS Constitution– the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat, Charlestown, MA

USS Constellation – historic sloop-of-war, Baltimore, MD

Cutty Sark – historic clipper ship, Greenwich, UK

Hermione  replica of 18th-century ship, sail-training vessel, Rochefort, France

USS Intrepid – aircraft carrier,New York, NY

USS Midway – aircraft carrier, San Diego, CA

USS North Carolina – battleship, Wilmington, NC

SSVOliver Hazard Perry – sail training vessel, Newport, RI

Onrust replica of a Dutch wooden ship, Waterford Park, NY

San Salvador – replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s flagship, San Diego, CA

USS Slater – WWII destroyer escort, Albany, NY

Star of India – historic barque, San Diego, CA

“HMS” Surprise – replica of 18th-century Royal Navy frigate, San Diego, CA