April 04, 2002
Genealogists have a fascination with ships. We want to know about the ship that brought our ancestors to America. We want to know how big the ship was. We want to know what the ship was made of. I have often wondered about this fascination. I have few personal ancestors who came over after the mid-1600s, but I have done enough research in the mid-1800s to the early 1900s for others now that I feel I too have been bitten by the Ship Bug.
While anyone who has read John Colletta's They Came in Ships is probably aware that ship museums exist, you might not be aware of their online offerings. Some of them have published online some useful information about what is needed to locate a ship in their archive, or how to request a photograph of the ship.
The Ellis Island Site
Many researchers are finding the Ellis Island Records site to be a great help in researching their immigrant ancestors. Be careful not to stop looking after you find your ancestor in the passenger list. Upon further inspection, you'll find an image of the ship that you can view and a wonderful write up about the ship. In this week's Rhonda's Tips there was a question about an immigrant to New York who arrived through Ellis Island in 1924. I searched for the immigrant in question on the Ellis Island site and discovered that she came over on the S. S. Celtic. During my search, I found I was touched by the image of the ship and the write up:
As I read the end of the description, I was saddened by the loss of this magnificent ship that brought so many ancestors to the United States, each one hoping for a fresh new start.
In addition to viewing the ships online, you can also order a print of the ship in question. What a great way to enhance the family history. The pictures are $10.00 for a 5x7 print and $12.50 for a 9x12 print.
Books about Ships
While the Internet is certainly convenient, if you are like me, there are times when you would like to curl up with a good book. Colleta's They Came in Ships tells us how to access the passenger records and there are a number of good books that include pictures of the ships.
These are just a few of the books that have been published over the years with photographs and drawings of the ships that brought our ancestors across the ocean. Including what you learned about a ship in your family history brings the trip to the new world to life. Rather than being noted as just a boring date, now your family history can share information about the ship and perhaps even hazard a guess as to where your ancestor stayed on the ship.
Online resources offer us many special glimpses into the history that our ancestors lived through. Getting to see pictures of the ships they traveled on and learn the history of the ship is just one of those glimpses into their history. The next time you find yourself asking questions about the ships that brought your ancestors to America or what type of journey they had, take a look at what is available at these various museums.The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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