Maritime Monday: Mystic Seaport

Several years ago, I performed my first research project for someone other than me — I researched ships built in Greensboro, Md., for the Caroline County Historical Society. One of my goals was to gather as much information as I could regarding a schooner called the George Churchman for a museum exhibit. Amid my research, I stumbled upon a gold mine at the Mystic Seaport website.

The Museum of America and the Sea is located in Mystic Seaport, Connecticut. You can perform research about individuals involved with maritime history on the museum’s web site (anyone from ship captains to marine artists). I used the web site to search for ship registers with details about the Churchman. Here is such a register (the Geo. Churchman is listed about halfway down). From such records, I was able to find out the ship’s dimensions and other physical characteristics.

Did you find out that one of your ancestors arrived in the United States after a voyage at sea? If you know the name of the ship, you may be able to find out more about it by searching for it on the Mystic Seaport web site or one like it. Visit the Immigrant Vessel section of the Mystic Seaport web site for some inspiration.

This museum focuses heavily on the northeast United States. Other museums may focus on different geographic areas. The Mariner’s Museum in Virginia in Newport News, Virginia, is one to investigate if you have Southern sailors in your family history. Smaller museums like the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland, offer intimate details about what life was like for seafaring ancestors.

If you have an ancestor who was a sailor or a ship builder, or even if you just enjoy maritime history, I highly recommend checking out sites like the Mystic Seaport web site and/or visiting such museums in-person, if you can.

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2 thoughts on “Maritime Monday: Mystic Seaport

  1. The Mystic website also has a database of certificates of protection issued for seamen. “The Act for the Relief and Protection of American Seamen” was passed by Congress in 1796 to maintain a record of all personnel serving at sea. These certificates vouched for the citizenship of the individual and included identifying information such as place of birth, age, height or eye color. The intention of these certificates was to discourage impressment. They were issued at the Custom house in Gloucester. The original records are in the possesion of the NARA.
    I found three certificates issued for my ancestor Levi Younger of Gloucester, Mass, but even so he was still captured (impressed into service) by the British in the War of 1812 and a POW on board teh Royal William. I’ve found many family members in this database.

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