The National Maritime Historical Society

You are here > Maritime Resources > Research


Online Resources for Maritime Topics

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


American Merchant Marine at War

Union sailor (photo: Library of Congress)

Union sailor (photo: Library of Congress)

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.

Kingdom (photo: Library of Congress)

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.

National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a system of collections held around the country. While a generous portion is digitized, the sheer quantity of their holdings dictates that quite a bit must be researched on-site. But they do offer you pointers on how to go about your search and guidelines to the National Archives’ holdings, so you can plan your research visit.

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

Online Military Indexes and Records

Sailors from USS Mason (photo: National Archives)

Sailors from USS Mason (photo: National Archives)

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
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.

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.

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.