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Finding an Image of Your Ancestral Ship

Since most Americans and their ancestors were immigrates, the majority arrived to these shores on ship. The greatest influx of people coming across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans was from the 1870s to the 1930s. If you have some ancestors who made that journey, a must-have for your family history collection is an image of that ship.

The free online site named Old Ship Picture Galleries offers a fantastic assortment of vessels, ships and the harbors they arrived and departed from over the years. You can start searching if you already know the ship your ancestor traveled on. That would be on any naturalization documents or port of entry manifests / passenger lists. This site is just to secure a copy of the ship.

The names of the vessels are arranged in alphabetical order.  Click on the beginning letter for the ship. Many have ‘R. M. S.’ or ‘S. S.’ in front; don’t use that but rather the first letter of the proper name. Once you click on that you will see a very long list of ships.  Scroll down to the full spelling of the ship.  You will see the name with a dash and a number. If it was Caledonia Star, this has eleven separate listings.  Now that doesn’t mean there are eleven images of the ship you are looking for.  Many times the same name is used at different time periods on different ships, especially if the original ship is no longer in use. View each image, looking at the number of smoke stacks and it top rigging.  In the case of the Caledonia Star two of the eleven images were a later ship with the same name. You can right-click on the image and save it to your computer.

To locate images of ports for arrivals and departures, go to the section on the left titled ‘Miscellaneous Picture Galleries.’ Same method, go over the alphabetical list, such a ‘Liv’ for Port of Liverpool in England.  As you are viewing the different images, there are not many with dates, so try to select the ones that appear closest to the time you ancestor traveled to the port.

A reminder, the ship could be traveling anywhere, not just to and from the United States. I have located images of ships going to Australia and South Africa. Also military, river steamers, submarines and merchant ships are included, so if a relative was stationed on such a vessel, look it up.  Overall this is a great source of ship images that is important to add to your collection of family artifacts. NOTE: the ship shown above is the SS CARMANIA that my father traveled on at age 9 in 1914 from England to the United States.

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