Great Lakes Maritime Database

The five Great Lakes in the United States (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario) and bordered by part of Canada has been an essential source of transportation since the 18th century. Many people have made their livelihood from the ports and the shipping of goods and people across the various Great Lakes. The information from records relating the maritime traffic has been placed in digital format and made available online by the University of Michigan and Alpena County Library.

What could prove to be invaluable are the thousands of maritime vessels in this collection. The details of information for the Great Lakes Maritime Database include the vessel’s name (along with any name changes), its owner, the ship’s captains, the place it was built, its size, what it was made of, its overall history and what happened to it eventually are included. Not just official documents, but even scanned copies of newspaper articles relating to a vessel. Some articles write of change of owners, its captains or tragically of disasters when ships and crew were lost in the lakes. The photographic images of the vessels really helps give the researcher that extra detail.

The scope of vessels are hundreds ranging from tugboats, barges, schooners, ferry, steamers, survey vessel, yachts, freighters, bark schooner, sloop and propeller. Using the search topics on the left side, the researcher can look over all the various vessels names, or the type of vessel (such as schooner or steamer), or by where it was built. At the top is a general search box where a keyword or surname could be placed.

In the general search using a surname could reveal any vessels with such a name, owners, captains or builders. Placing the surname ‘Johnson’ had 838 listings, ‘Franklin had 175 listings and the surname of ‘Smith’ produced 1,796 listings.

Once you locate an item, click on it to enlarge the thumbnail image. To its left will also be a description button. Click on that for a long list of overall information relating to that image.

This digital collection has some 22,533 images of vessels and documents. More are being added each month. Copies of the documents can be viewed easily online and print copies ordered for a nominal fee. If you had any ancestors involved in the maritime vessels of the American Great Lakes from the first half of the 1800s into the 20th century, this site is a must in your research.

CAHOON THOMAS H- a schooner-barge in 1881

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Check with the genealogical and the historical societies of Erie County. Also and any local Family History Centers near you.
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