In the pursuit of our ancestors we may well discover they are connected in some way to boats or ships and by way of extension, researching the vessels can add something to their individual history.
A long time ago I had to write to Lloyd’s of London for some material on a ship that had taken my Ellis ancestors from England to Australia. The vessel was the James Baines and the year, 1854.
These days, unsurprisingly, the material can be found online in a variety of places and formats, but linked from the Lloyd’s website as part of their Archive and Library section. It is truly a fantastic resource for any historian or genealogist.
Sadly, not all vessels make it back to their home port. The National Archives, here in England has a useful section on their site about wrecked ships or sunk and it would be possible to also scan newspaper reports to see if that provides any useful information.
Tip – Just because something now does not appear to be useful, does not mean it won’t in the future, so I always record the information in my research log.
There are also other fascinating sites, but first it is useful to note the difference between the various ship classifications.
- Merchant Ships – these are ships that are transporting good and equipment from one country to another. They continued to work through times of war. Tracing Merchant seaman
- Royal Naval Ships – this is likely self explanatory, they refer to those vessels used by the Royal Navy and there are equally similar vessels for other parts of the world – Royal Australian Navy Ships, Royal Navy of New Zealand US Navy Ships
- Royal Research Ships – these are vessels which spend enormous amounts of time at sea gathering data. The National Oceanography Centre
There are also numerous other websites which can add material and information to your research and I have listed some below:
- Ship Index – a vessel research database
- Shipping & Science Museum
- Historic England – Ships and Boats selection guide
- New Bedford Whaling Museum (United States)
Not all boats are large, in fact I wondered what the criteria was for the term of small boat as what I think of as small boat might not actually be the true definition. I did eventually establish that the register for small boats is those under 33 foot.
- National Small Boat Register (those over 33 foot) – National Historic Ships
- National Maritime Museum Cornwall (those under 33 foot)
Over the years, the Guild of One-Name Studies seminar program may well have covered some of these sites or contain material connected to the topic of boats and ships. The Sunderland Trade & Industry seminar in 2018 had a presentation on ship building. Those with access to the members room may well wish to listen to that presentation or search the numerous others available.
The last remaining vessel from this period, which saw service in the Arctic Convoys is docked on the Thames and available for visitors. You can read about HMS Belfast here
Taking part in the A-Z Challenge for 2020