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Newspapers in Genealogy and Local History Research: Maritime


In the centuries when all world commerce depended on the traffic of ocean-going vessels, the movement of ships was followed in more detail than celebrity sightings on Page Six of the New York Post. Newspapers would publish, often at great length, information about particular ships, which in genealogy is very handy when cross-referencing details from passenger lists in immigration research. Though names of passengers are typically not listed - unless the subject individual was a noted personality or society figure, or in the event that a death occurred at sea - the ship data one finds in newspapers includes:

  • Date of departure / port of departure
  • Other ports of arrival before final destination
  • Ships detained at the Quarantine Station in Staten Island
  • Date of arrival 
  • Date ships “cleared” - or allowed passage into the harbor after customs.
  • “Disasters" at sea
  • Names of Captains and Masters
  • Cargo
  • Ads for passengers
  • U.S. coastwise traffic
  • Physical details of ship

In most New York City newspapers, ship info was published near the back or on the last page. Depending on the paper, the name of the column might vary: "Ship News" / "Shipping Intelligence" / "Marine Intelligence" / "Marine Journal" / "Marine List" / "Harbor News."

Reference Librarians

The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History, and Genealogy
New York Public Library
476 Fifth Avenue (W. 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue)
Room 121
New York, New York 10018