Monthly Archives: May 2010

The oldest ships in ShipIndex

I’ve been to several conferences in the past few weeks. One question that I’m often asked, and one that I imagine people looking at the site are asking, is, “how far back do the ships in the collection go?” The short answer is that the range of vessels currently being added to the database is “any named vessel in a resource in English.” So, an English-language book or website that focuses on German, Italian, Chinese, or Norwegian vessels is definitely of interest, and would be added.

While in Salt Lake City for the National Genealogical Society conference, I was working on one ten-year portion of the index to Mariner’s Mirror, and it included a reference to the wreck of a named Roman ship from the 3rd century BC.

The other night, I was out having a beer with a neighbor, and we were talking about the range of content in I told him that I had recently found a book on the Athenian navy, which I intend to add, and that I was a bit surprised that vessels had names, even back then. Since he’s a Classics professor and expert in ancient Greek and Roman history, he immediately replied, “Oh, yeah – there are many named vessels from that time. One example is the Salaminia, which was the sacred ship of Athens, and no business could be done when it was away from Athens. Socrates was sentenced to death while the Salaminia was out of the port, so his jailers were forced to wait until the Salaminia returned before they could carry out his death sentence.”

Much more information followed, including other references to actions by or related to the Salaminia, from the 5th century BC. That was very interesting to hear, and I’ll soon add the resource on the Athenian navy. I think from now on I’ll see if I can find anything older than the Salaminia. It does give a specific guideline as to how far back content in goes, though – pretty far back.

Do you know of earlier named ships? Are they in the database? Let me know, and we can check.

Eight new resources added to premium database

There’s lots of news to post here, and I’ll get to it as quickly as I can. First things first, though: I added content from eight new resources yesterday. Indexes from the following resources are now in the premium database:

The two Silverstone volumes now put indexes from all five volumes of Paul Silverstone’s “US Navy Warship series” in As always, lots more content is always in the works.

Content, Conferences, and Enhancements

Oh, man. I’m so far behind in updating the world on what is up to. A few important points:

New content. I uploaded several files today. So far, they’ve included:

The first fills a brief gap; I had already imported volumes 2 and 3, but had had a problem with volume 1, which I’ve since fixed. The last resource, H. T. Lenton’s volume, is a really big, important one. It’s got just over 23,000 citations in it. Many of these are for unnamed vessels, such as Landing Crafts, with names like “LCM.21” or “LCM.234”. I think this is important content for those doing research on these rarely-known vessels. I wrote a lot about the processing I did on this one on the resource’s information page here.

I’m very pleased to get this one imported; it adds immeasurably to the World War II content for those doing in-depth research into naval movements during the war.

With these additions, we’re now just 24 citations short of 1,325,000 citations. Perhaps I’ll find a small set to add some time today.

Past Conference. Two weeks ago (man, time flies!), we went to Salt Lake City for the National Genealogical Society conference. That was a great event, and we had a super time talking with genealogists and learning how we can improve the product we provide for them. We also had a fine time talking with folks from other companies who we can partner with, to the benefit of all involved.

There’s so much to do as a followup on that, and we’re working away on it. That’s a good problem to have, but wow, what a pile of work on our plates. On top of all of that, I’m still working on adding content, and Mike is plugging away at enhancements and new features. Both of us are also working on some neat possible partnerships, plus adding institutional subscribers here and there.

Ship Normalization. Speaking of new enhancements, Mike has built a really valuable new tool that will have a huge impact on a lot of the data that we have from a few major resources. One drawback of projects where a print resource (especially a 19th century one) is digitized and put online is that the print-specific space-saving conventions are applied to an online environment. For example, the schooner Abbot Lawrence is represented in different volumes as “Abbot L’wr’nce”, “Abbott Law’nce”, “Abbott Lawr’nce”, and (obviously) “Abbot Lawrence”. All of them mean describe the same vessel, and in a print volume, that’s easily discerned. But online, the computer doesn’t know that when you search for “Abbott Lawrence,” you’d also like to see the other variations above. That is, unless you have Mike on your side, who has created a tool so that we can bring them all together (that is, ‘normalize’ them). And that’s what we’re doing. The process is quick and accurate, though there are enough entries that it’ll take quite a while.

But, we’re doing it, and we’re making all those other entries available, despite the proliferation of apostrophes.

Next Conference. Finally, I’m headed to a conference at Mystic Seaport tomorrow – it’s a joint conference for a number of organizations, including the Council of American Maritime Museums, the North American Society for Oceanic History, the Steamship Historical Society of America, the National Maritime Historical Society, and the Society for Nautical Research. What a group!

I’m looking forward to telling folks there about, and I hope I won’t run out of brochures. If you’re going, and would like to get together at some point, please drop me a line.

New Content: Mariner’s Mirror, and NRS volumes

Some really great content has been added recently. First is a pile of Navy Records Society volumes, specifically:

Second is ten years of the index, volumes 56 to 65, of Mariner’s Mirror. Mariner’s Mirror is the standard scholarly journal in maritime history. It’s published in Britain, by the Society for Nautical Research, and will celebrate its first centenary next year. Adding all the available indexes of Mariner’s Mirror is an important project for me, and I’m glad I was able to get this first set of files loaded. I have many more files of indexes to load, and I’ll get to them as quickly as I can.

I haven’t decided if I’ll add future indexes to this specific file, and expand its range, or have separate files for the different indexes that were published. It depends a bit on how each file works out. In this case, for instance, I expanded nearly every nationality abbreviation in the index, plus did a lot of other cleanup work. It took a long time to do. I believe it was worth it, and was the right thing to do, but it really did take a while. So, how will I balance future indexes, and will I be able to make them appear essentially the same as this data? If so, I’ll most likely just expand this one file.