Category Archives: Books

New online content added recently

We’re now moving to adding a bunch of online content. Here’s a list of online (and some print) resources that have been added in the past three weeks:

We also updated an online site that moved; unfortunately, this happens often. We don’t always hear about these URL changes, so if you see something that doesn’t work, please do let us know. And if you know of some other online resources that should be added to, so people know they mention specific ships, please let us know at comments (at) shipindex (dot) org.

Another collection of new content

It should be abundantly clear by now that we have a crack team working away on data; we’ve added indexes from hundreds of new titles to the database over the past year. It’s just not stopping, either. The indexes to the following books (and one online resource) have been added to since my last listing of content, on December 31:

As always, we welcome suggestions for new content to add, and we’d love to work with publishers who want to ensure that their content is discoverable! Send a note to comments (at) shipindex (dot) org to see how we can work together on this.

Nearly New Year; Lots more Additional Content


With a new year comes lots more content. Indexes to the following resources have been added to in the past month.

We continue to add primarily monographic content, and I think that each month I say we’ll be posting new online content soon. Well, don’t worry, we will. The great thing about printed content is that it’s not going anywhere. It might take some time to locate, but it’ll be there, which is more than can be said for online content. 

As always, if you have suggestions for content to add, please don’t hesitate to tell me! Leave a comment here, or send an email to comments (at) shipindex (dot) org. 

Wishing you the best for a great 2019!

Another round of new content

I can’t emphasize how excited I am to have so much new monographic (ie, book) content getting added to the ShipIndex database. The proverbial “we” of ShipIndex, which has mostly been “me”, has been enhanced by the addition of several great people, including one who has been doing yeoman’s work in getting files ready to be added to the database. This has been a game-changer, and a reason why we’re adding so many new monographic titles.

An aside: adding book content is really great. When we can find the book in Google Books or Hathi Trust, we add links to it. But when we can’t, it can be frustrating to end users that the content isn’t immediately available online. However — it is available. Just follow the “find in a library” link as one easy way to find out if a library near you owns the book. If they don’t, see if your local library can obtain a copy for you from another library, through Interlibrary Loan. They *want* to get you the book, and most of the time, they don’t charge you at all! (So, be kind, and support your local library! In fact, I’m writing this on #GivingTuesday, so today’s as good a day as any to support your local library!)

Online resources are great; they’re immediately available! Until they’re not. And then they’re gone for good. Books are almost never “gone for good.” Even if you can’t get a copy now, maybe the next time you take a trip to a bigger city, or to a town with a research library, you can check before you go to see if the book you want is available there. (Just repeat the “Find in a library” link, but put in the ZIP code or postal code of the city you’re visiting.) Having a reason to visit a library in a different city is a great thing!

Last month, I went to New York City for a big maritime event. I went a few days early, so I could do a ton of research at the New York Public Library, and it was an absolute blast. It was so much fun to walk around all the tourists (while secretly being one, as well) and go in to the Rose Reading Room to collect books that had been pulled from storage for me. Wow wow wow.

Anyway, back to the content. Here’s a list of titles added since my last update, which was only a few weeks ago:

As you can see, all of these are the start of the alphabet! (We organize them by author name, for the most part.) More to come, soon!

Even more new content!

In August, I posted a bunch of new content added to the database. We’re really on a roll here, and are adding more and more all the time. Here’s a list of titles that have been added since my last posting of new content:

As you can see, this is vaguely focused on the early part of the alphabet (when looking at authors’ names). Lots, lots more is being processed as I type, and I’m headed to the New York Public Library this coming week to gather even more.

If you know of a title whose index you think should be added to, please do let me know!

Still more new content!

This time last month I posted a list of several dozen new resources added to the database. I have a bunch more to list today.

The following have been added since I posted that list:

For the Naval Documents collection from the Quasi-War, we did some extra work on the files to ensure that the Captains names are findable in the index, and are connected with the appropriate entry. I’ll add a post soon with more information on how best to find those captains in the database.

We continue moving forward with more content; I plan to go collect more today, in fact. It’ll take some time to get it processed and added,  but it’s all moving along. All of the above, and what I collect today, will be from books, but we’ll also soon be turning to online resources, as well. As always, please let me know about any titles or resources that you think should be added.

Tracking Vessel Arrivals in New York City

While poking around in the library today, which is always a fun thing to do, I went in search of Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994. It’s a great volume that has lots of information about many ships that sailed the inland American waterways. But the ships are listed alphabetically, so there’s no index to it that would indicate all the ships that are included. That’s certainly not a problem for using the resource, and I don’t mean it in any negative sense. If you know the ship you’re looking for, then it’s an easy resource to use. But if you want to create an index to the ships in the book, so you can put those in another database and tell people that the ship they’re interested in is mentioned in this book, you need to collect the list of ships by hand. This takes a ton of time, especially for a 600-page book. I have an idea that I might try, but that’s a long ways away.

Anyway, while looking at the shelves, I came across this volume: Passenger Ships Arriving in New York Harbor, 1820-1850, edited by Bradley Steuart, and published by Precision Indexing in 1991. It’s labeled as “Volume 1”, but I don’t think any other volumes subsequently appeared. Nevertheless, it’s pretty great for some instances. The first half of the volume lists vessel arrivals chronologically, so you see something like the following:


The second half lists the vessels by name, so you can see when and how often a particular ship arrived. Again, a great resource. I didn’t know about this – maybe I should have, but at least now I do, and I’m telling you.


As you can see, both halves include the NARA Roll Numbers so one can find the correct microfilm to find the related passenger lists. I expect that’s not vital anymore; online databases have digitized the vast majorities of these rolls (I think), but even today that information can be useful if there are limitations or gaps in the online resources.

I think this is a useful resource for genealogists in many instances, so I thought it’d be worth sharing here. You can always find this in a library near you, even if you can’t find it in!

20 Ways the Shipping Container has Changed the World

Shipping containers have fundamentally changed the way of the world since their conception in 1956. They perform the thankless task of transporting billions of tons of cargo each and every year. We know how important shipping containers are but not many of us know their origins.

An infographic called “20 Ways The Shipping Container Took Over The World”, produced by, show us precisely how the shipping container has become so popular. For example, as you read this approximately 20 million containers are traveling across the ocean. And over 90% of everything your purchase has been transported using a shipping container.


Click above to see the complete infographic

Much of the information in this infographic has come from Mark Levinson’s book, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. A more recent book on the subject is Rose George’s Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate. I’ve read the latter; it was great. I haven’t yet read the former.

All of this change has only taken 60 years, as back in 1955 0% of cargo was transported using containers. Have a look at the infographic to find out even more about how shipping containers have changed the world!

Using WorldCat Records in Part 1, Finding Books Mentioned in the Database, and Finding Books About Ships

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about using WorldCat through I finally started, but as usual, my blog post has grown to be much too long for just a single post. So I’ll split this into two posts: one on finding monographs (ie, books) through WorldCat, and one on finding manuscript works through WorldCat. WorldCat does many different useful things in the database.

First, what is WorldCat, and what kind of records do you find there? WorldCat is a massive database that shows what books and magazines are owned by libraries in the US and around the world. WorldCat is created and managed by OCLC, an Ohio-based library services company. The first great application of WorldCat in is in helping you locate a book that mentions a ship of interest to you. I believe that knowing that a mention of a ship exists gets you at least 75% of the way to finding that citation. If you didn’t know the citation existed, then it wouldn’t count at all. But if you know it exists, then there are lots of ways of getting your hands on it, and seeing what it says. The easiest way is to see if a library near you owns the book, and here’s where WorldCat is a huge help.

If you click on “Find in a library near you” on any monograph (book) or serial (magazine) citation in, WorldCat will try to figure out where you are, and then locate the library nearest to you. You can always put in a ZIP code or a city name, too, to customize your search.

For example, imagine you’re searching for information about the ship “Punnet”. The premium database tells you that it’s mentioned in H. T. Lenton’s massive volume British & Empire Warships of the Second World War, on two different pages. You don’t own that book, so where can you find a copy?


Click on “Find in a library near you”, as shown here, and it’ll take you to this page in WorldCat that shows you more about the book, and most importantly, where the nearest copy is. In my case, WorldCat reports that the nearest library with this book is less than a mile away! (I’m lucky that way.)


Other libraries also have it, and maybe one near where I’ll be going has a copy. For instance, if I’m headed to Chicago on some upcoming trip, I could put in a Chicago ZIP Code (or just type “Chicago, Illinois”), and find out what libraries in the city own a copy. (Chicago Public Library and University of Chicago Library both own it, I find.)

If there’s no library near you with a copy, remember that you can almost certainly request that a copy be sent to you through your local public library, via “inter-library loan” (ILL). ILL is sometimes free, and sometimes costs something — but remember what a great thing the library did for you, and be sure to provide a bit of financial support to them for helping you obtain this volume!

 As a somewhat advanced aside, it’s definitely worth looking through multiple records in WorldCat. For technical reasons, not all holdings records (ie, “my library owns this book!” messages) are attached to a single bibliographic description of a book. This is especially true for American versus non-American holdings: if you only see European libraries that own a book, and you’re in the US, be sure to see if there are other records that display American libraries’ holdings, and vice versa.

There’s more to WorldCat’s content, however. One of the great collections of resources in the free part of the database is the set of about 40,000 authority records from the WorldCat database, but there can be some challenges in using the results you find there. I thought it would be useful to describe how best to use the results you find here.

WorldCat’s holdings identifies books that are about a specific ship, along with manuscript information about specific ships. In the first case, it’s important to recognize the difference between WorldCat results and other results in the database. Any given book will be assigned subject headings by professional librarians. Most books only get a handful of subject headings (rarely more than, say, six), so a book needs to be substantially about a specific ship, if it’s going to have a subject heading for that ship. Lincoln Paine’s 2000 book, Warships of the World to 1900, has the following subject headings: Warships — History, and Warships. That’s it. There’s no mention in the subject heading of the specific vessels mentioned in that book. That’s what does: it tells you which specific ships are mentioned in this book. But when you want to find the book, the “Find in a library near you” tool helps you do just that.

If a book is about a specific ship, however, there will be a subject heading for the book, which will also appear in WorldCat. For example, Cathryn Prince’s recent book, Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, has as its primary subject heading Wilhelm Gustloff (Ship). Through, you know that an entire book about the Wilhelm Gustloff exists, and you can track it down through whatever channels work best for you.

Wilhelm Gustloff

Several years ago, folks at OCLC were kind enough to generate a list of subject headings that cited ships. We agreed that these citations would be added to the free collection, not the subscription database. The result is that helps you quickly and easily find books that are by or about the ships in question, which is super-great.

Wait a minute – what was that about books by ships?

That’s the other part of the collection of records from WorldCat, and the subject of part 2 of this blog post.


ShipIndex as a Vessel Name Authority File

[This entry was written long ago, but not posted, because I was having problems with uploading images. As you’ll see, images are a critical part of this post! Now that I’ve gotten that problem resolved, I will add a few more posts soon. PMc]

Last May, I finally completed one very large file for import. This file was incredibly tough to process, but I learned a lot about how one can use the database, and I thought I’d share that information here.

The database is Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters, and it is a collection of transcribed passenger lists for thousands of voyages to Australia, primarily in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Because most records were handwritten, and then transcribed by volunteers, many, many errors crept into the database.

The database has 58,311 records in it. (I believe more are always being added to the website itself, as transcribers complete their work.) One major difference between this and every other resource is that each voyage has a separate entry. In the Ellis Island Database, a user searches by ship name, then goes in deeper by voyage date. In this case, the collection is organized by arrival year, then arrival month, then ship name – so I had to create a separate entry for each voyage, to be able to link to each transcription.

I quickly realized that there were many, many, many errors in the transcription of vessel names. Just looking over the ship names as they appeared in the spreadsheet, it was easy to spot typos – especially with the additional information I had about masters and tonnage, which helped connect a misspelling to a correct spelling.

After correcting numerous such misspellings, I did a test import of the file and found 1707 new ship names would be added to the database. I started to investigate each of those, and found that many were not actually new ship names – they were simply additional mistranscriptions of the passenger lists. As the database grows, it’s important to try and minimize the introduction of incorrect ship names.

For example, I saw this entry, which the transcriber recorded as “Maealsar”. The master’s name had been transcribed as “C M de Boer”, and the vessel size as 305 tons.

I thought it looked a bit like “Macassar”, but there were no other “Macassar”s in that file. I did a search in for Macassar (, and found an entry from the American Lloyd’s Register of American and Foreign Shipping for the same year, and found a Macassar there, with a captain C. M. De Boor, and tonnage of 306. Obviously, these are the same ship.

I corrected the vessel name, but kept the mis-transcription, too, just in case I was wrong. So the entry now looks like this: “Macassar (corrected; listed as “Maealsar”) (of Amsterdam, C M de Boer, Master, 305 tons, from the port of Balaves to Sydney, New South Wales, 23 Mar 1861)”.

Another example was this name, which had been transcribed as “Magport”:


I thought it looked like it started with an “N”, but found no “Nagport” already in the database. However, a search for “nagp*” turned up “Nagpore”, among others, and a link to the entry of Record of American and Foreign Shipping for the same year returned these two ships:


One has the same master and tonnage as the one in the transcription. It then becomes clear that there’s an “e” hiding behind the bar on the page, rather than a “t”.


I felt like it became a combination of genealogy and authority record work. I tried to find sufficient documentation to prove that my analysis was more accurate than the original. And because I had both the entire set of metadata from the source, and the 2.3 million citations already in the database, I could more easily determine that various transcriptions were incorrect.

I recognized that is beginning to serve as an authority file for vessels. It is certainly my goal to improve the database along those lines, and I will use another blog post to discuss this further.


I found many instances of doing this sort of research, and while it took a very long time, it was actually quite fun to nail down a correction. Some were surprising – I guess I can see why one might read this as “Princess of Water”:


 But why in the world would you not recognize that “Princess of Wales” makes infinitely more sense for a ship name?


I’ll provide two last examples here. This first one shows how I used the existing metadata for the resource itself to determine the correct ship name.

The beautiful handwriting on this one made it easy to read, and it’s not surprising that it was transcribed as “Oasby”. But there was only one entry in the entire file for “Oasby”, and none in the existing database, so it made me wonder.

authblog-6A search through the metadata for the captain’s name, however, found 17 entries with Kennedy as captain (as had been noted in the transcription for this entry), for ship “Easby”, and the full resource has at least 70 other entries for “Easby”. Tonnage data is the same, and after learning of the existence of “Easby”, it’s easy to see that that’s what the ship name was; and the top of the dramatic ‘E’ was lost in the digitizing process.

This made the next new ship name, “Oaton Hall”, easy to resolve to “Eaton Hall”.

Finally, I dealt with this challenging entry by using the existing database:

authblog-7I tried searching for “waurego”,  but that returned no ships. By searching for “*rego”, I found all the citations that had a word in the ship name that ends in “rego”. I could easily locate “Warrego”, and confirm that’s the right ship.

There’s other searching that could be done here, too. If I change the search to “*rego$” it returns only the ship names that actually end in “rego”, deleting several, like “Trego Renneger” or “Effrego Ventus”, from the result list.

I’ll put together another post in the next few weeks with more examples of changes and corrections I was able to make, along with a discussion of the importance of authority data for ship names.