Looking for Historical Information on a Sailing Vessel?

Have you ever tried to find historical information online about specific ships or sailing vessels? I have and it’s not the easiest task. The topic seems to be just a bit too obscure for much to be available. I suppose a scholarly pursuit in a university library might work, but without knowing a book title to search, that would be quite an impossible task.

There are a few resources that I have found online. My father’s grandparents, along with many assorted family members,  immigrated from today’s Slovakia and passed through Castle Garden and Ellis Island. Castle Garden has a searchable name index, but I didn’t have any luck finding people who I know entered the U.S. through New York before Ellis Island opened. However, if you do find a relative in that database, his/her date of arrival along with the name of the ship is given. That at least is a starting point for finding out more about the vessel.

Next, I checked Wikipedia. One family member, Michael Tidik, arrived on the SS. Dresden in 1896, so that is what I entered in the search. The result was a history of North German Lloyd, the shipping company. Scrolling down to the bottom, I found this:

SSDresdenWikipedia
SS Dresden, 1888

I discovered that the ship was built in 1888 in Glasgow, renamed a couple of times, sold to the Turkish government and sank in the Black Sea in 1914.

It looks like at least some of the same passenger data is repeated on the Ellis Island website. I found some additional historical information:

MihalyTidikDresden
SS Dresden data on Ellis Island site

Ellis Island often has an image of the ship (which can be purchased from them), but there was no photo available for the SS Dresden.

A word of caution about the Ellis Island site. This is my opinion, but their “new, improved” site is terrible. The images jump around in the box when you move the cursor over them and I’ve found many of the names that come up are incorrectly indexed and no where to be found on the page to which the name is linked. Sometimes I can find the person’s name by moving back or ahead a few pages, but at times, that person cannot be found. It’s quite frustrating.

Next, I tried Google and Bing images. I found photos of later ships with the same name, but found no pictures labeled as the Dresden in the 1888-1903 time frame.

Finally, I looked into ShipIndex.org.

ShipIndexCrop
ShipIndex.org

I learned about this website at RootsTech 2016 when I picked up an info card about it. The card explains that ShipIndex.org “makes vessel research quick, easy and efficient” and “quickly locates images and passenger lists.”

The database includes links to books, magazines, other databases and websites that mention particular sailing vessels. The is a subscription site, but a monthly rate of $8.00 is available. Also, it is free to search for vessels, so I tried “SS Dresden.”

A humungous list appeared, which included all references to “Dresden,” not just the ship. There were several entries of interest:

DresdenCrop1 DresdenCrop2
SS Dresden Entries

There are also about 30 links to images, all of which require a subscription.

I decided to try one more search. My 3x great grandfather, George Rogers Tarbox, financed the building of at least a couple of schooners, one of which was named for my 2x great grandmother, Nellie F. Tarbox, who married Calvin Adams in 1875.  I found two digitized books on Google.

The American Bureau of Shipping report in 1872 had this entry:

NellieTCrop1
Nellie Tarbox, Schooner, 1872

I also found in the List of Merchant Vessels in the U.S. 1869:

NellieTCrop2
Last entry – Nellie Tarbox, 1869

I was curious about what would come up on ShipIndex.org.

NellieTCrop3 NellieTCrop4
ShipIndex.org Results

Wow! I am impressed. I was even more amazed that at the very bottom of the list, it mentions the American Neptune magazine with a link to find a library near me. The University of Arizona library right here in Tucson has this magazine.

I don’t recommend or even review many subscription sites, but for $8 per month, a one month subscription might be money well spent if you are looking for historical data on one or more sailing vessels associated with your family.

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