MPL Digital Library
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Information on more than 10,000 Great Lakes vessels dating from 1815 to the present. A database of the Great Lakes Marine Collection of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society and the Milwaukee Public Library.
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The creation of the database, called Project Shipshape, was made possible by matching grants from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. Project Shipshape was administered by the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society which contributed thousands of hours of volunteer and staff time and considerable financial support. Milwaukee Public Library also contributed staff time. The database has information on more than 10,000 Great Lakes vessels. It includes vessels from 1815 to the present. Each record contains information on the type of vessel, when and where it was built, and size of the vessel. Most records include the name(s) of the person or organization who built the vessel and for whom it was built. Many records include additional information on the physical characteristics of the ship such as the engine(s), boiler, hull, hatches, and compartments. Most records include the official number of the vessel.
Each file contains information on the history of the vessel. In some cases the information is rather brief. However, usually there is considerably more information including the names of the owners and captains of the vessel and a list, with dates, of all changes in the name of the vessel. Often there is additional information on wrecks and other events involving the ship. Information regarding the history of the vessel is obtained from many sources and each source is cited in the record. Among the sources used are vessel enrollments, newspaper articles from the time, wreck reports, and magazine and journal articles on current and historical aspects of the Great Lakes and Great Lakes vessels.
The database is a valuable source for genealogical research. The names of captains and owners of vessels are included in the history field. Some other personal names are included as well. In general names of crew are not included. Records were not kept of the crew of Great Lakes vessels. Occasionally there will be crew names listed in wreck reports, newspaper articles or other sources included in the database. So try searching the name in the history field even if the person was not a captain or owner, but be aware it is not likely to be included. No records were kept of passengers on Great Lakes vessels, so it is not possible to find names of people who journeyed on Great Lakes vessels.
The database is part of the Great Lakes Marine Collection Vessel Files. The Files themselves contain information in addition to that included in the database. Most of the Files include photographs and many contain articles from magazines and newspapers. The database indicates the number and size of photographs available for each vessel. The Files are available for use in the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Reading Room at the Milwaukee Public Library. Photocopies of the contents of the files are available for purchase.