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Lake Fever
Dock your browser at these six sites and follow the wake of your Great Lakes-faring ancestors. |

Imagine a bustling 19th-century port city, its waterfront teeming with immigrants, sailors, merchants and dock workers. It's a scene that could easily describe Boston, Baltimore — or Buffalo. After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, the Great Lakes became an avenue for immigrants on their way to a new life in the New World. These inland-seas immigrants were mostly Northern Europeans who, along with travelers from the East Coast, took the canal to Buffalo, where they'd catch a steamer and head west. Until the railroads began to take over in the 1860s, freight and passenger boats plied to and from almost every port on the Great Lakes.

Whether they went for business or pleasure, tracing your ancestors who sailed the Great Lakes can prove a challenge. Passenger lists are few and far between, while records of crew members, lighthouse keepers, lifesaving stations (forerunners of today's Coast Guard) and others are scattered on both sides of the border. Fortunately, a growing number of Web sites can provide you with clues. Here are a few that can help keep your research afloat:

Downward Bound: Honoring Those Who Worked the Great Lakes

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