Picturing Your Ancestors’ Ships

Picturing Your Ancestors’ Ships

You've got questions about discovering, preserving and celebrating your family history; our experts have the answers.

Q. One of my ancestors came to New York on the ship Gil Blas. How do I get a picture of that ship?

A. You can now find ship images online in EllisIsland.org’s Search by Ship section. You actually browse alphabetically to information and possibly a photo of the ship. Not all ships are here, and not all have images. Subscription site Ancestry.com also has a ship image database.

Several other online databases include ship images, including TheShipsList and Old Ship Picture Galleries. Heritage Ships is a company that lets you search and order images of historic passenger and other ships. You also could try a good old-fashioned Google Image search—just type the ship name and a word like ship or genealogy into the search box. Results will show you images from web pages containing your search terms.
My favorite place for obtaining images of ships is the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Va. It has photographic reproductions of images in its collection of more than 650,000 photographs. Subjects include naval vessels, ocean liners, Liberty and Victory ships, Coast Guard vessels, steamboats, lighthouses and lightships, harbors and seaports, shipyards, sailing craft, small craft, and a variety of other maritime topics. You can search the collection online. There is a reproduction fee to order images, and a fee if you plan to publish the image. Another source is the book Ships of Our Ancestors by Michael J. Anuta (Genealogical Publishing Co.) See more books with ship images listed here.

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