Episode 108: Researching the Ships of Our Ancestors

Ships passenger lists contain the name of the vessel that transported our ancestors from their homelands to the United States or travelers crossing the ocean. But do you know how to research those vessels to find information and images?  This week’s guest can help. She’s with the Steamship Historical Society of America. Their mission is to record, preserve, and share the history of engine-powered vessels.

In 1935 a group of historians and collectors passionate about steamships formed the Steamship Historical Society of America as a means of bringing together amateur and professional historians interested in the history and development of steam navigation, past, and present. Their knowledge, as well as photographs, research, and writings, formed the nucleus of the society’s collections. 

Today their collection contains hundreds of thousands of images, artifacts, ephemera, memorabilia, and artwork, as well as a 20 thousand plus volume maritime reference library.  My guest loves receiving research requests about their collections. Perhaps one of your ancestors traveled or worked on an engine-powered vessel.  In this episode, their curator, Astrid Drew, explains how to search their online portal and talks about the types of items in the collections. They recently launched an online free educational site called Steaming into the Future. You can find the links in the show notes. 

Related Episodes:

Episode 99: Finding Photos on the Smithsonian Learning Lab with Curator Shannon Perich


About My Guest:

Astrid M. Drew is the archivist at the Steamship Historical Society of America, where she manages and organizes collections, and assists researchers and the public in learning more about the heritage of engine-powered vessels.  She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Rhode Island, and earned her Masters of Library and Information Science, focusing in archives and preservation, from Simmons College in 2014.  She’s interested in digital archives, rare books, and finding creative ways to tell the stories of our past and how they link to today’s stories in the making. 

About Maureen Taylor:

Maureen is a frequent keynote speaker on photo identification, photograph preservation, and family history at historical and genealogical societies, museums, conferences, libraries, and other organizations across the U.S., London and Canada.  She’s the author of several books and hundreds of articles and her television appearances include The View and The Today Show (where she researched and presented a complete family tree for host Meredith Vieira).  She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, The Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Living, Germany’s top newspaper Der Spiegel, American Spirit, and The New York Times. Maureen was recently a spokesperson and photograph expert for MyHeritage.com, an internationally known family history website and also writes guidebooks, scholarly articles and online columns for such media as Smithsonian.com. Learn more at Maureentaylor.com

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