VESSEL STATEMENT, ‘Version 3’
‘Version 3’ comprising 121,503 vessels replaces ‘Version 1’ of 54,006 and ‘Version 2’ 85,211 vessels. This database is predominately compiled from the “List of Merchant Vessels of the United States” (MVUS) and other annuals such as: American Lloyds and the Record (American Bureau of Shipping). They are the backbone of the information contained with the MVUS being the default value if there is a question. I have also included several other lists that I have computerized over the last 25 years. These include: WPA Custom House records for Bath, Maine; Frenchman’s Bay, Maine; Marshfield, Oregon; New Bedford, Massachusetts, and New Orleans, Louisiana; The Record of Canadian Shipping; The Marine List of 1884; Robert Applebee’s notes; and notes compiled on New England shipwrecks by my uncle, noted shipwreck diver, Bradford Luther, Jr.
This all started more than 25 years ago when I compiled a list from the MVUS, which combined all the information on merchant sailing vessels from 1867 to 1885. This created one entry for each vessel and made researching a particular vessel much easier. The first thing that becomes evident were the number of mistakes and because of this I tell people never use one volume, use several to make sure the data you are looking for is accurate. Unfortunately, inputting all that information into this database is going to take a lot of hours, so it will appear in a future ‘Version’ updates.
To create ‘Version 1’ I crashed several the annuals I had computerized into Excel and then sorted. There are almost 100 fields for each vessel, but you will only see a field that has something in it. Then came the task of finding the duplicates and making sure all the information was in one record and delete the duplicate entries so that there is just one entry per vessel. Unfortunately, in the early years of the MVUS (Pre-list to early 1870s) a number of vessels were listed with two different official numbers, apparently having been documented in two different ports. I have not removed these duplicates because this is an official number and you might see a vessel listed either way. When I add the 1867–1885 list you will be able to see that one was dropped after a year or two and that the other continued.
One would think the duplicates and mistakes should be resolved by using different lists and research from several publications. However, there are times that other sources only complicate matters. Some of the noted problems: misspelling and abbreviations of names; official numbers entered incorrectly; when net tonnage was added in 1883, gross and net tonnage was incorrectly listed, which was mostly corrected the following year; dimensions entered incorrectly, especially when this field was introduced in 1885; at times the year and where built changes and this could be related to a rebuild of that vessel; also, sometimes the official number changed when a vessel was rebuilt; and there was a major change when the MVUS purged a number of vessels that were no longer registered in 1876.
One must remember that the MVUS measurement for length of a vessel is the length between the perpendiculars. I have seen authors when inputting measurements confuse tenths of a foot with actual inches. Custom House records prior to 1867 use inches, but when the MVUS was issued in 1867 they used tenths of a foot. Also, be careful of tonnage as in the early 1860s as a new tonnage measurement was adopted in the United States at that time. Most times these are defined by a notation “Old Measurement.”
Custom House records are valuable for several reasons, especially related to owners and their shares and masters. When researching masters of a vessel you will find most sources just use the last name. Never, never assume that this is the same person. While inputting records from the District of Passamaquoddy in Maine I found five members of the same family sailing the same vessel. I have also found this occurring a number of other times in other localities. Fortunately, Custom House records usually gives the full name and sometimes where they reside.
‘Version 4’ is currently being worked on and I will have this up the end of March. I am adding the information from my “List of Merchant Sailing Vessels 1867-1885, but it is a slow process. I am also adding an early list of American yachts, more entries from MVUS 1960, more Maine lobster boats, more details from The Record and updates as to builders from several lists I have come across. This will not increase the number of vessels significantly but will add more detail to the ones already included.
Understand there could be mistakes in any source and double checking is a must. I have tried to devise methods that make sure the data I enter is double and triple checked, but I am sure I have made mistakes too. If you discover any issues please feel free to contact me.