Thursday, September 20, 2012


The Maine Maritime Museum has something for everybody. For my wife, who works in three dimensions, the explanation of how boats of old were made from 1:48 actual models -- no blueprints -- was very revealing. I was drawn to the documents -- handwritten ship logs, especially the one for the McLellan, which survived a horrific encounter with a hurricane in September 1849 while attempting to carry molasses and other cargo from Cuba to Boston. The original log is on display in the museum along with a painting of the boat in extremis -- a very effective piece of museum work. I was torn between deciphering the writing (and the unfamiliar boilerplate) and following the tale itself.

I haven't had any occasion yet to use ships' logs in actual research, but they are surely among the most amazing sources we can have. How would you like to have a blow-by-blow account of your ancestor's work day? That's what it amounts to.

Harold Henderson, "Genealogy-by-the-Sea," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 20 September 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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