There are several important resources available for researchers and for those who want to learn more about maritime history.
Sailor’s Snug Harbor, New York
Situated in New York, Sailor’s Snug Harbor, a home for ‘worn out sailors,’ provided a safe port for men who dedicated their lives to the sea. Snug Harbor accepted everyone regardless of color, religion, or nationality, as long as they had worked on a vessel. State of New York Maritime College Professor Dr. John Rocco has been very passionate about the story of Snug Harbor sharing its history through his classes and writings. Stephen B. Luce Library Archivist Annie Tummino has worked tirelessly with the aid of interns to document this incredible story and scan as many documents as possible. The database is constantly evolving and more information is added regularly.
This archive is from SUNY Maritime College, Stephen B. Luce Library, and provides images, inmate records, and some administrative records from 1832 until 1974. Click here to search the SSH Digital Archive
Soldiers and Sailors Database
Another website filled with metadata is the Soldiers and Sailors Database through the National Park Service Look For Sailors From The Civil War Here
It has helped us learn about hundreds of slaves from New Hanover and Brunswick Counties [NC] who escaped using the Cape Fear River as a maritime underground railroad to find freedom through the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Many entries will say enlisted “off Wilmington” or will have the name of the vessel where they joined. It is not only a fine resource for Civil War students but also people looking for genealogical resources and unit histories.
Cornell University Making of American Collection: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies
Now, completely accessible online, students of the American Civil War can research and print primary source documents. Cornell University has scanned and completed a searchable database, not only of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, but also the army. The volumes include correspondence between officers, information of vessels stationed on the blockading squadrons, as well as valuable information on local engagements and interaction with individuals.
Naval History and Heritage Command
This website is imperative to maritime research historians. From images to biographies, and bibliographies, students can learn about duty stations, memoirs, and books written by sailors throughout multiple time periods. This digital archive is a treasure trove for those looking for officers and other navy personnel.
Southern Historical Society Papers
Focusing on writings from 1876 to 1943 the mission of the Southern Historical Society Papers is to share writings pertaining to southern history. The books were edited by R.A. Brock and are in public domain. Several institutions house a digital copy. To access Hathitrust.org, a student must be with a partner institution. Otherwise, students and scholars may access them through Google Books, which is easier to search metadata. One can go to Google Books and search for The Southern Historical Society Paper or https://books.google.com/books/about/Papers.html?id=egoTAAAAYAAJ
Library of Congress Digital Collections
LOC digital collections have African-American cultural selections, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938, as well as the Lincoln Papers. Students would be remised not see what the Library of Congress has to offer. They have over 200 Civil War maps and over 1,000 daguerreotypes.
H-Net Commons: Humanities and Social Sciences Online
H-Net is currently going through a revamp and reload of their website, but for people who study humanities, this is a resourceful site. Not only does it have reviews, resources, and discussions, but liberal arts academics have a place to look for employment and network.
If students had JSTOR twenty years ago, there would be much rejoicing. This database is a wonderful resource for journal articles, books, and other primary sources. The difficulty with this site is you should be associated with a college/university/state entity to access it. However, if you need a few journal articles to back up a salient point, JSTOR is the perfect venue. This site is so successfully popular that they have their own memes and t-shirts!
By far, one of the best digital collections in the state of North Carolina is UNC-Chapel Hill’s digital library collection. Filled with images, letters, diaries, maps, and journals that document the American South this archive is a must have for anyone writing on Southern Studies. The headings are easy to search through, the metadata is simple to find, and the archivists are very helpful if you are technologically challenged.
Although Duke’s digital collection is laid out completely different from Chapel Hill’s archive, the simple search bar and crisp, clean images make researching easy and clear to read. All one must do is type in a person’s last name and the thumbnails are so nice that you can almost read the letter from the metadata! Governors, commissioners, and Civil War journals are all at Duke library. Their themed collections have thousands of pages of information to help anyone.
Newspapers.com is a partnership program with UNC-Chapel Hill. Most of the newspapers from UNCCH are free, however, the paid subscription service or upgrade opens thousands of newspapers from around the country. Like many subscription services, an advanced search with dates, keyword, and name will fill up the researcher’s screen. The enlarge icon makes reading easy, but unfortunately, unless you save the document as a jpeg, the restrictions of a PDF are not recommended for rereading or inserting in a document.
Another paid subscription service is Fold3.com that scans and catalogs documents from the National Archives. Covering all major wars, including detailed information on the Civil War, this digital archive is integral for most southern studies students. However, it is not as intuitive as other digital archives. A name search will not always share the information that you are searching for. However, if you follow the passageways from “Browsing Civil War Collections” to “Naval Enlistment Weekly Returns,” to a particular date “Nov 28, 1863 – Dec 31, 1863,” a student can look up records for a certain seaman, if one knows who to look for based on this information. Cold research can sometimes be difficult on Fold 3. They have every military record imaginable, census records, and the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies as well as the ORN. It is a useful site if you are technologically sound.
Ships from the Age of Sail
Ageofsail.net has a great ship database with interesting, if not snarky and humorous histories on certain vessels during the Age of Sail. Created for modelers, it is not necessarily a “scholarly” website, but check it out!