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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Insight into Their Ships
by Rhonda R. McClure

June 29, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Many of us go back only two or three generations and we are already finding that we have immigrant ancestors. For some this is the beginning of an adventure that will encompass much more than just finding the passenger list and moving on. They want to know what tempted their ancestor to come to a new country. They want to know what it was like for them traveling on the ship.

Even for those who can trace back to early immigrants, many are interested in finding out what enticed their ancestors and what their travels were like. Of course in order to do this, you need to know a little about when they came over as this will affect the type of ship and what their life was probably like.

Learning about the ship that brought our ancestor makes their life all the more real to us.

Where to Look

Perhaps the most well known volume on this is Michael J. Anuta's "Ships of Our Ancestors" which was published in 1983. This book is available at the Family History Library and is also available on microfiche (#6104022, 5 fiche), which means you can borrow it to your local Family History Center. And the best thing about microfiche is that it is automatically sent on indefinite loan. This means you get to keep it at your local FHC for as long as you wish.

Anuta's book has pictures of many of the ships from the last 150 years that brought our ancestors to the United States. What a thrill it is to see a picture of the actual ship that brought great grandpa over form the old country. What was just an abstract concept takes on a new reality.

What's Online?

However, many of us are also relying more heavily on the Internet for information on our ancestors. And so it is natural that we would like to find some of this same information online.

First, as far as passenger lists go, there are a number of sites. One of the best is the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild where they are actively transcribing the passenger lists. They have also begun to make available scanned images of immigrants accompanied by a short paragraph history. What a great way for our ancestors to come alive.

Learn All the Details

There is also an informative listing of many of the ships that brought our ancestors. The Immigrant Ship Information site has compiled details supplied in either mailing lists or directly to the individual who is maintaining the web site. The information found for each ship may include: when the ship was built, to which line it belonged, how large it was, maiden voyage and other information.

There is a list of scanned images that can be downloaded and viewed for a number of the more famous ocean liners. You can access this list at Ocean Liners of the Past. Another site for some of the most famous of the liners is the Cunard Line's web site.

In Conclusion

Researching our ancestry can only be enhanced by finding out all there is to know. Take a little time to learn about the type of ship that brought your ancestors. And if it was a recent immigrant get ahold of Anuta's book and see if you don't get a thrill when you look at the picture for the first time.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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