Maritime Month

Maritime Month (May 2006)

A Nationwide Celebration of Maritime Records and History

The National Archives (NARA) is pleased to announce May 2006 as Maritime Month. Using Federal records, we present programs that highlight the rich maritime history of the United States. Join us for special events, presentations, exhibits, and films at various NARA facilities across the nation.

Atlanta, GA New York, NY
Boston, MA Philadelphia, PA
College Park, MD Pittsfield, MA
Washington, DC San Francisco, CA
Kansas City, MO Seattle, WA
St. Louis, MO  

Atlanta, GA

National Archives—Southeast Region (Morrow), Morrow Room

Victory at Sea
Saturday, May 13, at 10 a.m. EST
Part of a 26-episode World War II documentary, Victory at Sea is one of the most important series in the history of television. Made in 1952, the show was a huge success, winning many major awards and even spawning albums featuring the one of the best orchestral scores by Richard Rodgers.  The episode focuses primarily on the U.S. Navy's participation in the then-still recent Second World War, from the fight against German U-boats in the North Atlantic to the fierce struggle for domination of the Pacific between American and Japanese fleets.

Why We Fight
Saturday, May 13, at 2 p.m. EST
This prestigious film series was made by Frank Capra, at that time a major in the US Army Signal Corps, in answer to an order from the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, commissioning a series of films to explain the Government's policy to America's hastily assembled armed troops.


Boston, MA


National Archives—Northeast Region (Boston), Conference Room

Customs House Records
Tuesday, May 9, at 1:30 p.m. EST
This class will provide an overview of the many typical records that were created at the Custom Houses and how they bring to life different aspects of maritime history and trade. Participants will learn how these records can provide a snapshot of daily life at the Custom Houses since 1789. Some of the especially useful kinds of documents will be identified and examined in depth with a variety of examples. Special attention will be given to the port of Salem which figured prominently in the China trade. Using a case study of the Salem ship "Mount Vernon," participants will learn how Custom House records can be used to provide a wealth of information about a single ship, including when it was built, who owned it, its masters and crews, and the voyages it made.  Participants will learn what maritime related historical records are at the National Archives in Waltham and how to use them.

Customs House Records
Thursday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m. EST
New England's fascinating maritime history is well documented by the official records of the many Custom Houses that served the region's busy ports. Custom House records contain documents that vividly illustrate the nature of foreign and domestic trade from the time of sail through the age of steam, including the ships and their crews. These records also document the officials and their work at the Custom Houses when they played a particularly prominent role in the early life of the United States.  Participants will learn about specific types of records and what information can be found in each. Participants will learn how the China trade of the 19th century can be explored using records at the National Archives in Waltham.

Records Relating to Sailors and Seamen
Tuesday, May 23, at 1:30 p.m. EST
The National Archives in Waltham holds crew lists from over two dozen New England ports and vessel licenses, registrations, and enrollments from twice that many. If your ancestors were involved in whaling, fishing, coastwise trading, or some other maritime occupation, you may be able to find them in these records. If they were ship owners, they were listed on the license along with the master. Even if they were bankers who loaned money to build these vessels, you might find them in the records of mortgages of enrolled vessels.  Custom House records contain documents that vividly illustrate the nature of foreign and domestic trade from the time of sail through the age of steam, including the ships and their crews.  Participants will learn what historical records related to sailors and seamen are at the National Archives in Waltham and how to use them.  Participants will learn about specific types of records and what information can be found in each.


Kansas City, MO | College Park, MD | Washington, DC

Some events will be held in all three cities, but at different dates and times.

KC:  National Archives—Central Plains Region (Kansas City), Conference Room
DC:  National Archives Building in Washington, DC, Room G-24
CP:  National Archives at College Park, Lecture Room B

Civil War Records
KC:  Tuesday, May 2, at 9 A. M. CST
DC:  Tuesday, May 2, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Thursday, May 4, at 11 A. M. EST
Archives technician Timothy Duskin will discuss in-depth Civil War research, covering known and less frequently used sources, including naval records, Union Provost Marshall records, pensions, and Confederate amnesty records.  

Video Series - The River
DC: Wednesday, May 3, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Friday, May 5, at 11 A. M. EST
A classic about the Mississippi River (35 minutes). 

Maritime Records in the Diplomatic Archives
KC: Tuesday, May 9, at 9 A. M. CST
DC: Tuesday, May 9, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Thursday, May 11, at 11 A. M. EST
Archivist Matthew Olsen will discuss maritime issues covered by 19th century diplomatic records. Specific topics will include awards for rescues at sea, documentation of American seamen abroad vessels, and registers of ship arrivals. 

Video Series - The Battle of Midway. (19 minutes)
DC: Wednesday, May 10, at 11 A. M. EST

Merchant Vessel Searches
CP: Friday, May 12, at 11 A. M. EST
Archives Specialist Kim McKeithan will discuss searches for records on merchant vessels, including vessel documentation, enrollments, and/or registers. Searches are often conducted in order to document a ship’s history, as well as its ownership, home ports, and final disposition. 

United States Naval Photographic Records within the Still Picture Unit at College Park 
KC:  Tuesday, May 16, at 9 A. M. CST
DC:  Tuesday, May 16, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Thursday, May 18, at 11 A. M. EST
Archivist Billy Wade will cover the history of the United States Navy's photographic operation and recorded in NARA’s photographic holdings of major United States Navy record groups (RG 19, 80, and 428).  He will explain how to conduct research within the various record groups and series and will show examples of what information can be found.  Subjects will include ships, aircraft, facilities, events, and personnel. 

Records of the United States Coast Guard (RG 26)--Modern Coast Guard Logs and Muster Rolls
DC:  Wednesday, May 17, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Friday, May 19, at 11 A. M. EST
Archives technician Chris Killillay will discuss how to research the logs and muster rolls of the United States Coast Guard.  He will also cover what actions to take if certain records are not in the possession of the National Archives.

American Seamen Impressment Cases, 1789-1815
KC:  Tuesday, May 23, at 9 A. M. CST
DC:  Tuesday, May 23, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Thursday, May 25, at 11 A. M. EST
Archives Specialist John Deeben will discuss records of the State Department and Customs Service that document the efforts of the Federal government to track impressment cases and repatriate American seamen who were illegally seized by the British Navy.  New information will include the use of vessel crew lists to verify the citizenship of American seamen. 

Transiting the Panama Canal
DC:  Wednesday, May 24, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Friday, May 26, at 11 A. M. EST
Archivist Patrice Brown will discuss the records that researchers can locate in RG 185 concerning the travelers and their mode of transportation through the canal. 

Pre-World War II United States Navy Logs and Muster Rolls
DC:  Tuesday, May 30, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Thursday, June 1, at 11 A. M. EST
The National Archives Building in Washington, DC holds the muster rolls and log books of the United States Navy vessels prior to the start of World War II.  These records can be used for both historical and genealogical research.  Stephanie Richmond will speak on what information you can expect to find in the records on your ancestors and on shipboard life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

Video Series - On Foreign Shores
DC:  Wednesday, May 31, at 11 A. M. EST
CP:  Friday, June 2, at 11 A. M. EST
A film about the Coast Guard in World War II.  (30 minutes). 


New York, NY

National Archives—Northeast Region (New York), Conference Room

In addition to the events listed below, there will also be a month-long exhibit at this facility on the Titanic and Lusitania Limitation of Liability Case Files.

Using Custom House Records
Tuesday, May 9, at 12:30 p.m. EST
New York’s fascinating maritime history is well documented by the official records of the many Custom Houses that served the region's busy ports. Custom House records contain documents that vividly illustrate the nature of foreign and domestic trade from the time of sail through the age of steam, including the ships and their crews. These records also document the officials and their work at the Custom Houses when they played a particularly prominent role in the early life of the United States.  Participants will learn about specific types of records and what information can be found in each using records at the National Archives in New York City. Learn what types of records were created by the Custom House and how they maybe used to identify specific genealogical needs.

Teaching with Documents: Using Maritime Related Records
Tuesday, May 23, at 4:30 p.m. EST
Learn about the variety of maritime related records available at the National Archives and how to use them in teaching students about local and regional history.  Specific examples will include records from the U. S. Custom House that vividly illustrate the nature of foreign and domestic trade from the time of sail through the age of steam, including the ships and their crews. These records also document the officials and their work at the Custom Houses when they played a particularly prominent role in the early life of the United States. 


Philadelphia, PA

National Archives—Mid Atlantic Region (Philadelphia), Conference Room

Researching Maritime History at NARA Mid Atlantic
Wednesday, May 3, at Noon EST
Explore the critical role of waterways in the making of our region at this informal lunchtime presentation.  Discussion will focus on the rich trove of sources at NARA Mid Atlantic for researching the vessels, merchants, and crew of two major U.S. ports—Philadelphia and Baltimore—and their colorful foreign and coastwise trade. 

Sinking the Lusitania
Friday, May 5, at Noon EST
Join the Mid Atlantic region for this PBS produced documentary that explores the ill fated final voyage of the luxury liner Lusitania.  Through powerful vintage film footage and expert testimony, this one-hour program transports viewers to a time of dramatic global maritime politics and intrigue.  Bring your lunch and join the archives’ staff for an informal discussion following the film.

The Constitution at Sea Level
Wednesday, May 10, at Noon EST
This program will discuss the role Philadelphia played in the shaping of maritime law following the adoption of the constitution.  Topics such as customs duties, seamen’s protection, naval development, and Admiralty law will be explored using records from the National Archives and other regional sources.

On the Waterfront
Friday, May 19, at Noon EST
NARA’s Mid Atlantic Region will present Elia Kazan’s masterpiece On the Waterfront, a film about crime and corruption on New York’s docks.  Following the film, engage in a discussion of working the docks in 1950s Philadelphia.

Old Hands Out of Work: Using INS Special Board of Inquiry Records to Tell One Worker’s Story
Monday, May 22, at Noon EST
This presentation will use NARA INS records to uncover the story of Thomas Willis. Willis was a late nineteenth century disgruntled lace weaver employed by the Philadelphia textile factory known as John Bromley’s and Sons. Set in the larger context of new legislation, the Alien Labor Contract Law of 1885 (also known as the Foran Act), this presentation will show how this new immigration law collided with the interests of Philadelphia lace weavers.

Around the World with the U. S. S. Olympia
Friday, May 26, at Noon EST
Beginning with its launching at San Francisco in 1892 and ending in its transformation into a floating museum, this exhibit will feature photos and documents showing the life cycle of this Spanish-American War vessel. 

Passenger Lists and Genealogy
Wednesday, May 31, at Noon EST
Between 1820 and 1990, over 55 million people immigrated to the United States. This program focuses on ship's passenger lists, Naturalization records, and other little used sources for immigration stories.  This class discusses the types of information found in the records, how and where to search for records, and some tips for searching.


Pittsfield, MA

National Archives-Northeast Region (Pittsfield), Training Room

Lighthouses and Early Maritime Records
Thursday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. EST
A video of a previous lecture given on November 6, 2003 with Susan Abbott and Kim McKeithan as speakers.

Introduction to Early Navy Records
Thursday, May 11, at 6:30 p.m. EST
A video of a previous lecture given on November 5, 2003 with Stephanie Richmond as the speaker.

19th Century Lights and Women who Kept the Lights
Thursday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m. EST
A video of a previous lecture given on November 7, 2003 with Candace Clifford as the speaker.


San Francisco, CA

National Archives—(Pacific Region) San Francisco

Events are being offered in conjunction with the Maritime Museum of Monterey, CA.

100 Year Respectful Remembrance of the Point Alones Village
Saturday, May 20, from 1 to 4 p.m. PDT
The Pacific Region (San Bruno) will host an information booth and exhibit showcasing Monterey Customs and historical immigration records, which are part of the holdings of San Bruno.  This exhibit is to commemorate the “100 Year Respectful Remembrance of the Point Alones Village.”


Seattle, WA

National Archives—Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle), Upstairs Meeting Room

In addition to the events listed below, there will also be a month-long exhibit at this facility on regional maritime records.

Using Maritime and Customs Records at NARA Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle)
Saturday, May 13, at 10 a.m. PDT
Learn what historic records are available related to ships, lighthouses, and the people who manned them in the Pacific Northwest.  This workshop will be a look into U.S. Customs, U.S. Coast Guard and other maritime related federal agency records held at NARA, Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle) from the 1840's to the 1970's.  ($10 donation requested).

Introduction to Immigration and Naturalization Records
Saturday, May 13, at 1:30 p.m. PDT
Learn the sources and methods for finding immigration/emigration and United States citizenship records.  This workshop will cover online as well as the good old "paper trail" methods.  Find out how to connect an immigrant with his homeland.  ($10 donation requested).


St. Louis, MO

National Personnel Records Center (St. Louis, MO)

Events are being offered in conjunction with the Jefferson Barracks Historic Park in St. Louis, MO.

There will be an ongoing exhibit at this facility entitled The Sea Services: Documents from the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines.

Maritime Month >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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