The Maritime Heritage Project
A Valuable History Project
The Maritime Heritage Project has been of value to researchers, educators, students, libraries and maritime associations around the world since 1997. Every country in the world accesses the site seeking information about their ancestors. All information on the site is free, including extensive lists of passengers, ships, captains and merchandise arriving in San Francisco during the 1800s.
The site receives hundreds of notes each year expressing appreciation for the volume of work and vast information.
The Maritime Heritage Project is a one-person operation aided by comments and corrections from people around the world. It was initially established as a non-profit, but the paperwork to maintain non-profit status has not aided the process in any way, so the 501(c)3 may be abandoned (as of May 2012).
The project started as a high school paper in 1997 when my daughter was asked to write about a notable person. She choose Captain James H. Blethen, her great-great-great grandfather, who was a sea captain based in San Francisco during the mid-1800s. Captain Blethen opened the Pacific Mail Line routes between Hawaii and Australia/New Zealand in the 1870s. When he finally retired from life at sea, he was Chief Wharfinger in San Francisco. Information about Captain Blethen uncovered during that school project led to ongoing research and a growing respect for captains and their ships for their enduring commitment in protecting shorelines and in moving merchandise, livestock, and people around the world under unpredictable and often dangerous conditions.
The site also illustrates that America belongs to everyone; the health and wealth of this nation was formed by individuals from every nation who migrated to its shores seeking refuge and opportunity. The Maritime Heritage Project is not a commercial website. It is basically the creation of one person with minimal income through affiliate marketing and through modest donations. If you find value in this project, please contribute to its growth.
Who Views The Maritime Heritage Project?
422 sites linking in including Wikipedia (from multiple pages); Yahoo Answers; Ancestry.com; California State Library; Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley; The Boston Herald; Viator.com (travel site); Refertus (history site); SFHistoryEncyclopedia.com, SF Geneaology, American Merchant Marine, Central Pacific Railroad, various Maritime Museums, University of Victoria (B.C.) Humanities Media Centre; various school districts, Ask.com, World News Network (wn.com), PBS (Public Broadcasting System), Yahoo!Directory, libraries and virtual libraries, Asia Finest, LearnOutLoud (audio books), expertgenealogy.com, Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites, Museums on line, ItaliaMaritime, SailBlogs, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Antique Maps, Arabic Military, California Wreck Divers, OldSaltBlog.com, Sailor's Choice (history), Explore North (whalers), Boating SF.
Search engines include: google.us, .uk, .au, .in, .ca, .fr, .nz, .au, .my, .tr, .ie
7,702 people have translated the site
As of April 2011, individuals speaking 35 languages visited the site, 75% of visitors were from the United States; the remaining were from the U.S. Government (including U.S. Military), educational institutions and other non-profit corporations, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Thailand, India, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey, the Faroe Islands, the Russian Federation, etc.
Visitors view as many as five pages and a significant number stay between 5 and 30 minutes.
- Egypt: 267,855 requests
- Ships: 91,821
- Steamships: 82,213
- Clippers: 79,214
- Captain 56,179
- Ship Wrecks 38,327
- Hudson Bay: 37,722
- Ireland: 32,069
- China: 31,008
- Australia: 20,371
- The Blog: 19,525 (this is a new product)
- New York: 18,667
- England: 18,034
- Hawaii: 15,456
- Central America – El Salvador: 15,338
- Nigeria: 15,332
- Greece: 15,185
- Italy: 14,019
- Somalia: 12,777
- Algeria: 7,302
- Japan: 6,177
- Central America – Honduras: 6,072
- South America: Argentina: 5,572
- Sweden: 5,450
- Mauritania: 5,118
- South America: Ecuador: 4,722
- Wales: 4,705
- Cambodia: 4,691
- South Africa: 4,438
- South America: Chile: 3,919
- U.S. port cities average 7,000-8,000 per year each
- 7,702 people have translated the site
- Operating Systems: Windows: 2,221,618; Mac: 382,612; Unix: 31,679; All others, i.e. Symbian OS, WebTV, OS/2, BeOS, Palm OS
Testimonials started arriving the month this site was launched in 1998; among the first eMails came from an English gentleman who had been seeking his great-great grandparents for many years and found them on this site.
That email was shortly followed by requests from a French student writing on the French in California during the Gold Rush.
A personal favorite is from James P. Delgado, author of To California by Sea: A Maritime History of the California Gold Rush. He wrote that this is the only site of its kind in that it is listing all ships and passengers arriving at the port of San Francisco.
- Thank you for Captain E H Hitchcock. Your efforts to transcribe Daily Alta California list of Ship Arrivals lead to location of Fred's Wife's ancestor. All we had was Betty Hitchcock's "Gone to California as ship's captain" info. . . We really appreciate this.
-- G. Cramer
- Thank you very much for your help. You told me in a previous message that you are working on this project by yourself. I'm impressed with your work and recognize pain of research. -- Regards, L. Mims
- Thank you very much for pointing me in the right direction. Very handy site you have; it has been of great value to my research from here. You must visit New Zealand again. -- Regards, D. Armitrage
- I have enjoyed your site, located the arrival of my 2nd great grandfather in August of 1849 on the Humboldt. Lots of information on the site. Thank you and all the others for all the work it took to place the information on the net for all to discover. -- Barb
- I've enjoyed your web site while looking for photos and marine drawings/plans of side wheel steamers built by William H. Brown during the 1850s . . .. We are trying to build a scale model (of the S.S. Pacific) for display. -- Thank you, M. Boyd
- Guess you've heard it before, but you've got a fantastic website. Great job and thanks for the enjoyment. -- D. Hunt
The focus will continue as a content/reference site for maritime history in and around San Francisco Bay and will focus on the build-out of specific areas, i.e.:
- Captains: Biographies
- Ships: Hundreds of people have asked for images of a given ship, captain or personage arriving in San Francisco during the mid-1800s.
- Passengers: More than 275 lists now on the site contain more than 27,000 names of families arriving in San Francisco by ship during the 1800s. Planned are additions to the lists, valuable to genealogists around the world, an increasing number of which are arriving from Australian's seeking ancestors.
- Routes and Ports
Affiliate Marketing partners such as Amazon.com, Commission Junction, LinkShare, Art.com, InternationalHarbors.com, from online purchases through the site. From maritime-related entities, i.e. shipping lines, cruise lines, maritime products, etc., which have resulted in logos placed on the site.
The site is listed on major maritime search engines around the world, including maritime museum sites, shipping lines such as American President Lines, and merchant marine sites. The Maritime Heritage site is also used as a training/reference site by the San Francisco Maritime Museum and J. Porter Shaw Maritime Library in San Francisco.
The market is international: Given the aging of America, family historians/genealogists are blossoming. San Francisco Bay Area has 6,605,428 residents, many with ancestors who arrived by ship. Internationally, 72 cruise ship lines carry more than 1 million passengers annually and that industry is growing (it is expected to exceed oil revenues). Thousands of families have an "historian" (one genealogical library received 30 million viewers, although a timeframe was not given nor numbers substantiated).
Management and Organization
The Maritime Heritage Project is a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity with a governing board with a goal of providing free information to researchers seeking ancestral travel to the West Coast of North America.
Expenses are minimal and include salary for the project director and fees for copying, travel (mostly local to/from historical societies), acquisition and/or reprint rights of prints, maps, etc.