Have you used newspaper shipping news for genealogy research? This is a new and welcome addition to my resources for  immigration research.

Newspaper Shipping News for Genealogy

Add context to your ancestor’s immigration story and determine all important departure dates by searching historic newspapers for shipping news. This helps for ancestors who departed from ports, such as Bremen or Antwerp, whose records can be spotty.

newspaper shipping news genealogy hamburg amerikaIt’s important to note that the majority of newspaper shipping news articles did not list passengers by name. But nearly all notices included the ports of departure and arrival, additional stops, shipping line, and departure and arrival dates.

Additional information in some notices include the number of passengers by nationality, cargo, and weather conditions of the voyage, and even deaths of passengers or crew.

Note: when searching databases for newspaper shipping news, you’ll see that port cities listed mail and shipping information for many ports, not just their own. Also, when searching newspapers, try alternate terms, such as “marine news,” “mail news,” or “harbor news.”

SS Hammonia

The newspaper shipping news example above is from the Birmingham Daily Post, published in the West Midlands, England, 29 Aug 1883, p. 8, via newspapers.com. This article documents the arrival of the SS Hammonia in New York. This ship carried my Prussian great-grandfather Bruno Kirschstein from Hamburg. I already knew his dates and ports of departure and arrival, that Bruno was one of 700 passengers in steerage, and what the Hammonia looked like from these and other sources:

New Information from Newspaper Shipping News

newspaper shipping news genealogy

“Appalling Disaster on the Clyde. Vessel Capsized at a Launch. Great Loss of Life.” Glasgow Herald. 4 July 1883. p. 9. Retrieved 13 Jan 2020.

But when I searched newspaper shipping news, I discovered that the Hammonia was considered quite a dangerous ship. Even as Bruno was sailing across the Atlantic, hearings were being held about the design of the Hammonia and her sister ship, SS Daphne. When launched the year before, Hammonia nearly capsized in the harbor at Glasgow. When launched in the same harbor that year, the Daphne did capsize, killing 124 passengers.

More Questions

As with all great genealogy research, this inspires more questions.

  • Was my great-grandfather aware of this risk?
  • Did he get a discount for traveling on a dangerous ship?
  • What exactly did he experience those 12 days he was aboard?
  • Did the ship design make his passage difficult?

Stay tuned!