Archival Great Lakes Ship List
Transcription Project

Project Description - Volunteers - Transcribe a List - Transcription Guidelines - Known Lists - Contribute a List - Search a Database

Beginning in about 1840, Insurance companies on the Great Lakes began to compile comprehensive lists of vessels & accidents in order to estimate risk and set rates. The practice of compiling these accident lists was continued throughout the 19th century and was performed by many different organizations and agencies. The lists are now an extremely important resource for tracing the careers of vessels and locating accounts of previously unknown accidents. Some of the annual lists contain over 2000 accidents and many list previously unknown total loss shipwrecks. The various vessel lists include many vessels that were not enrolled and often include information not included in enrollment data.

Unfortunately, few of the lists have been transcribed and it consequently, takes hours instead of seconds to search for all entries of a given vessel name or a given port name. This project is an attempt to elicit community assistance in transcribing the lists and making them available to a wider audience. If the lists could be transcribed and placed in an online database, they would be an extremely important resource to researchers.

The primary sets of Lists are as follows:

Early Accident Lists compiled by insurance co. reprinted in newspapers (1841 - 1854)
Board of Lake Underwriters Comprehensive Accident Lists (1855 - 1863)
Erik Heyl Accident Lists compiled from news micros (1847 - 1864)
US Customs House Wreck Report Summaries (1863 - 1873)
J.W. Hall Accident Lists (1865 - 1877)
US Army Chief Signal Corp Officer Accident Lists (1869 - 1883)
Marine Review & Marine Record Annual Wrecklists (1874 - 1900)
Beesons Marine Directory Annual Wrecklists (1895 - 1921)
Various accident lists compiled by Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago and Milwaukee newspapers (1844 - 1920)
Inland Lloyds/Board of Lake Underwriters Annual Registers
Beesons Marine Directory Accident Lists and Registers
Polks Marine Directory Vessel Registers
Various Lists of vessels printed in news micros of the 1840s and 50s

In exchange for help in transcribing the lists, I would be happy to make them available to researchers who would like copies of them. For a partial list of the archival Great Lakes documents in my collection, including those that still need to be transcribed, click here. I have many additional wrecklists and databases not included in this list as well, but they have not been made available to this project by the original donors.

If you are interested in transcribing a document from the list, please email me with the name of document you would like to transcribe and I will email you a set of electronic images of the document. Most of the wrecklists are under 15 pages long and can be emailed. Larger documents need to be xeroxed and sent via post. Thanks for your interest and assistance.

Brendon Baillod
Great Lakes Shipwreck Research

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There are no deadlines for transcription and any time that you can give to the task is most appreciated. Most lists will take under a month to transcribe if you can spare a few hours each week. Some of the registers are longer and may require up to 40 hours of total time to transcribe. I prefer to scan and email images of the lists whenever possible. As such, a high speed internet connection is helpful, but not necessary in order to participate. If you would like to volunteer to transcribe a list, please email me at You can choose the list you would like to transcribe or I can give you one of the list from the group we are currently working on.

The following people have volunteered to transcribe the following lists to date:

Vessel Lists
Fred Neuschel - 1837 St. Joseph Traffic List, Lake Michigan Wrecks 1824 - 1847
Kimberly Monk - 1858 Port of Chicago Traffic List

Accident Lists
Jim Jarecki - 1855 BLU Accident List, Erik Heyl Accident Lists 1847 - 1857
Shari Milks - 1856 BLU Accident List
Randy Johnson - 1857 BLU Accident List
Ric Mixter - 1858 BLU Accident List
Jeff Vos - 1859 BLU Accident List
Craig Rich - 1860 BLU Accident List
Kimm Stabelfeldt - 1861 BLU Accident List
Fred Neuschel - 1862 & 1863 BLU Accident Lists
Ross Richardson - 1850 - 1853 Insurance Accident Lists

Next to Transcribe:
JW Hall 1877 Accident List
Chief Signal Officer Accident Lists 1869 - 1882

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Transcribe A List

Transcription of data is somewhat time consuming and requires some availability of time and a good eye. However, any time you are willing to volunteer would be appreciated. Please email me at if you would like to transcribe a list. You may pick one you would like to transcribe or I can give you one from the group we are presently working on. I prefer to email electronic images of the lists wherever possible. As such, a high speed internet connection is helpful, but not necessary. A good quality scanned image of a list is about 800 kb and travels slowly over a dialup connection. Some of the lists are in poor condition and others are handwritten. As such, certain lists require a knowledge of Great Lakes vessels of the period.

Lists can be transcribed using any text editor or spreadsheet you prefer. The only qualification is that I must be able to convert them into an ascii text file. I will then load them into a master database, which I will place online behind a powerful search engine. When you have completed a list, you may simply email the document containing the transcribed data to me. You are welcome to try Optical Character Recognition programs on the text if you wish. However, in most cases, the text is far below the needed quality to perform OCR on the document.

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Transcription Guidelines

Directions on how to transcribe the data will vary from document to document and will be provided on a case by case basis. In general, transcribers may use whatever text editor or spreasheet program they wish. However, the final result must be pasted into an ascii text format and imported into a relational database. As such, the best editors to use are Textpad from Helios software, MS Word, MS Notepad and MS Excel. For accident lists, each entry should be typed into one line or into one cell of a spreadsheet. It is not necessary to break the entries up into subcomponents such as vessel name, place of loss, etc. I will add the months/years to each entry during the data import. Please preserve all punctuation, special characters such as $, etc. It may be necessary to add a phrase or correction in places where it is obviously needed. For example, if the loss amount to the hull and cargo are listed in separate columns, it is permissible to qualify the figures as "hull" and "cargo".

A raw entry such as:

April                                                                                  hull       cargo       lives
Schooner Weazel ashore on Point Abino, LE, total loss.    $3000   $4000      4

Might be transcribed as:

Schooner Weazel ashore on Point Abino, Lake Erie, total loss, hull $3000, cargo $4000, 4 lives lost.

Please direct any questions to regarding specific transcription issues.

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Contribute a List

If you are aware of additional lists of 19th century Great Lakes vessels or vessel accidents, I would very much like to include them in the transcription project and in the master database. Please email me if you would like to suggest or contribute a list or document at Some of the lists in the master index may have already been transcribed. If you are aware of any lists in the index that have already been transcribed and are available, please let me know ASAP so we do not duplicate effort.

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