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Maritime Heritage, Ship Passengers, Sea Captains

The Maritime Heritage Project, started in 1997, is a free research tool for those seeking history of passengers, ships, captains, merchants and merchandise sailing into California during the mid-to-late 1800s.

The Ship Passenger site stems from The Maritime Heritage Project, created in 1997 to record the history of passengers, ships, captains, merchants and merchandise sailing into California during the mid-to-late 1800s.

The project receives no support other than purchases through affiliates and donations from visitors who have found information about their sea-faring family.

All research and site development (including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, writing) is by Dianne A. Blethen Levy, great-great-grandaughter of Captain James H. Blethen. This has become one of the largest maritime history Websites in the world.

The site benefits from the thousands of journalists who spent their lives working for California's early newspapers: publishers, writers, editors, illustrators, photographers, pressmen, secretaries, typesetters, newspaper boys and delivery people, etc.

Comments include: "There is no other site like it in the world," "For the first time during years of research, I found information about family members."

The site illustrates the importance of a global awareness; the health and wealth of nations was formed by individuals who migrated seeking refuge and opportunity.

Our World Belongs to Everyone

The Maritime Heritage Project was started in 1997 as an historical research paper by Lauren Hewett. The subject, Captain James H. Blethen, her great-great-great Grandfather, was a sea captain based in San Francisco during the mid-1800s. Her idea brought him to life, along with thousands of other captains, ships, merchants, merchandise and world migrations.

KINDLY Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.

Pacific Mail Line Ad. 1800s.

Beginning in 1852, Captain Blethen sailed into San Francisco with thousands of immigrants seeking new lives and gold in Northern California.On Christmas Day, 1870, Captain Blethen opened the Pacific Mail Line routes between Hawaii and Australia/New Zealand. When the Captain retired from life at sea, he was elected Chief Wharfinger in San Francisco.

The Maritime Heritage Project led to a growing respect for ships and their captains for their enduring commitment in safely moving merchandise, livestock, and people around the world under unpredictable and often dangerous conditions.

Commitment to Shipping History: Captains, Ships, Ports, Passengers

More than 45 years of travel, research and 30,000 hours have gone into the project to preserve San Francisco's shipping history and present an overview of world migration during the 1800s. The project continues as new sections are added or expanded. (Refer to Bibliography.)

Who Views The Maritime Heritage Project?

The Maritime Heritage project 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. It is recommended to researchers by The San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch.

422 sites linking in include Wikipedia (from multiple pages); Yahoo Answers; Ancestry.com; California State Library; Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley; The Boston Herald; 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), libraries and virtual libraries, LearnOutLoud (audio books), expertgenealogy.com, Cyndi s List of Genealogy Sites, Museums on line, ItaliaMaritime, SailBlogs, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Antique Maps, California Wreck Divers, OldSaltBlog.com, Sailor's Choice (history), Explore North (whalers), Boating SF, Spain's Fundaction Nao Victoria, all search engines, etc.

As of April 2013, individuals from more than 100 countries visited the site, 75% of visitors were from the United States; the remaining were from the U.S. Government, educational institutions and other non-profit corporations, and 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.

Site Statistics

(As of November 2015: Various sources including Google Analytics, Urchin, Alexa.com. Please keep in mind that this is a one person project; these statistics were achieved through 15 years of focus.)

Maritime Heritage Project Global Ranking: 1,812,529

United States Traffic Rank: 672,994

422 sites linking in.

Out of a possible:

  • 876 million websites on the WWW (Netcraft, 2014)
  • 935 million (The Atlantic, September 2015)
  • During 2008-2009, Bing stated more than 1 trillion sites.

The market is international: Given the aging of America, family historians/genealogists are blossoming. The San Francisco Bay Area has 7.44 million residents, many with ancestors who arrived by ship. Thousands of families have an "historian" (one genealogical library received 30 million viewers, although a time frame was not given nor numbers substantiated).

Internationally, more than 50 cruise ship lines carry more than 500,000 passengers annually generating multiple billions in U.S. dollars.


A personal favorite is from maritim archaeologist James P. Delgado, author of To California by Sea: A Maritime History of the California Gold Rush, Gold Rush Port: The Maritime Archaeology of San Francisco's Waterfront, Across the Top of the World, etc. Mr. Delgado wrote that this is the only site of its kind in that it lists all ships and passengers arriving at the port of San Francisco.

A small selection from letters and eMail:

  • Thank you for the article on 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 Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.