The Maritime Heritage Project

Project Background

Site Statistics Testimonials Contact

Project Support

The Maritime Heritage Project, created in 1997, is a free research tool for those seeking history of passengers, ships, captains, merchants and merchandise sailing during the mid-to-late 1800s. While its main focus is California, information on seaports around the world is included as time permits.

KINDLY Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.

The project receives no support other than purchases through affiliates throughout the site and donations from visitors who value the information on the site.

All research, site development (including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, graphics optimization, writing) is by Dianne A. Blethen Levy, great-great-grandaughter of Captain James H. Blethen. This is now one of the largest maritime history Websites in the world and it may be the only one that has free passenger lists of people sailing into San Francisco.

The site has benefitted 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.

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. It also illustrates the importance of maintaining all facets of our planet be it flora or fauna for the sake of our children and our children's children.

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. His life had not been recorded; her idea brought him to life, along with thousands of other captains, ships, merchants, merchandise and world migrations.

Beginning in 1852, Captain Blethen sailed into San Francisco with thousands of immigrants seeking new lives and gold in Northern California. During the 1870s, Captain Blethen also 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

The Brother Jonathan.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.)

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," and hundreds of notes from educators who acknowledge the importance of the site to their students.


A personal favorite is from maritime 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

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;; California State Library; Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley; The Boston Herald; Refertus (history site);, SF Genealogy, American Merchant Marine, Central Pacific Railroad, various Maritime Museums, University of Victoria (B.C.) Humanities Media Centre, various school districts,, World News Network (, PBS (Public Broadcasting System), libraries and virtual libraries, LearnOutLoud (audio books),, Cyndi s List of Genealogy Sites, Museums on line, ItaliaMaritime, SailBlogs, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Antique Maps, California Wreck Divers,, Sailor's Choice (history), Explore North (whalers), Boating SF, Spain's Fundaction Nao Victoria, all search engines, etc.

Site Statistics

(As of April 2013: Various sources including Google Analytics, Urchin, 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: 2,133,061

United States Traffic Rank: 672,994

422 sites linking in.

Alexa Global Ranking of The Maritime Heritage Project: 2,133,061 out of a possible:

  • 366,848,493 websites on the WWW, according to one December 2011 survey;
  • 466,848,493: December 2011, Netcraft (Internet services company in Bath, England)
  • 1 trillion web sites: In 2008-2009, Bing stated more than 1 trillion sites.

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 time frame was not given nor numbers substantiated).

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.

Visitors view as many as five pages and a significant number stay between 5 and 30 minutes.

DALevy @

If you cannot find recommended books locally, consider the links provided to which has proven to be reliable on service and delivery.

Immigration at the Golden Gate: Passenger Ships, Exclusion, and Angel IslandImmigration at the Golden Gate. Immigration to California.
Robert Eric Barde
Perhaps 200,000 immigrants passed through the Angel Island Immigration Station during its lifetime, a tiny number compared to the 17 million who entered through New York's Ellis Island.

Nonetheless, Angel Island's place in the consciousness of Americans on the West Coast is large and out of proportion to the numerical record. Angel Island's Immigration Station was not, as some have called it, the Ellis Island of the West, built to facilitate the processing and entry of those welcomed as new Americans. Its role was less benign: to facilitate the exclusion of Asians, starting with the Chinese, then Japanese, Koreans, Indians, and all other Asians.

The Children of Chinatown: Growing Up Chinese American in San Francisco, 1850-1920Children of Chinatown.
Wendy Rouse Jorae

Family Skeletons.Family Skeletons: Exploring the Lives of Our Disreputable AncestorsFamily Skeletons.
Simon Fowler, Ruth Paley
Most families have a skeleton. You may have already discovered yours via the grapevine or your own research. Or you may simply be intrigued by the dark side of our past. This popular history explores the behaviour of our disreputable ancestors from the unfortunate to the criminal, and introduces a host of colourful characters including 17th century witches, 18th century 'mollies' and Victorian baby farmers. Thematically arranged by skeleton, the text also describes how society punished and provided for its 'offenders' - as well as the changing attitudes that could ultimately bring acceptance.

Italy on the Pacific: San Francisco's Italian Americans (Italian and Italian American Studies)Italians in San Francisco.
Palgrave Hardcover)
Sebastian Fichera
San Francisco’s Italian immigrant experience is shown to be the polar opposite of Chicago’s. San Francisco’s Italian immigrants are shown as reintegrating into the host society fairly smoothly, whereas the Chicago group’s assimilation process broke down in dramatic ways.

Russian San Francisco (Images of America)Russian San Francisco. (Images of America)
Lydia B. Zaverukha, Nina Bogdan, Foreward by Ludmila Ershova, PhD.
Even before San Francisco was founded as a city, Russian visitors, explorers, and scientists sailed to the area and made contact with both the indigenous people and representatives of the Spanish government. Although the Russian commercial colony of Fort Ross closed in 1842, the Russian presence in San Francisco continued and the community expanded to include churches, societies, businesses, and newspapers. Some came seeking opportunity, while others were fleeing religious or political persecution.

Migration in World HistoryMigration in World History.
(Themes in World History)
Patrick Manning
Drawing on examples from a wide range of geographical regions and thematic areas, noted world historian Patrick Manning guides the reader through trade patterns, including the early Silk Road and maritime trade, effect of migration on empire and industry, earliest human migrations, major language groups, various leading theories around migration.

California History, Spanish-speaking California.
History of Alta California:
A Memoir of Mexican California
California History, Spanish-speaking California, miners and mariners.
Antonio Maria Osio, Robert M. Senkewicz, Rose Marie Beebe
The first complete English translation of Osio's 1851 memoir of Mexican California, this account describes day-to-day life of the common people in what is now central and northern California from 1821 to 1846, before the Mexican-American War, a tense period marked by skirmishes resulting from land and power disputes between the Anglos and the Mexicans. This is a daily account, so there is a lot of detail-perhaps more than the general reader really wants.

Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis: Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769-1850California History, Spanish-speaking California, miners and mariners.
Steven W. Hackel
Recovering lost voices and exploring issues intimate and institutional, this examination of Spanish California illuminates Indian struggles against a confining colonial order and amidst harrowing depopulation. To capture the enormous challenges Indians confronted, Steven W. Hackel integrates textual and quantitative sources and weaves together analyses of disease and depopulation, marriage and sexuality, crime and punishment, and religious, economic, and political change. As colonization reduced their numbers and remade California, Indians congregated in missions, where they forged communities under Franciscan oversight. Yet missions proved disastrously unhealthful and coercive, as Franciscans sought control over Indian beliefs and instituted unfamiliar systems of labor and punishment. Even so, remnants of Indian groups still survived when Mexican officials ended Franciscan rule in the 1830s. Many regained land and found strength in ancestral cultures that predated the Spaniards' arrival.

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; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California.

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.