Today’s post was written by Gina Kim Perry, archivist in the Digitization Division at the National Archives at College Park.
Imagine the ability to time travel virtually from the comfort of your home as you read on your computer or cell phone about:
- an Arctic rescue mission as it unfolded on the deck of the U.S.S. BEAR on June 22, 1884 (NAID 6919159), with its crews rescuing Lieutenant Greely and six surviving members of the Greely Expedition; or
- an observation of a meteor “appearing like a ball of fire” and then later “a brilliant aurora” from the deck of the U.S.S. JEANNETTE on September 25, 1879 (NAID 6919191), while the ship was caught in ice floes a mere two months after starting its Arctic expedition; or
- the battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862 (NAID 148768897), as recorded by the U.S.S. MONITOR, the Union Navy’s first ironclad ship.
You can find those events and more in the above-mentioned Navy ships’ logbooks, which are among the 1,987 file units of Logbooks of US Navy Ships, ca. 1801-1940 (NAID 581208) from the National Archives in Washington, DC, that have so far been imaged and are available to view and download in the National Archives Catalog. To make it as easy as possible to find and access those digitized logbooks, the National Archives recently published a new web page: Navy Logbooks: Catalog Links to Logs Through 1940.
There are currently 113 Navy ship names listed alphabetically on the web page, and under each ship name, you can find the links to corresponding logbooks listed chronologically. The current total of 1,987 file units of digitized logbooks come from the following three sources: (1) 1,890 file units imaged from original records through a digitization partnership between the National Archives and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); (2) 88 file units imaged from microfilm by NOAA; and (3) nine file units imaged by volunteer citizen archivists. As additional logbooks from the Archives in Washington, DC, are imaged and uploaded to the Catalog, new links will be added to the web page to keep it up to date. (Navy logs for years 1941 and later are housed at the National Archives at College Park, MD; for a list of post-1941 logs in the Catalog, please see this page.)
So, whether you are a genealogist interested in the names of officers and crew members listed in old Navy logbooks; a historian interested in knowing about the course of a voyage and the events onboard; a climate scientist searching for old weather observations; or just someone looking for interesting online materials, you now have access to thousands of digitized 19th and early 20th century Navy logbooks via the links on the new web page or directly from the NARA Catalog.