The Data Viewer Interface

Each database has a data viewer—a tabular display window to interact with the data—and all of the data viewers share a common set of features.


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The view displays a scroll bar on the bottom to scroll left-and-right through the available columns. A scroll bar on the right edge scrolls through the records. In the top left, the viewer shows the records currently in the display window. If you have a tablet or other touch screen device, you can also swipe vertically or horizontally to scroll the data.

Showing columns

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You can choose to hide or show any of the columns in the database. Click the red Show/Hide Columns button in the top left to display all of the column names. Click on a column name to toggle it on or off. Each database has a Columns Definitions page where you can learn more about the content its columns. (Click outside column name box to continue.)


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Click on any column heading to sort the database by that column. The triangle to the right of that column name will turn blue to indicate that the column is sorted. Click again on the column heading to reverse the sort order. (The blue triangle will invert.) To add more columns to your sort, alt-click or option-click on their column headings.


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At the top or bottom of each column is a search box. Some columns have a selection menu that will pop up, others have a free form text box. Text searches are not case sensitive.

Multiple search words are treated as if joined with AND, so choosing “Fall River, MA” with the Port menu and typing “indian” in the Ground search box will result in all voyage records that have Port=”Fall River, MA” AND Ground contains “indian”.

Some of the databases are very large—please be patient, your search results may not appear instantaneously. To clear all active searches, use the red “Clear all searches” button in the top right.

Selecting and displaying one voyage

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In the Voyages database, click on a single row in the data viewer for a full display of all aspects of the voyage at the bottom of the page.

Selecting multiple records

To select more than one row, click on the first row, then add more with shift-click. Depending on your browser and operating system, you may also be able to add individual records using ctrl-click or ⌘-click.

Select all search results

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Or, after searching the database you can select the found records by clicking the “Select all search results” button that will appear in the top right. To unselect all selected records, click the red “Clear selection” button.

Printing, copying, exporting

Printing, copying and export all work with a selection, which may include one or more records. For the examples below we’ve selected all the voyages of the bark Sappho. This selection happens to fit neatly in our data viewer window, but your selection might include many more records than you can view at one time.

The set of columns that you’ve chosen with the “Show/Hide” button will be the columns that appear in your print, copy or export.


To produce a printable version of the selected records, click on the “Print selected” button in the top left. A new browser window will open with your data in a table. You can then print the page using your browsers print command. Depending on your operating system, you may also be able to save the output as a PDF file, or email or text it to yourself and others.


To copy the selected records to your clipboard, click on the “Copy selected” button. A message will appear to tell you that the data has been copied. You can then paste the data into any other application. It is properly formatted so that you can paste directly into a spreadsheet. It will also format neatly in a word processor. If pasted into a plain text editor, the result will be tab-delimited text.


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To export your selection as a CSV file, click on the “Export selected” button. Your computer operating system will prompt you to save the data. The resulting file will be comma-delimited and all columns will be wrapped with quotation marks. The first row will contain the column names. A file in this format can be opened in a spreadsheet, or it may be imported into software for managing databases or performing statistical analysis.

Finding a person

There are at least five different ways a person might appear in the American whaling voyages data: as a whaling master, a crew member, a master’s wife, an agent, or by having a whaling vessel named after him or her. Depending on what else you know about your subject, you might search in any of these several places.

Whaling masters

Capt. James F. Smith, New London, oil painting c. 1840. Mystic Seaport 1939.1235. Master AM4504.

If your subject is a whaling master, start with the Voyages database. It contains all of the known masters and has the most biographical information about them, including spouses and whether they sailed.

Note that there are many columns of Master information that do not appear in the Voyages data viewer by default. If you are searching for whaling masters, use the Show/Hide button to show the columns that are of interest to you.

If the initial master did not complete the voyage, the Fate column contains codes to explain. The Vital Records Source column contains the source numbers of references for the biographical information. (Source numbers are defined in the Sources table.)

Once you’ve identified your subject, search by name in the Crew List database. Each crew list should include the initial master for the voyage and might have anthropometric information as well. If the person you’re seeking sailed on other voyages before becoming a master, you may find them here. Note that there may be duplicate or near-duplicate records for masters in the Crew List database—one will come from the original crew list document and one will be from the Voyages database entry for the master.

Master (and owner) information is also available for vessels registered in Connecticut (1789-1939) in the Connecticut Ships database on the Mystic Seaport research web site.

Crew members

If you are seeking a crew member, search the Crew List database. Once you have found your subject, note the VoyageID and use it to search for the full crew list for that voyage in the Crew List database. You can also use the VoyageID to search in the Voyages database to find more information about the voyage and vessel on which your subject sailed.

Additional crew member information is available for about 250 whaling voyages from San Francisco in the San Francisco Shanghaiers database on the National Maritime Digital Library web site.

The “Registers of Seamen’s Protection Certificates” issued at the custom houses of Fall River, Gloucester, New Haven, New London, Newport, Marblehead, and Salem from 1796–1871 may be searched on Mystic Seaport’s research web site.

If your subject sailed from a port in the New London or the Salem customs district, you may find that he also sailed on voyages that were not whaling voyages—the complete crew list databases for these ports are available for online searching on Mystic Seaport’s research web site:

Wives of whaling masters

Samuel Francis Davis and his wife Salome Eldred Davis, 1866. Mystic Seaport 1987.66.3. Master AM1531.

The names of whaling masters’ wives are stored in two columns in the Voyages database—to be thorough you will need to search each column separately. To begin, use the Show/Hide button to show these four fields: Wife, Wife to Sea, Wife2 and Wife2 to Sea. Wives’ names are in Wife and Wife2. The “to Sea” columns contain an “x” if the wife was know to have sailed on a voyage with her spouse.

In some cases only the wife’s first name is known, sometimes her full maiden name. In general, you will do best to search for the master first, at least by last name, then browse through the results to find any entries for the woman you are seeking.


If your subject may have been an agent, search in the Voyages database. Agent’s names show great variation, so you will need to be persistent and creative in searching. Sometimes the entries are the names of individuals, with last and first names. Sometimes they have last names and initials. Sometimes the agent was a partnership and appears as one or more last names. And sometimes the agent was a company.

Agent information is also available for about 250 whaling voyages from San Francisco in the San Francisco Shanghaiers database on the National Maritime Digital Library web site.

Owner (and master information) is also available for vessels registered in Connecticut (1789-1939) in the Connecticut Ships database on the Mystic Seaport research web site.

Vessels named after people

On the off chance that your subject was fortunate enough to have a whaling vessel named after her or him, search the Vessel column in the Voyages database.

Finding a whaling vessel

William Bradford, Whaleship NORTHERN LIGHT, oil painting, 1855. New Bedford Whaling Museum 1946.20. Vessel AS0503.

To find a whaling vessel, begin by searching its name in the Voyage or Vessel column in the Voyages database. If you do not know its name, search by whatever you have—a port, a master, a date—and browse the resulting set.

Once you have found a voyage for your vessel, note the VesselID. Clear all searches, then search for that VesselID in the VesselID column to find all records for the vessel.

Additional data columns

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Note that there are several columns of Vessel information that do not appear in the Voyages data viewer by default. If you are researching vessels, use the Show/Hide button to show the columns that might be of interest to you, for instance, Vessel, Rig, Date built, Place built, Tonnage, End, Crew List, and Logbook Repository.

Log books

For each voyage listed for your vessel, the Logbook Repository column will contain codes for the repositories (museums, libraries) that hold copies of the voyage’s log books. These codes are defined on the Repositories of Logbooks page.

To find any available log book data and voyage tracks, note the VoyageID for any voyage listed for your vessel and search for it in the VoyageID column in the AWOL database.

Crew lists

To find any available crew lists, note the VesselID from your Voyages search and search for it in the VesselID column in the Crew Lists database.

Other sources

Additional vessel information may be available in other online databases.