Dennis Wood Abstracts now searchable

Dennis Wood Abstracts of Whaling Voyages are brief handwritten summaries of whaling voyages–including vessel, owner & master; departure & arrival dates; reports during the voyage; oil & bone catch; and events of the voyage–compiled over more than forty years (1830–1874) by Dennis Wood, a merchant and whaling agent in New Bedford, and a director of the Mutual Marine Insurance Company. The abstracts were drawn from news reported in the Whalemen’s Shipping List and Merchants’ Transcript, and from letters, telegrams, and reports brought back by vessels.

The New Bedford Free Public Library has scanned the four volumes from its collection, containing more than 2,300 pages, and placed them on the Internet Archive. Judith Lund has updated 6,700 voyage records in the American Offshore Whaling Voyages database with volume and page references to the Abstracts, and now provides links directly to pages in the scanned volumes.

All searches on will now return references and links to relevant Dennis Wood abstracts, just as they provide links to crew lists and scanned log books. Or, you may search only within the Abstracts by selecting “Dennis Wood Abstracts of Whaling Voyages” from the “Explore” dropdown menu in the header of any page.

American and British Southern whaling data updated, 2021

The American Offshore Whaling database has been updated for 2021, adding more than 370 voyages as well as many corrections and updates to existing voyage entries. The added voyages are primarily from the 18th century, extracted from local newspapers.

The British Southern Whale Fishery databases have been thoroughly revised and updated with additional voyages, crew lists, and data corrections.

Agent/Owner data added to American Whaling Voyages

Painting of Desolation Island, Indian Ocean

Agent/Owner entries have been added or updated for more than eight thousand American Offshore Whaling voyages. Now there are agent/owner entries for more than two-thirds of the fifteen thousand voyages in the database.

This makes it possible to view the voyages credited to a single agent/owner together in search results. For example, view the voyages of the Warren, Rhode Island whaling merchants Driscoll & Child  at

The usual guidelines for searching names also apply here. There really were multiple people with similar names, the same person did sometimes vary the way he spelled his name during his lifetime, and firms and partnerships changed over time. But also, historical records were not always precise, clerks sometimes misspelled, and two hundred year old handwriting can be difficult to read. As a result sometimes you will find multiple, slightly different entries for what may or may not be the same merchants. To see an example, search “Driscoll & Child” and notice the variations. To make sure you find what you are looking for search thoroughly, explore variant spellings, and try the suggestions on our “Just Search” page.


New Features and New Data added to has been greatly expanded in the past year to include whaling data from more countries, links to scanned documents online, and a new global search.

New Data

  • British North American (BNA). A database of whaling voyage data has been added. This includes information on 170 masters, 84 vessels and almost 300 whaling voyages from the east coast of British North America from 1779 through 1845 The details of these voyages are largely the work of Andrea Kirkpatrick, compiled for her forthcoming book on this fishery.
  • Les Baleiniers Français (LBF). Almost 1,000 records for French whaling voyages come primarily from digitization of Thierry DuPasquier’s tables from his two books documenting that country’s whaling trade.  The data was confirmed and augmented by the generous contributions of Peter Tremewan who shared his translations of French maritime documents from the Archives Nationales, in Paris.
  • American Offshore Whaling Voyages (AOWV). The data already on has been edited and augmented with new biographical information about whaling masters and their wives. And, crew lists for another 350 voyages have been added by a volunteer project at New Bedford Whaling Museum.
  • British Southern Whale Fishery (BSWF). The voyage and crew list databases have been extensively revised and updated.

New Search

  • Global Search. A new search page makes it possible to search all of the databases on at the same time. Now that we have five major data collections, each with multiple datasets, global search is the most powerful way to start your exploration of Whaling History. Search for a name to find every occurrence—as a whaling master, crew member, owner, agent, master’s wife, vessel, … —in any database on the site.
  • Advanced Search. Each database has a data viewer—a tabular display window to interact with the data—for precision searching and access to every data field available. Researchers can search, sort, and select subsets of the data for printing, copying to spreadsheets or other documents, and downloading.

New Access to Voyage Maps

Whaling History has from its beginning displayed maps of more than 1,300 whaling voyages based on data from the American Offshore Whaling Logbook database. Maps are included in the new Global Search, making them easier to locate. Browse voyage maps →

New Connections

  • Many vessels and masters sailed from more than one country. Considerable work has gone into connecting our databases to each other. Global searches will find these linkages among the American, French and British North American databases. For example:

New Scanned Documents

New Explore Menu

We have added an Explore menu to offer new ways to dig into the Whaling History databases and to feature aspects of the data that might not otherwise be discovered. One of the first Explore topics is Women who went whaling, an opportunity to find voyages on which the master’s wife sailed.

British Whaling data now available is now hosting two important data sets documenting British whaling.

The databases contain voyage and crew information for the British Southern Whale Fishery, which operated from 1775 to 1859. The voyage database, which is primarily the work of A G E (Joe) Jones, documents the events of about 2550 voyages, whaling or sealing, to the south of Britain in over 930 different vessels. The crew database, which is primarily the work of Dale Chatwin, lists nearly 14,000 entries for men who sailed in the ships in the British Southern Whale Fishery.

For 350 years until the early 1960s the British were involved in several types of whaling. This involvement was divided into three distinct trades: the northern whale fishery between 1610 and 1914; the southern whale fishery or ‘south seas trade’ from 1775 to 1859; and the modern whaling trade, from 1904 to 1963. Each of these trades was distinguished by the geographical location in which it was undertaken, the types of whales pursued, and to some extent by the methods and techniques used to capture whales. The northern and southern whale fisheries were even differentiated and defined by law.

We are especially pleased to host the BSWF data because many American whalers also sailed from British ports in the years after the American Revolution. We are looking forward to making these connections explicit, linking records in the American Offshore Whaling databases with those in the British Southern Whale Fishery data.

World’s Most Comprehensive Whaling History Database Released connects all things whaling for researchers, scholars, genealogists and enthusiasts

The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum have developed the world’s most comprehensive whaling history database and it is now available for all to use at Researchers, genealogists, students, teachers, and history buffs alike will find it to be the most robust and useful repository of whaling history documentation and scholarship.

The data presented combines many sources including logbooks, journals, ship registers, newspapers, business papers, and custom house records. Users will be able to find and trace whaling voyages and ships to specific logbooks, as well as the list of crew members aboard most of the voyages. The foundational fabric of Whaling History features three databases that have been stitched together – the American Offshore Whaling Voyage (AOWV) database, the American Offshore Whaling Log database, and an extensive whaling crew list database. All data is open to the public and is downloadable for any researcher to use with other tools and systems.

The American Offshore Whaling Voyage (AOWV) database, which was spearheaded by Judith Lund, scholar and former curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, includes information about all known American offshore (or “pelagic”) whaling voyages from the 1700s to the 1920s. It does not include the modern factory ship voyages of the mid-20th century. Information is most complete for the 19th century. The voyages included in the database sailed from, or were under the registry of, what is now the United States.

Extensive records of American whaling in the form of daily entries in whaling voyage logbooks and contain a great deal of information about where and when the whalemen found whales. The second part of the database’s foundation is the American Offshore Whaling Log database, which includes information from 1,381 logbooks from American offshore whaling voyages between 1784 and 1920. These data were extracted from the original whaling logbooks during three separate scientific research projects, one conducted by Lieutenant Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury in the 1850s, the second conducted by Charles Haskins Townsend in the 1930s, and the third conducted by a team from the Census of Marine Life project led by Tim Denis Smith between 2000 and 2010. The data file includes 466,134 data records assembled in a common format suitable for spatial and temporal analysis of American whaling throughout the 19th century.

The third database that Whaling History is built from is extensive whaling voyage crew lists from more than 5,300 voyages. Crew lists for whaling voyages recorded at the customs houses in Fall River and Salem, Massachusetts and in New London, Connecticut have been compiled as part of various projects and from various sources over the years. Crew lists for New Bedford voyages have been compiled using records kept by the chaplains of the New Bedford Port Society from 1840 to the end of whaling in New Bedford. These crew lists are now in a single searchable, sortable database.

In the next phase of the Whaling History, museums and other institutions’ collection items will be able to be linked to the database, giving researchers the ability to see a robust and dynamic picture of whaling history and artifacts.