Before there was Big Oil and Thomas Edison, there was whaling to light homes and stiffen corsets. I have a branch of relations in Texas descended from a fellow from Jersey City, NJ who went to sea young as a cabin boy. Richard Dana, author of "Two Years Before the Mast" is some kind of distant cousin, much removed.
There's passenger records and there's naval military records. But there's also the people who worked on the sea. Whale hunters, but mostly just plain commerce. Fishermen. As a schoolchild, we had a class trip to the historic Mystic Seaport. Nowadays, they've modernized their operations with a variety of maritime information online.
Thought I'd mention it, in case someone who might have use for it missed it, too. Bonus question: I'm having trouble coming up with tags for this post. Suggestions welcome!