Immigrant Ships - duplicate categories?

+6 votes
There are categories called 'Immigrant Ships to America' and 'Immigrant Ships to the United States',  They appear to be two separate categories for no good reason.  Can we have a decision about which one to keep?
in Policy and Style by Living Cowan G2G6 (8.7k points)
recategorized by Jillaine Smith

4 Answers

+7 votes

"America" is not necessarily the United States. In fact, Immigrant Ships to the United States should probably be a sub-category of Immigrant Ships to North America and Immigrant Ships to America should be deleted.

by Deb Durham G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)

I think a change is needed.  Ships that sailed from European countries to destinations in the USA (or what later became the USA) have been parked variously under Immigrant Ships to the United States and Immigrant Ships to America.  So it looks a bit of a muddle. I recommend we keep Immigrant Ships to the United States and get rid of the other. There is already a category for ships going to Canada.  Do you agree? 

+5 votes
Immigrant ships to America may be for those ships that arrived before the creation of the United States.  But Deb's answer suggests it should be North America and not America. Mm. But as I type that I have a vague recollection that we kept America because those early ships also went to the Caribbean (on same trips they went to Virginia and/or Boston). Caribbean may not be considered part of *North* America.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (822k points)
How about "Immigrant Ships to the New World" as the primary category and then the various sub-categories to cover the ultimate and/or intermediate destinations. That would cover all of the Western Hemisphere, and then could be sub-categorized to include the Carribean, North America, South America, Central America, etc. Then individual destinations could be categorized accordingly.
That is so smart Deb - yeah to the new world
+1 vote

We may want to consider the way the Immigrants/Emigrants categories are being reworked, and then arrange the Immigrant Ships/Emigrant Ships the same way, for the sake of consistency. As far as I know, the final policy is outlined on the Migration Category Structure page.

I was already to write "Migration Ships", "Emigration Ships", etc., but I don't think it's correct to categorise the ship itself, when carrying migrants might be a very small part of what a ship does over the full course of her working life. So I'm thinking that these categories should be applied to individual sailings, rather than to the ship.
I'm also thinking that the sailing categories, like location categories, should apply to the jurisdictions as they existed at the time of the sailing.
Given that, it would probably help to reduce clutter somewhat if we put in continent categories (geographical, rather than political) to group the categories.

So it seems to me that the structure would end up looking something like this:

  • [[Category:Ships]]
  • (We might also want to link to [[Category:Migration]] here, too.)
    • [[Category:Migration Sailings]]
      • [[Category:Emigration Sailings from Europe]]
        • [[Category:Emigration Sailings from England]] (before 1707)
        • [[Category:Emigration Sailings from Great Britain]] (from 1707 to 1800)
        • [[Category:Emigration Sailings from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland]] (from 1800 to 1922)
        • [[Category:Emigration Sailings from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland]] (after 1922)
      • [[Category:Immigration Sailings to the North America]]
        • [[Immigrant Sailings to the Massachusetts Bay Colony]] (from 1628 to 1686, and then from 1689 to 1691)
        • [[Immigrant Sailings to the Dominion of New England]] (from 1686 to 1689)
        • [[Immigrant Sailings to the Province of Massachusetts Bay]] (from 1689 to 1776)
        • [[Immigrant Sailings to the United States of America]] (after 1776)

I didn't bother building out all sources of emigrants, nor destinations of immigrants. Instead, I picked one particular trip (Liverpool to Boston) to show how it would change over time.

by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (530k points)
You note that the structure should reflect the structure of the Places categories.  I think that is correct to an extent.  However, the structure does not need to have the same level of granularity.  I feel strongly that, if the categories are complicated, people will use them wrongly or may not even bother,  You should think of the way in which the data will be used by someone carrying out studies and analysis. The example you cite looks like over-engineering.  I am from the UK, and I could not work with what you propose.  For example, if I were to do my own study into migrants from England to Virginia, I should be able to work out from the Country of Birth, the Country of Death and the the link to a sailing, to do my study.  Bear in mind that many who sailed, for example, from Liverpool to New York, had come from another place in Europe and were on their way to a different place in North America. In engineering, there is a principle known as the K.I.S.S. principle - Keep It Simple, Stupid!

One of the quotes in my .sig block collection is attributed to Albert Einstein:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

It resonates with me, because, as far back as I can remember, I have felt that it's just wrong to simplify to the point where you're telling somebody something that they're going to have to "unlearn" later on. (This is, no doubt, due to my personality type, which is highly sensitive to contradictions, even when they're widely separated in time. Thus, when I learned in Social Studies class that the actual name of the country is "The Netherlands", and "Holland" is just the province within the Netherlands where Amsterdam is located, I was very indignant. I wouldn't have been able to articulate it at the time, but my feeling was very much along the lines of, "Hang on. The last time we studied this country, you told me it was called 'Holland', and now you're telling me that's wrong. You lied to me!")

So while I'm not about complication for it's own sake, I'm also not into oversimplifying so much that we're misleading people. 

That said, there are a couple of other issues here:

One is that we need to plan for categories to contain many, many more entries than they do now. Tracking ancestors down to particular sailings on particular ships is hard, and even as someone who is kind of a ship geek, I've only been able to do that for about half of my family lines. (I'm guessing here, because I have no idea how far back I'm going to have to go before every single line comes from off the continent, and therefore I still don't know how many of my ancestors had to take ship to get here.) A system that works for a few entries, or even a couple of hundred, isn't necessarily going to work well when we're looking for thousands of entries.

My personal preference is to try to get the categories designed in such a way that they will scale well. And, being something of a filing geek1 too, naturally I think of categories as being similar to a filing system. 

There are two basic philosophies when it comes to filing systems:

Wide and Shallow: In this system, there are few categories, and few layers of categories, but a lot of things in each category. An example of a Wide and Shallow system might go like this:

  • Red Things
    • Apples
    • Pomegranates
    • Strawberries
    • Roses
    • Carnations
    • Cardinals
    • Fire Engines
    • Fire Hydrants
    • 3 Balls
  • Yellow Things
    • Bananas
    • Lemons
    • Daffodils
    • Buttercups
    • Life Jackets
    • 1 Balls
    • Bic Pens
(Ignoring, for the purposes of this discussion, that the colours of fire trucks, fire hydrants, life jackets, and so on can vary.)

Narrow and Deep: In this system, there are more categories, and more layers of categories, but fewer things in each category.  An example of a Narrow and Deep system might go like this:

  • Red Things
    • Red Things You Can Eat
      • Things You Can Eat Which Are Only Red On The Outside
        • Apples
      • Things You Can Eat Which Are Red All The Way Through
        • Pomegranates
        • Strawberries
    • Red Flowers
      • Roses
      • Carnations
    • Red Birds
      • Cardinals
    • Red Things For Fighting Fires
      • Fire Engines
      • Fire Hydrants
    • Red Things To Use in Pastimes
      • 3 Balls
  • Yellow Things
    • Yellow Things You Can Eat
      • Bananas
      • Lemons
    • Yellow Flowers
      • Daffodils
      • Buttercups
    • Yellow Things To Use in Pastimes
      • Life Jackets
      • 1 Balls
    • Yellow Things To Use At Work
      • Bic Pens
      • Post-It Notes

Now, if you know that a classification system is only going to have a few items in it, then a Wide and Shallow strategy works fine. And a lot of people prefer Wide and Shallow systems because they want to minimise the number of clicks it takes to get from the top of the hierarchy to any particular item. But the more items you add, the more cumbersome each category gets. In addition, on WikiTree, categories paginate once they get 200 entries in them, so unless somebody is looking for something at the beginning of the alphabet, they'll have to click "Next" a number of times to get to what they're looking for, and once that happens, a Narrow and Deep strategy, even though it seems more complicated at first glance, can end up requiring fewer clicks to reach the final destination.

(And, yes, I actually do think about this stuff in my spare time. My wife says that I'm incapable of turning off my brain.) 

  1. Are you sensing a trend here? Maybe I should just give up and admit it. "Hello, my name is Greg, and I'm a geek." "Hi, Greg." "It's been 15 nanoseconds since I had my last geeky thought."
I appreciate the care you have taken in preparing a reply.  I am separately trying to begin a discussion on the subject of search engines and search criteria.  The capabilities for searching are a bit limited at the moment.  I think such a discussion would add some clarity to thinking about categorization, particularly in regard to the Deep and Narrow versus Wide and Shallow views which you mention.  It concerns me at the moment that some very complex categorizations are being proposed right now, and they may be just too complicated, and people will lose interest in them or try to use them and do so wrongly.
+3 votes
hmm, now there's a category line that sounds superfluous in most cases.  If you're talking the Mayflower, it has its own particular celebrity, but most other ships don't, and they're not people.  Ships like the Titanic or the Empress of Ireland that were major shipping disasters with loss of life are worth categorizing for the people aboard during the actual shipwreck, but the rest of the trips done by them?  Don't think so.

Just looking at the ships that brought colonists to New France for example, there are a number of them that made trips every year.  They have been tracked for the era when the Filles du roy came here, somebody actually did a whole lot of work going through admiralty records in France.  But I certainly would not consider creating categories by ship for those immigrants.  Unless of course there is an ill-fated aspect to them, like the voyage of the St-André in 1659, where quite a number of passengers died.  But that would more likely warrant a free-space page than a category.
by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (493k points)
What concerns me in these category discussions is the absence of any sense of how the information will be used.  More thought should go into the use of search tools and searchable keywords to help people find profiles according to search criteria.  Doing so will make some category structures unnecessary.
have to agree with you there, when I see categories like farmers created, I cringe.  They are massive when you think about it, and even breaking it down by location doesn't help much, since there are generations upon generations that fall under the same occupation.  What possible use it can be for research is moot.

Interesting that you would bring up the Empress of Ireland, Danielle. That project was in place before I started working on ship categories. Unfortunately, the entry from the Empress of Ireland differed from the standard that we ended up working out in a number of ways. (For example, the category doesn't have the year of launch in the name, and, at the time, there was no place to note passenger on any other sailing of the Empress of Ireland than the one in which she sank.) But there were already so many profiles entered that asking to change to match the system for other ships was just too intimidating, so I kept my mouth shut, even when I ended up sourcing a family on a previous sailing. Since then, I notice that some (but not all) of the differences have been amended.

But in general, I disagree with you: a ship doesn't have to be involved in a major disaster to be worth recording, any more than a person has to have been famous to be worth recording. Granted, a ship which spent her whole career sailing from port to port and then going to the shipbreakers probably won't be found in the newspapers (except in the "Shipping News" section), but to the people she carried to their new home (and their descendants), she is important, because she's part of that family's story.

Or am I the only one who checks out eBay every once in a while to see if I can find a model of, or china from, or something related to each ship I've been able to identify as one which carried some of my ancestors? What? Nobody else? Really? Okay, I guess it's just me, then.

lol, considering that the large majority of my ancestors came in various ships very early in the colony, trying to identify which ship they came in would be quite daunting.  The FDR were researched extensively, and some of them we still don't know which ship they came on.

the Empress of Ireland sinking was a commemorative project, done a century after the sinking, and was specific for the people aboard her when she sank.  I was part of the project, still am for that matter, although now it's more a matter of connecting the people to their families, and since we had little data on most of them, just the passenger manifest, it's been a slow motion item.

As far as prior sailings, one solution might be to make the sinking category be a sub-category of higher ones.  It was a passenger liner, and not necessarily just bringing immigrants.

So why would we want to make categories for ships in the first place?  Most ships have a life counted in decades at least, and go back and forth continually.  That Joe Blow arrived on the ship Mata-Hari in 1899 doesn't seem particularly informative, unless you try to gather up all the other passengers on that sailing in the grouping, with the notion of seeing if they maintained any connection afterwards.  Seems like added complexity for nothing to me.  So millionnaire John Smith traveled 1st class in that ship, and Joe Blow traveled 3rd,  They both got where they were going.  So?

Yes, that would match the way other ships are done. The main category should be:

[[Category:RMS Empress of Ireland (1906)]]

The category for the sailing which ended in her sinking should be named:

[[Category:Empress of Ireland, sailed May 28, 1914]]

or, possibly,

[[Category:Empress of Ireland, sailed 1914-05-28]]

depending the outcome of the vote on which date format to use, and link up to:

[[Category:RMS Empress of Ireland (1906)]]

The Free Space Page should be named:

R.M.S. Empress of Ireland (1906)

(And, yes, that's another case of different naming conventions, but that's the way things were when I got here.)

As for why anyone should bother to categorise ships at all, the short answer is, if you don't care about it, you don't have to bother. Categories may be encouraged, but they're not required. (The only things that are required are first and last names and at least one date. Anything beyond that is, strictly speaking, optional, however strongly we might encourage things like sources, connections, categories, and so on.)

Speaking only for myself, I can state several reasons why I care about categorising ships:

First, simply curiosity: my great grandfather was born in England in 1863, and then suddenly he shows up in Canada on the 1871 census. How did he get from there to here? With whom? Where did he embark? When? Inquiring Minds Want To Know™, and having done all the research to answer those questions, for sure I wanted to record my work  for posterity. And, since people had been categorising ships and sailings long before I'd ever even heard about WikiTree, I'm not the only one. 

Second, it turns out to be genealogically significant. I think it was the second or third group of ancestors that I traced to a particular sailing where I discovered that one of my great great aunts ended up marrying someone she had met on board. I wouldn't be surprised if that happened a lot. So any time I find a family member who married somebody from the same country of origin within about a year of arrival, I double-check the passenger list to see if the spouse-to-be was also on board. I have also found cases where Royal Navy officers ended up marrying the daughters of their senior officers. (The Royal Navy is way more connected genealogically than I had ever guessed. Possibly other navies, too.)

Third, it's a source. When it's so hard to find evidence about what my ancestors were doing, and when and were they were doing it, I'm not going to neglect any possible source of information. 

Fourth, it matters to me (even if it doesn't matter to anyone else) what ships my ancestors sailed on. That's a part of their story, just as much as when and where they were born, married, died, or buried. Why would I not want to know about it?

I totally agree about putting the data in the bio, and you make a good case for even having a category for the ships, with what you outlined there.

Oh, we're required to have more than just a name, and date, needs a place and we're also required to have sources.  Sourceless genealogy is mythology, as one author put it.
I like Gegs idea - I have almost all my people back to the first that got here - for those not here already - and I really wanted to know which ship they came on - but a lot of them it seems have conflicting information on that - your system Greg, if fully implemented could lead to the answer for that and for those of us looking for people who have the same name as others that lived near in that same time frame it is really key to making sure we have the right one - plus it would I bet make it easier to get that proper attachment across the pond - many of my settlers have good documentation once in North America but sadly can not (so far) be traced over there acuratly and guesses have to be made - I do not like guesses much

This sailing was important to me It populated a whole town  this one too

My folk remember the ships that brought them here  they came together in family groups

I confess I don’t understand posts that go like this “I don’t use that category. Therefore I cannot fathom why they would be useful to anyone else. Therefore they should be eliminated”

I would love to see the ships get their lists of passengers and any who want to know can find them there if they get that far on their tree - and I am sure that for many it may be what identifies them in their home country, or where they left from- I was lucky to be from a family in one case where the father in the traveling family kept a journal of the voyage of sorts so we can look back and think of how that was
Now there's a massive project if I ever heard of one.  Would indeed be good to have space pages that showed passenger lists for each voyage, but getting the data on older passages would be horrendous.  I know of one project done elsewhere to skim through the French admiralty records for the time of the Filles du roy to see which ship they came on and when they left and arrived at destination.  One lady who worked on that told me it took years of painstaking decipherment of records.

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