Let's Discuss the Ships/Shipping Categories

+11 votes

I have had some time to sit back and digest all of the information being presented within the Proposal for naming a ship's voyage landing category thread.

First, a bit of background: One of the largest issues we face right now is inconsistency across subcategories grouped together by a single parent/intermediary category, or where they exist in parallel (sister) categories.

As an example, see: Category:1920s Sailings. There is a mixture of naming standards used for the subcategories, which also differs from those used within sister categories, such as Category:1890s Sailings.

The naming of these categories range in naming, using:

  • the word 'sailed' and a year (I.e., Greyhound, sailed 1677)
  • the word 'sailed' and a full date MdY (i.e. Alexandrina, sailed October 17, 1874)
  • the word 'sailed' and a full date dMY (i.e., Aboukir, sailed 1 June 1870)
  • the word 'arrived' and a month and year MY (i.e., Britannia, arrived August 1699)
  • the word 'arrived' with a port and full date dMY (i.e., Margaret, arrived Sydney 28 March 1841)
  • the word 'arrived' with a full date dMY (i.e., Wansfell, arrived 13 November 1861)
  • the word 'arrived' with only a year (i.e., Marion arrived 1854)
  • a year only [is it sailed or arrived year?] (i.e., Nineveh 1870)
  • a year in parens only [is it sailed or arrived year?] (i.e., Ionia (1901))
  • ... and there are probably more naming conventions I haven't run across yet

Discussion Points: The only time we see categories named even remotely similar to each other right now are when they all fall within a single Project's parent category, such as Category:Fleet of William Penn. Looking over the Fleet of William Penn structure more in depth, my view is that those categories would not be affected by the aforementioned proposal (more information on this below).

In either case, whether it was affected or not, maybe instead of a global proposal on landing categories the discussion should instead focus on how we can restructure the parent/intermediary categories in a way that allows their subcategories to remain in any naming format that is the most useful or applicable for the project / time-period in question.

For instance, in the Fleet of WIlliam Penn, the subcategories are self contained within project-driven categories and for now, only link up to Category:Ships through an intermediary category "Middle Colony Ships". While they do not currently use any of the primary intermediary categories now where the naming is all over the place - it would be totally appropriate for someone to list Category: Welcome, sailed August 1682 under the parent category of Category:1680s Sailings, as this is a factually correct method of categorization.

By doing this, the sister category that would then be in conflict is named in an "arrived" format. So we would now have two different ships in two different formats in the same intermediary category. Since this is not done now, the William Penn project sees no issues in the naming of other relevant categories that could potentially parallel their categories.

But this not only a good thing, it may also provide a way forward! To help ensure that no other projects see this type of issue either, would it not be these other intermediary categories that require our focus - and not a global naming standard on the landing categories themselves?

Thoughts: Are categories like Sailings by Decade (i.e., "1600s Sailings", "1610s Sailings", ... "1950s Sailings"),  Ships by Decade of Launch (i.e., "1510s Ships", "1600s Ships", ... "1950s Ships"), and Ships by Name (i.e., "Abberton (1818)", "Flying Cloud (Ship)", ... "Zeminder 1841") really an important part of the structure, or do they themselves hinder the operations of individual projects who need flexibility in their categories by trying to group all of these categories together?

9 Nov Edit: Adding supporting questions/confusion about these categories:

in Policy and Style by Steve Harris G2G6 Pilot (305k points)
edited by Steve Harris
I think you may be on to something here, Steve.

The way I understand what you're saying is that the landing categories would be structured according to project, and then if intermediary categories are desired, an intermediary category would be applied according to the information used to categorize the ship within the project.

(That all sounds a little redundant, but I'm trying to frame it in a way that makes sense to me. lol)
Organizing parent categories would be a great idea, if only it could be achieved. As things now stand, I would not dream of assigning parents to a new sailing category, even with some experience of categories.
I always fall back to the questions:

* how is the existence of any category intended to help the person/people using it?

* how are people most likely to seek a category?

Answers to these questions might shed light on the best way to name and organize the categories.

About the first point: Caveat: my interest is in 19th and early 20th century migrants. I would be too afraid to mess up with profiles linked to the big pre-1700 projects to touch them with a 10 foot pole. People who travelled together are part of the FAN club of a person, and therefore can help solve a brick wall. Having the people who travelled in the same ship grouped together in a category is the simplest way to find the profiles (especially if several people are working on them), and consequently know quickly which families have been researched, and in short what has already been done and needs not be worked on again in the FAN club. I know of no simple way to find these profiles, other than a category. Yesterday I was working on a family who arrived in 1833 aboard a ship named "Cornelia". I need not tell you that if I search text for "Cornelia" in WikiTree+ i will get a bazillion profiles of no interest to my research.

Question 2: When on a profile, I start with the category picker, though it has imperfections. I'm one of these people who love browsing the structure and finding categories in the hierarchy. However, given the current state of sailing categories (again, please exclude anything pre-1800 from that), to find a sailing I would go straight to the WikiTree+ search tool.

Great answer, Isabelle.  How do you use wikitree + ? What do you use as search terms.

To get there, go to the Find > Categories menu, to get here


On the top right of the page, just under the menus, there is a set of small links:

Limit to Watchlist | How to Categorize | Category Search | WikiTree+ Search/Navigate

You click on "WikiTree+ Search", this takes you here http://wikitree.sdms.si/default.htm?report=srch5&Query=Categories (that is the WikiTree + search page, but pre-filled with the category you came from). Scroll down to the "Categories"  tab, replace the pre-filled content of the "Category:" field, click "Find Categories". This is what I get if I fill with "Puritan" (I think you have to click on Find Categories for the result): http://wikitree.sdms.si/default.htm?report=srch5&Query=puritan

To look for a ship, I would enter the name of the ship, for starters, and in some cases need to narrow it down: http://wikitree.sdms.si/default.htm?report=srch5&Query=Hopewell

I think you can use wildcards and exclude some results. Aleš and Steve would explain that better than me.

Trying to research what you think is the exact name of the category might not work (if you have one word wrong, you get no results)

You can use the WikiTree+ home URL, https://wikitree.sdms.si/default.htm but you have to open the "Search" and then the "Categories" tabs to find the category search tool.

(Edited as the simple way to get to the Category finder made its way to my poor brain).

Interesting discussion. Way above my pay grade.

7 Answers

+5 votes
I think the sailings by decade might be mildly useful, but the ships by decade of launch are not and are a bit confusing.

I also think that this could be a way to accommodate different methods of categorizing ships.
by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (546k points)

It would be a mistake to try to make uniformity within the "Sailings by Decade" categories the primary organizing principle for categories for immigration ships. As I see it, those "by decade" categories exist as a convenience for occasional use for a variety of [mostly obscure] purposes.

What could work then, in that case? There must have been a huge number of immigrant ships arriving in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries, it's not just Australia.
Sailings by Decade are worthwhile categories to have, but they should not be treated as if they were the primary categories for organizing immigration ships. The primary categories for immigration ships should be categories that are based on geographic considerations.

Isabelle, I made a suggestion for what I think will work as a comment in the other question.  It would allow flexibility to accommodate needs of different projects, by including information for arrival and/or departure. In each case, the information would include country and/or date, with the date including day, month, and year or month and year or just year.  I would hope that each project would then choose the way that best meets their needs but maintains a consistent style across the project.  Here's what I wrote there:

After reading all the preceding discussion here, so beautifully organized and summarized by Michael, it seems that there is a solution (and it's even a very simple one) that should meet the needs of all projects, without creating difficulty for any.

I'd like to suggest a standard for how to name individual components of the category name, rather than one that specifies what these components are.  The standard could specify all possible components with the caveat that not all are required, and would also specify spelling/punctuation/whatever for the components.  For example:

ship name, Departed country date, Arrived country date

Bold italic indicates variables, for which date formats, case usage, etc. would be specified.

Blue and magenta phrases are variables, with specification that either or both may be included (at least one is required).

Gaile, this suggestion basically mirrors the category naming in use now, but also allows for even more variation to be used. I would be opposed to such a variable naming scheme.
I would fully support a variable approach for this category, because I don't think one category structure is going to support all situations.

My main interest in this category is for immigrant ships from England to Australia, and because passengers embarked from at least two or three different ports in England before finally leaving England, it can be difficult to; 1.decide on a sailing date, and 2. actually find that date.

However because ships often brought much needed supplies to the Australian colonies, as well as passengers, the arrival date is much easier to find in both official records and/or newspaper articles.

The current proposal for Australian shipping to use arrival date is very appropriate for the reasons I have given, but I realise that isn't going to suit all countries/situations, hence my preference for allowing a variable category structure.
+4 votes
Thanks Steve for this post. I think that consistency within a project is much more important than consistency across projects, so absolutely support a flexible approach. I personally don't find the 'Sailings by Decade' categories useful, especially as they don't seem to be sorted by geographical area as well. It wouldn't bother me at all if we didn't have the 'Ships by Decade of Launch' and 'Ships by Name' categories. They don't pass the 'relevancy test' IMO.

Not sure if this fully responds to your question - but it's what I've taken from your points.
by Gillian Thomas G2G6 Pilot (114k points)
edited by Gillian Thomas

I personally don't find the 'Sailings by Decade' categories useful, especially as they don't seem to be sorted by geographical area as well. It wouldn't bother me at all if we didn't have the 'Ships by Decade of Launch' and 'Ships by Name' categories. They don't pass the 'relevancy test' IMO.

I agree with this statement. Wikipedia may find it useful to list sailings by decades, or by decades of launch from a encyclopedic standpoint - but these some overly obtuse from a genealogical research perspective.

+2 votes
If how ships and sailings are categorized are based on project then do all sailings need a project?
by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Mach 6 (62.4k points)

Good question. Case in point: I don't think there is a project covering Cornelia here (example based on a family I recently helped with), so it looks like she's stuck in Maintenance for a long time to come.

I have several ships from Scotland but particularly the Gleaner. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Gleaner%2C_sailed_June%2C_1842 It’s kind of a point of pride to be a descendant of someone (like my great grandmother) who came over on the Gleaner who were founders of a Scottish settlement in Illinois. It’s our Mayflower. 

In some way, all sailings would indeed fall under a project, at least geographically speaking. There was a global project proposed a while back (if I remember correctly) for Immigrant Ships, but it did not gain much traction. Perhaps this is something else that could be considered again?
Is Migration[s] considered a  project? There is a Global project. I'm not sure how it works though. Sorry, a bit off topic.
There is no official Migration project. The Global Project is more of a catch-all for those projects who do not active leaders.
I don't see that a global project for immigrant ships would be useful, there is too much disparity between the ships, destinations etc etc.  The project would have to be coordinating with all sorts of other projects that already touch on the subject for a specific region.
+3 votes

Now that the discussion has been opened up to the whole of the Ships/Shipping categories, I am a little concerned that most of the focus so far seems to be on immigrant ships. This is obviously an important sub-category, but one of the other major sub-categories, that of naval ships, does not seem to have been mentioned anywhere in the discussions so far. I have a number of distant relatives who died serving in the Royal Navy, including 3 who were among the 1,415 people who died when HMS Hood was sunk on 24 May 1941 (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:HMS_Hood_(51)), so this is an area that is more relevant to me personally than immigrant ships.

The structure for naval ships clearly needs to be different to that for immigrant ships, as the concept of departure and arrival dates does not make any sense for these categories. More of an issue for naval ships is probably the fact that the same ship names are used for different ships over time. Taking my HMS Hood example, there have been 3 different ships called HMS Hood (according to Wikipedia) - one from 1859-1888, one from 1891-1914 and one from 1918-1941.

If the aim of this post is to come up with a general rule or set of principles that can be applied to all ship categories, the uses for more than just immigrant ships need to be considered.

by Paul Masini G2G6 Mach 6 (68k points)

Military ships really do fall under Project: Military and War. There are only a handful of countries with categories for their navies.

US Military ships (post-1890s) have the [[Category:Ship Name (Designation), Country Navy]] and for ships during a specific war it's [[Category:Ship Name (Designation), Country Navy, War]]. Example: USS Hull (DD-350), United States Navy, World War II. The designation is the hull classification symbol-hull number. DD, in this case, signifies a destroyer ship. Pre-1890s ships for the US Navy would use the launch year. Example:Category: USS Wabash (1855), United States Navy

The UK, Australia, and New Zealand ones have a different way of doing it that I'm not sure I understand (I believe it might be year of launch). Some were set up by the UK Project, which no longer exists. They are difficult to use with the War templates. Example: Category: HMS Foyle (1903).

France seems to be the only other category with a Navy ships category and there is only one ship and its designation is by year of launch.

I think you are bringing up a good point, in case other countries need to create ship categories for their navies (I'm thinking of Germany, specifically, since that project is going to be more active.) 

Perhaps there needs to be some agreed upon standard, depending on the information available. 

Launch dates would work in most cases, but, as the US has done, when things such as hull numbers came into use, those should be used.  Example: Brandenburg (F215), German Navy or SMS Siegfried, Imperial German Navy. (Note:Imperial German Navy has a category, but no ship categories are included in it.

(Note:Edited several times to include more complete information and because I am a little bit nuts about categories. lol)

I didn't have any involvement in setting up the Royal Navy categories, but looking at them they appear to have some similarities to the US system you described. The category for HMS Hood is called HMS Hood (51) because 51 is its pennant number. The pennant number is the UK equivalent of the US hull classification symbol (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennant_number). It looks like standardisation of pennant numbers only happened in about 1910, so before that I think launch year has been used in the same way as the US pre-1890 system.

Sounds like we are on the same page, Paul.

Note: I have now created one ship for Imperial German Navy.
As Nat mentioned, military ships would fall under the Military and War project. When I reassessed the proposal, and the categories in question - I noticed that the parent/intermediary categories were the real issues - as they tried to group all of these landing categories together (Military + Immigrant Ships + Travel Lines + whatever else).

So the intent of this discussion is how we can allow flexibility for individual projects and categories, such as Military Ships and Immigrant Ships, that are all lumped together in the same global structure?
+4 votes

From the perspective of Québécois project, ships by decade does not appear useful to me at all.  By date of launch is moot, we don't necessarily have that data so some would fall by the wayside.  By name is the most appropriate to my mind, although there are people who arrived around the same time where we don't actually know which ship out of a fleet of ships they came on.  

There were yearly fleets of ships going to the colony and returning, very seldom was a single ship sent by itself, probably due to the interminable warfare in this era.  There does not appear to have been that much distinction between ''passenger ships'' and ''military ships'', we have the Carignan-Salières regiment arriving aboard numerous ships along with civilians.  And there are ships whose primary purpose in coming to the colony was fishing or trading, but some of them also had passengers.

So, for my two bits, keep it simple, a category tree running like this:

Ships between France and New France

*Name of ship

**Ship, year of arrival in New France

**Ship, year of departure from New France

The last two may be for the same ship's arrival and return, we know of people who left the colony with departure date and ship name but no data on arrival date in France.

As a note, if the ship's sailing/arrival date is included, I don't see that ships by decade is in any way useful for anybody, search engines will find the years without the extra layer of categories I believe.

by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (238k points)

Great point Danielle! From a genealogical standpoint, most profiles will be (should be?) listed into categories based on passenger lists and other sources of a named ship. I would also imagine that only a handful of people would actually further research the ship itself to get back to when it was built, by whom, etc.

So to verify, you also agree that by Decade and by Date of Launch are overly excessive for categorization, and perhaps the real issues within the existing structure?

definitely agree, by decade and by date of launch are excessive.

I am aware of at least two researchers who delve into Amirauté records in France and publish data on when a ship may have been commissioned, but that can be linked on the ship's category parent page when it exists.

+3 votes

* how is the existence of any category intended to help the person/people using it?

And therein lies a big part of the many variations and opinions.  Different WikiTreers, and sometimes the same wikitreer use these shipping categories for mulitple purposes often depending upon the information to be found in the shipping records for the particular voyages they are interested in.  What's available varies widely with time and part of the world.

For example, I have most often used shipping information in regard to the Danish lines I'm researching.  There I've found that people who knew each other in Denmark or who traveled together on leaving Denmark often settled together or nearby in the United States.  In trying to determine if a Nels Jensen I found in the U.S. was the one I was looking for, the fact that a Fodor Andersen was a passenger on the same ship sailing with the elder sister of my Nels Jensen and that a Fodor Andersen appeared close to a Nels Jensen in the Kansas census 15 years later made it much more likely that I had found the right Nels Jensen in Kansas.  This use doesn't really depend upon any familial relationship between people on the same ship.  Its a clue I would not have been aware of if they had not appeared together.

Another way that I use the information is in looking for groups of people traveling together who may be related.  If I can match a group of people on the same sailing with multiple names appearing in the same household on a Danish census of a particular place, then I may have found a familial relationship in a group of people immigrating and can try to find the family group after arrival in the destination place.

A third use is to help in keeping track of who in a particular sailing group has been added to WikiTree and who still needs to be added.

Add to these different uses that there is likely different information available depending on how I approach shipping. For example, if working from the Danish Emigration database, often the specific ship name is not listed. Dates are given and all the people traveling on the same contract are listed. Also some location information in Denmark is listed. But ship names and arrival dates have to be figured out by correlating with other information like who else traveled on the same date or close contract numbers.  

On the other hand if I'm working from the arrival shipping lists in the United States, ship names and the arrival date are usually available, but its much harder to figure out groupings of passengers into a single party as there are no family groupings or groupings by contract number and usually no information on town of origin or sailing date.

I've also worked with 17th century ships from France to Quebec and they are a whole different kettle of fish in terms of the information available and what can be done with it.  Usually there are no documents like the 19th century shipping lists for arrival in the United States.  We are lucky to find an account of a particular ship's arrival in a letter in the Jesuit Journals sent back to France or a mention that a group of people baptized included a group of men (often listed individually) who arrived on x ship the month before in a priest's report in the church records.  Here the category may eventually help us put together a sort of passenger list from a variety of different documents.

It is still likely that people traveling together were either already related or often later became related by marriages and settled together. But without documents like ship passenger lists with standardized information, its much harder to establish information like firm departure and arrival dates.  We are lucky to figure out a year and maybe a season of the year. But still connecting people to a particular voyage means they knew each other in a fairly small group over a period of many weeks and probably months. Out of this often grew the links of community that lasted into the new settlement and often developed into familial relationships if they did not exist before.

My point is that both the information available and the ways it can be used vary far too much to think that we can mash it all to fit in a particular mold at the landing level where there should be one category for each voyage.  The best we can hope for there is a sort of pattern that puts a lot of elements in an order and grammar type where we can use the available elements to create a category name.  There will be a little bit of a pattern, but it will vary a lot because which elements are available to be part of the landing level category name will vary from voyage to voyage.  Groups of voyages that fit within a particular project are likely to have similar information available and so some projects will be able to define a good landing level pattern for the voyages they work with.  But they likely won't be like the pattern for voyages in other times or parts of the world.

But since we can have multiple paths in the upper category structure and not all the upper paths must be used for each landing category, we can define patterns for paths that lead to landing categories and then use the one landing level that works for each particular voyage based on available information.  There is no reason we cannot have upper paths organized by departure location, arrival location, and time (specific enough to separate different sailings of the same ship and perhaps even specific departure and arrival dates).  If some of the information isn't available for a particular landing category voyage, then that parent path just isn't used for that voyage.  That way, there would be some patterns in the upper level paths but still enough flexibility to handle the variety of information available and the variety of uses to which it is put.

Trying to write guidelines for such flexible structures is difficult.  They either become too vague for many users to understand or they wind up defining so many different patterns that many users get lost in the complexity.  We ran into this problem with the Religious Categories.  But we need to figure out how to describe such flexible patterns because we have many topics in our category tree that don't fit a single pattern for the whole world and all time.  We need to be able to describe in understandable ways patterns with enough variables and flexibility to accommodate the differences that occur around the world and through different centuries.

So perhaps one of the things that needs discussing is how to describe and communicate a category structure pattern with multiple variables that both sketches out a general pattern and perhaps the developed detail for one area and time while still giving guidance but leaving room for variation as other areas and times are developed later.

ago by Mary Jensen G2G6 Mach 8 (82.3k points)
Thanks Mary! Appreciate your comments.

My point is that both the information available and the ways it can be used vary far too much to think that we can mash it all to fit in a particular mold at the landing level where there should be one category for each voyage. 

Agreed, which is why this post is not about landing level categories.

But since we can have multiple paths in the upper category structure and not all the upper paths must be used for each landing category, we can define patterns for paths that lead to landing categories and then use the one landing level that works for each particular voyage based on available information.

Which is a major part of the discussion I was looking to start with this post.

If some of the information isn't available for a particular landing category voyage, then that parent path just isn't used for that voyage.

This method will present some serious issues and often lead to duplicate categories. We have seen this a few times already in the Penn Fleet and Australia Immigrants categories since not all expected parent/intermediary categories were being used.

The discussion, as I see it, should be looking at codifying the upper level categories and leaving the flexibility needed at the landing level. That would mean no additional category name variables, and no additional upper level categories causing further segregation of data.

I just don't see any way to fill in all the parent paths when some of the necessary information just is not available for some voyages.

And as we learned with the religious categories, it is unrealistic to expect users to do much research to find the needed information for the proper/expected parent category paths.

Together these two issues make it very difficult, if not impossible, to define a uniform pattern of parent paths that cover the entire globe and all the time span covered by WikiTree without allowing users the option of leaving some of the parent paths empty or unused.
0 votes

For a couple of years I’ve tried to understand the process to get some changes to the ways ships and voyages are managed.  

I’ve always believed their should be a subcategory for each voyage under the name of the ship.  I wanted the format for that subcategory to be Shipname, sailed dd Mon yyyy, arrived dd Mon yyyy. If we have the voyage listed as Shipname, sailed dd Mon yyyy as well as Shipname, arrived dd Mon yyyy then we have duplicate work as we could find some passengers in one list and others in the other list.  The purpose of a voyage or sailings category was to list together all the passengers and crew on a particular voyage.

I have profiles for immigrants as well as for crew and captains so I often look for the ship and then look through the list of voyages for that ship in order to select the right voyage.

There are hundreds if not thousands of voyage categories on WikiTree listed as Shipname, sailed... 

The Australia project has just been given approval to use Shipname, Arrived dd Mon yyyy.  

I’ve been fixing those subcategories under “Shipping” as this category had been used solely for Australian voyages and doesn’t fit into the new Australian hierarchy for voyages to Australia.  This “Shipping” category will be deleted when I’ve complete this exercise.  For me shipping is about the companies not voyages.  

Trying to find lists of ships has been difficult.  It eventually goes up to Maritime which for some reason is under World History which seems to act as a general category.  I believe Maritime needs to be a top level category under Categories.

I believe we need a global standard for voyages. Having some as “sailed on” in their various formats and others as “arrived on” is confusing.  Also the Australian standard for arrived on follows the Wikitree standard with capital A for arrived, whereas the other existing voyages are using lowercase s for Sailed.

If we could set a standard for the voyages, which is where most people will add a profile to then each project should be able to set their own higher level project specific categories.

Each voyage should link up to the ship eg Shipname (launch year).  

The hierarchy above that should be set globally and I believe Ships by Name is important.  This could then point directly to Maritime.

As my profiles for ships crews and masters often give me info on the fact they were on a certain voyage, it’s nice to be able to search for other ships they may have transferred to.  My grandfather worked for State Ships of Western Australia so to have a list of those makes it easier to locate the names of the ships he was on.

I like the comments below that stated as a standard for voyage categories. 

ship nameDeparted country dateArrived country date

These then go up to:

Ship (yyyy)

Immigration from country, or state

Immigration to country, or state

and any other project specific categories that a project deems valuable

ago by Deborah Talbot G2G6 Mach 4 (41.9k points)
I think you might be working too quickly on this. We were going to discuss the ship name and date thing and if there should be parentheses or not.
Thanks Natalie,

I have been working closely with Margaret on the Australian Voyage categories through the Australia Projects team.

I’ve been on the wider Categorisation team for over a year but don’t get any of the emails related to the discussion on the broader shipping categories.  Is there a private group discussing this as I would like to be included in that discussion.


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