SCI launches digital collection of seafarer records

Nov 22, 2018

Americans with descendants who worked as sailors in the first half of the 20th century soon will have an easier time finding information on them. On this Thanksgiving Day, the Seamen's Church Institute posts census data collected from 1915 through 1940 on its new digital archives platform.

These census reports identify the 3,323 men who resided at the Seamen's Church Institute's iconic New York City headquarters, which stood at 25 South Street from 1913 until 1967. They can be found on the website of the Seamen's Church Institute's archives http://seamenschurch-archives.org/collections/show/24

Beyond providing employment, financial, medical, and recreation services, 25 South Street’s main attraction was cheap room and board for sailors. The iconic 13-story building located in the heart of the city’s sailortown in lower Manhattan contained 528 dormitory rooms for sailors in port, whether in-between voyages or “on the beach” for a longer period of time. These census records represent a unique and intimate view inside the Institute, and they provide valuable data on the makeup of New York’s sailor population from 1915-1940.

SCI’s Archives team is tapping a Maritime Heritage Grant project funded by the National Park Service to further digitize its archives and make them accessible online. In addition to census records, the archives include images, publications, and oral histories that collectively document the maritime history of New York and beyond.