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Enrollments Data Base

Our collection includes the U.S. Customs Service Great Lakes Vessel Enrollment Records listing for the period 1815 through 1915. The enrollment microfilms were purchased by WMHS from the National Archives thanks to the generous donations of our members. The database has over 40,000 records for 24,000 vessels. There is more than one record image per ship issued as it changed owners, ports, name, characteristics, or left registration at the Customs House. Over the next year we will add 20,000 vessels and probably 29,000 records for the period 1915 to 1956, when the Coast Guard took over "documenting " vessels. At present we have over $75,000.00 invested in the purchase of the microfilm from the National Archives and in payments to have the microfilm transcribed and indexed. We anticipate an additional $30,000.00 will be needed to complete the project. When complete WMHS will have the only complete set of microfilm copies of the existing National Archives Great Lakes Enrollment records. The Customs Service noted any changes in ownership, tonnage, rebuilding or other status to the vessel and issued a revised document. The Society's Online Enrollment Data Base Index enables tracking the history of the vessel just by tracing its name.

The Wisconsin Marine Historical Society does not charge for providing information about the holdings. It does charge to provide information from the holdings. The online index does not contain all the information shown on the actual enrollment. We are constantly adding to the online enrollment data base index and suggest you look at the index if you know the vessel and dates involved. You may then order copies of the selected vessel enrollment microfilm image from WMHS (by selected vessel name and record date) as described on these pages.

The actual enrollment microfilm may list:

When and where built Tonnage
Characteristics of the ship (masts, galley, figurehead)
Official number
Type of vessel
Names and name changes
Homeport, Port of Registry
Date, place, reason out of documentation
Enrollment Date?
The WMHS website includes a searchable index to the vessel ENROLLMENT microfilm. WMHS completed a joint venture with the Great Lakes Shipwreck Foundation (GLSRF) in October 2001 to place the WMHS enrollment index behind a powerful search engine. GLSRF generously provided programming, data conversion and ongoing web hosting for the WMHS Enrollment Index at no cost as part of its Grant Program. The Online Enrollment Index Database will return the results for the first 50 matching vessels. The search criteria may be entered in any or all of the fields below:
  • Vessel Name (First, Last or Both)
  • Official Number
  • Vessel Type
  • Gross Tonnage (+/- 10 gt.)
  • Place Built
  • Year Built
  • Enrollment Port
  • Enrollment Date (Year and Month)

If we have the vessel, there will be a small fee for the enrollment copy. We have only Great Lakes vessels on the database - no salties.

In addition to the Enrollments database, we have the following with much more information: Canadian Great Lakes Vessels data base, Coast Guard documentation Records database, Milwaukee Public Library Vessel Files data base and the Runge Vessel Index Card Data Base. We also have access to the Milwaukee Public Library's 11,000 Great Lakes Vessel files (1679-1995), which include a data card on each vessel and 21,000 + photos, copies of many of the Blue Book of American Shipping, Red Books, Shipmasters Assoc. Directory, Beesons (Sailors) Marine Hand Book, Marine Reviews, Inland Seas, Marine News, Biographies of prominent Owners, Captains/Masters, vessel log book collection and the MPL index to the1837 - 1890 Milwaukee Sentinel Index..

Send us e-mail at wmhs@execpc.com or call us at 414-286-3074 for more information.

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Wisconsin Marine Historical Society
814 West Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233-2385
phone 414.286.3074
email info@wmhs.org