Old coastal boat records finding new life

By Leslie Vryenhoek | July 26, 2007

The Maritime History Archive is working with the Railway Coastal Museum in St. John’s to create a searchable database of all the employees who worked on coastal boats. These boats carried passengers to outport communities along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador before confederation, and played an essential role in travel and trade.

Memorial student Matthew O'Connell, hired by the museum, is working on the project at the Maritime History Archive. There, he’s using the archive’s crew agreement and log book collection as his main source for the database he’s building.

“Putting information in digital form is very important for preserving the records for future researchers,” he says, adding that the database will offer accurate, individual details about those who worked on the marine coastal vessels, including their ages, birthplaces, occupations, dates of service on the boats and rates of pay. He believes the records will be of interest to academic and family researchers as well as others.

Last summer, his first with the Railway Coastal Museum, Mr. O’Connell created a similar database of all the employees who worked on the trains that once ran in the province. 

Maritime History Archive director Heather Wareham says this is another example of how the archive’s unique collections can serve community interests. She hopes, in future, to also make the coastal boat crew agreements available electronically to the public. 


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