If you are researching anything related to ships, vessels, schooners, shipbuilders - anything at all of this nature, the Mystic Seaport has incredible online databases, not to mention, of course - the availability of research at the Museum, with the help of professional researchers.
That was a mouthful. Thanks to Bonnie Ayers D'Orlando, the assistant curator of the Nahant Historical Society (Nahant, MA.) who directed me to this valuable resource, I was able to locate and verify the origins and builder of a ship, the "Sea Lion," that wrecked off Simmons Point, Nahant, Mass. in 1864, containing several of my ancestors from Rockland, Maine.
I had written to NHS after finding a death record for a father and son of my Henderson family, who both died the same day. One of their records mentioned "died at sea, Simmons Point, Nahant, Mass." I thought -- why not send of an email and just ask if they had any knowledge of shipwrecks near Nahant in 1864. All I was expecting back, was a simple "yes" or "no," or...honestly - maybe nothing at all - historical societies are overwhelmed by queries: this I know.
After a week, they wrote to me with detailed information leading me to locate the Lynn, Mass vital records for that time frame, deaths of 1864, which specifically included mention of this actual shipwreck and 4 of the 6 people lost! One of them listed was my ancestor. And I'm pretty sure one of the two men not listed was his father.
NHS also suggested I try the Mystic Seaport Collection to see if I could dig up further information about the ship which I now knew to be the "Sea Lion." Sure enough, I was able to locate the builder and master, John F. Harden - of Rockland, Maine - exactly where my ancestors hailed from, all sailors and master mariners, to a man. Apparently this ship was loaded with stone (limestone quarries being one of Rockland's main industries, which was shipped to cities such as Boston and Washington, D.C. to make some of the most famous landmark buildings of those cities.) Everything I was finding served to confirm my belief that this was indeed the ship on which they met their demise.
Take a "trip" to the online database at Mystic Seaport. Just seeing what they have available there opens up new avenues of possible explorations. For instance, they have listings of immigrant vessels; and detailed listings of ship's name, their exact specifications, and what they were used for.
And even more exciting, they actually have hand-written manuscripts published in their online database. I was able to find many many letters written to John F. Harden in the 1870's, pertaining to his various ships. No mention of the Sea Lion, but interesting, nonetheless.