A Quick Research Dive, #1

I love doing research.

Specifically, I love doing random, no-stress research in which I pick a random topic, a random date range, and a random location, and do a quick dive using newspaper databases and online archives.

In this series, I’ll be doing quick dives that will, more likely than not, unintentionally turn into deeper dives.

Other research dives can be found under the tag ‘Quick Dive.’

Suggested sources

I suggest saving up and investing in a subscription to Newspapers.com (not sponsored but….hey, Newspapers.com hmu) if you conduct newspaper-based research frequently.

But if that’s not an option, never fear!: you can get similar results using plain ol’ Google, or the Library of Congress’ digital collections database.

I always suggest checking out your local library system for resources –libraries helped make me who I am today and I urge you to support your local branch because they do incredible work.

Also Wikipedia: while I prefer working with primary sources, Wikipedia can be incredibly useful in getting a rundown on the whos, whys, and whatfors of a topic, as well as providing a bibliography of suggested further resources to peruse.

Step 1. Pick a Line of Inquiry

I’m interested in…Popular belief in ghosts in 1800s Maine

Step 2. Choose Search Terms (Newspaper.com)

  1. “phantom ship” “Maine” “1800-1850”
    1. Duplicates of same result from Bangor Daily Whig and Courier about new book of same name by Capt. Marryat(t) in 1839
  1. “ghost” “Maine” “1800-1850”
    1. Literary use in published story, embellished tale for emphasis
    1. Feb 10 1838 reference to Vermont congressman looking like “ghost of Hamlet’s father”
    1. May 24 1842 “Ghost of Franklin” (Benjamin) referenced in abuse of press
    1. Oct 21 1837 “ghost of the United States Bank”
  2. “ghost sighting” “Maine” “1800-1950”
    1. Oct 7 1886 abandoned ship off Cape Sable –Florida? Nova Scotia?
The Fisherman's Life: A Crew Adrift in their Dories. St. John, N.B., Oct. 6. The Norwegian bark Chapman, which arrived here yesterday, reports sighting, on Wednesday morning last, an unknown 150 ton American fishing schooner, anchored in thick weather, about 30 miles east of Cape Sable. All of her crew, save three, had gone out in dories the day before and had not returned. It is supposed the men in the dories have made for the shore.
from the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Oct 7 1866. (from Newspapers.com)
  1. “ghost” “Maine” “1800-1950”
    1. May 27 1895 ghost sighting report from Kansas City

Step 3. Narrow In

Deeper investigation into item from Oct 7 1886 –missing schooner

  1. Wide net on Newspapers.com:
    1. “sighting schooner” “Maine” “1800-1950”
      1. Apr 9 1949 missing schooner with family of 4 found off West Indies
  2. Turn to trusty Google for wider results:
    1. From “The Nautical Magazine,” Vol. 56 (p 258): “Sulina,” built Hebburn-on-Tyne, Mr. W.S. Bailey, stranded off Cape Sable, N(ova) S(cotia), Nov 23 1866 ; inquiry Feb 7 1887 stranded due to failure to avoid heavy tide
  3. Back to Newspapers.com:
    1. “sulina schooner” “1886” (no location specified)
      1. Nov 25 1886 NY Times dispatch out of Boston about steamer Sulina stranded off Cape Sable, N.S.; Capt. Potter; ship abandoned, cargo requires divers to save, insured $75,000; crew safe
      1. Dec 2 1886 misc item in St. John Weekly News (KS)
      1. Mar 3 1886 foreign arrivals listing for Salina in Morning Post (London)
      1. Dec 2 1886 (Thur.) Partridge Cricket (KS) Sulina from Antwerp bound for Boston, struck shoal 2p.m. Tues., abandoned and taking on water; gale reported Tues night; consigned to Christopher Furness of Boston, iron topsail, 301 ft
      1. Nov 25 1886 Leeds Mercury (Leeds) quick item about wreck
      1. Dec 2 1886 Abilene Weekly Reflector (KS) quick item

Step 4. Cut Off Before You Spend Six Straight Hours Digging Too Deeply

Look at where you started versus where you ended up:

  • Popular belief in ghosts in 1800s Maine TO Stranded schooner off Nova Scotia

How’d I get there?:

  • “phantom” à “ghost” à “ghost sighting” à “sighting” à “schooner sighting”
    • Keyword turning point: “sighting”
  • Stay open to going off on tangents!
    • You can learn a lot from context, from details included and omitted in certain articles.

Have a topic you’d like me to do a quick dive into? Have a research inquiry of your own you’d like to tell me about?
Send it to me using the contact page, or at rea.jottednotes@gmail.com

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