These records will be useful to family members wishing to learn about the whaling careers of their ancestors. They will also be useful to scholars of the arts of the whaling industry. They will provide raw data which can be studied by sociologists and anthropologists researching the whaling industry as well as immigration patterns of the residents of the city.
This list represents only men who left New Bedford on whaling voyages. It does not include whatever happened after the ship left New Bedford. Occasionally there is added information about desertions or deaths, but these are hit or miss records the chaplain probably read in the newspaper and added to his files. It does not include men who signed on in the Azores or Cape Verde. Their names only appear if they later left New Bedford on another voyage. The list shows what Melville picturesquely noted, that persons from all around the world passed through New Bedford. In all, there were men from 33 states and two territories in the United States represented, as well as men from more than 100 nations or islands worldwide.
The original Customs documents were handwritten. The Port Society records were handwritten transcriptions of the Customs documents. The valiant volunteers who entered the data were reading and interpreting second-generation handwritten records.The original records were written down by Customs officers who were not particularly familiar with the spelling of names, and often the seamen themselves, were not certain how to spell their names. The Customs agent wrote down what he heard. Therefore, the records present a need for creative interpretation in their use. One can assume that Cape de Birds is yet one more variation in the 8 or 9 ways of spelling of the Cape Verde Islands. The city of Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson River, a whaling port in its own right for a short while, appears in about as many spelled versions as there are letters in that city's name. Because of these difficulties in recording and writing names, a person's name may appear with a spelling that is different from the family's spelling today, or may appear with more than one spelling on successive voyages.