Looking for a topic this morning, I managed to both confirm a family legend and stumble upon a fantastic resource. One of my older relatives had held that our mutual ancestor was a riverboat captain. I was always a little vague as to the name, but this morning I finally found the census listing that sent me in the right direction. The ancestor's occupation was listed as "captain river packet." Doing a little more digging, I found Mystic Seaport's Connecticut Ships Database (http://library.mysticseaport.org/initiative/CuCustoms.cfm).
Started as a transcript of a WPA project, the Connecticut Ships Database lists most of the ships registered with the U.S. Customs Office between 1789 and 1939. The database is searchable by vessel name, a person's name, or company name. If you enter an individual's name, you will be provided with a list of all ships with which they were involved. In my case, that meant a list of three ships - separated by his status (either owner or master). You can then click on the ship's name to get a detailed description of the ship, including all owners and masters.
So thanks to my blog, I now that my ancestor worked riverboats for his early 20s. He owned one ship on his own and later worked for a relative. I love proving family stories!