The twilight of sail  

Welcome to CLIP - the Crew List Index Project

CLIP is a not-for-profit volunteer project, set up to assist research into the records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Over the last twenty years we have worked with hundreds of people and many archives around the world to make the largest database of seafarers' records and provide unique resources which are widely used by maritime researchers.

Welcome to the new CLIP web site - we hope you like it.

If you've used this site before, everything is still here, with some additions. We hope it is more accessible, especially on tablet computers.

If you're new to this site, please take your time to look around. We've tried to make it as simple and clear as possible, but the records of seafarers are a complicated story.

We'd welcome any feedback and suggestions - there's a link to our contact details on the menu bar above.

The site provides information about the records of British seafarers and ships, and access to the CLIP maritime database:

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Information icon  Records of seafarers

British seafarers of the late 19th and early 20th century are the best documented workers that there have ever been - millions of documents survive, recording in detail the crews of a hundred thousand ships. Finding records of individuals in this huge resource can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding when a wealth of detail about their lives is revealed. We explain how the systems worked and how to go about research.

There is one snag - the huge pile of records has no index (that's the point of CLIP). We explain what indexes are available and how to use them.

British shipping, at that time the largest merchant fleet in the world, is also well documented and we explain how to access those records too.

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Data icon  CLIP databases

CLIP databases provide a range of indexes and finding aids to help your research. We've divided them into three sections: People, Ships and Documents

For more detail on our data and the sources we have used, please click here:  CLIP data

Each of the pages has its own set of notes (linked from a button top-right) to explain where the data came from and any points to look out for when using it.

CLIP icon  About CLIP

CLIP is run by Pete and Jan Owens as a not-for-profit volunteer project. It started from trying to trace the sea-going career of Pete's great-grandfather, who ran away to sea in the 1860s. Depending on your point of view, the project either grew a life of its own, or got out of hand.

With our small band of volunteers from around the world, and with the help of many archivists, we have:

  • Transcribed and checked nearly 1,000,000 (one million) entries from crew lists.
  • Provided the facilities for the transcription of a further 750,000 entries by The National Archives (TNA) and the National Maritime Museum (NMM).
  • Made over 63,000 images of crew list documents.
  • Transcribed 57,000 entries of foreign-going masters and mates from the records in BT 124 at TNA
  • Made the first complete record of British registered ships, from 1855 to the 1950s, with 200,000 entries from the Appropriation Books at RSS in Cardiff.
  • Compiled a further 470,000 records of ships from the Mercantile Navy List, making the largest database of British registered ships of the era.
  • Set up a site giving access to images of 40 editions of the Mercantile Navy List - both our own images and sets from the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland, (with their kind permission).
  • Made the first full transcription from the shipping registers for a group of ports.
  • Set up this site which is widely used as a single resource for researchers into maritime records.

We have now completed all the transcription projects that we manage. We have no plans to do more, but that is not the end of CLIP.

We are currently providing database and transcription facilities for projects at The National Archives, Glamorgan Archives and Portsmouth City Archives. We are continuing to add to this site, in particular the images of the Mercantile Navy List and data on the locations of documents.

None of what CLIP has achieved would have been possible without the kind assistance of many people. We are glad to list them on our acknowledgements page:

NB! We are delighted to help with advice about finding records (that's what CLIP and this web site is all about) but please do not ask us to do your research for you - all the data we have is either on this site or for sale via findmypast and we'd like you to have the fun of doing the research.

Sorry, we do not carry out privately commissioned research.

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