Isle of Man Shipping Registers

In 2008, with the support of the Manx Heritage Foundation, CLIP made images of the shipping registers and other documents held by the Manx National Heritage Library in Douglas. From these, we made a complete transcript of the documents, down to the level of individual transactions - we think this is the first complete transcription of shipping registers for any group of ports.

These notes provide extra detail and background drawn from our experience with that project.

Ports of registry

The ports of registry for the Isle of Man were:

The earliest surviving documents relating to the centralised system of registration are the transcripts at TNA, which date from 1818 for all the ports, and these are detailed below.

The registers for the 19th century and the early 20th century are held by the Manx National Heritage Library. A list is shown here.

Missing registers

At least two of the registers appear to be missing: that for Peel for 1849 to 1864, and there are no shipping registers for Ramsey after 1855.

For Peel we have not made a detailed investigation, but some of the evidence as to what occurred is as follows:

For Ramsey, the series of registers ends in 1855.

Fortunately, there are two volumes of Shipping Returns, covering the period from 1844 to 1901. These include annual (though not every year) lists of the ships registered at the port, and notes written across the lists, some of which show the previous registry of newly registered ships and the ultimate fate for most ships. Unfortunately, there is no information about ownership, masters and transactions. However, in combination with the Appropriation Books and crew list transcriptions, it is possible to reconstruct the bare bones of the register, at least as far as the history of the ships is concerned. This reconstruction has been included with the rest of the registers, but information from it should be used with caution. We have not attempted to include details such as dimensions and ownership - these are available from copies of the Mercantile Navy List.

Later documents

The later Manx shipping registers are held by the Isle of Man Ship Registry.

They hold the following documents for the period up to about 1990:

Port Dates Register
Castletown1948-2004Shipping Register
Douglas1902-1988Fishing Vessels (Part 3)
Douglas1910-1991Shipping Register
Douglas1970-1979Shipping Register
Douglas1980-1983Shipping Register
Douglas1986Shipping Register
Douglas1986-1987Shipping Register
Douglas1987-1988Shipping Register
Douglas1988-1989Shipping Register
Douglas1989-1990Shipping Register
Douglas, Castletown, Ramsey, PeelMixed YearsShipping Register
Douglas, Castletown, Ramsey, PeelMixed years 1967-2006Shipping Register
Douglas, Castletown, Ramsey, PeelMixed years 1970-2006Shipping Register
Douglas, Castletown, Ramsey, PeelMixed years 1975-2006Shipping Register
Peel1912-1964Shipping Register
Peel1976-1987Shipping Register
Peel1987-1993Shipping Register
Peel1936-1975Fishing Vessels
Peel1975-1988Fishing Vessels
Ramsey1855-1946Fishing Vessels (Part 3)
Ramsey1902-1982Fishing Vessels (Part 3)
Ramsey1947-2004Shipping Register

Our thanks to The Isle of Man Ship Registry for this information.

Registration of shipping continues on the island, run by The Isle of Man Ship Registry which operates the Isle of Man Ship Register (part of the British Register), which is used by many large companies, including BP Shipping, who have registered 50 ships in the island.

Records at The National Archives

As mentioned above, transcripts of register entries and transactions were returned to the Registrar General of Shipping and these are now held at TNA. This provides an alternative copy of the existing registers and fills in the gaps for the earlier years and missing documents.
 
For the earliest years, the TNA references for Manx ports are:
 
TNA reference Year Port Numbers
BT 107/4721818Derbyhaven1 - 4
Douglas1 - 12
Peel1 - 9
Ramsey1 - 11
BT 107/4741819Douglas6 - 9
Peel1 - 6
Ramsey1 - 12
BT 107/4751819Derbyhaven1 - 4
Douglas1 - 5
BT 107/4771820Derbyhaven1 & 2
Douglas1 - 7
Peel1 - 5
Ramsey1
BT 107/4791821Derbyhaven1 & 2
Douglas1 - 10
Peel1 - 7
BT 107/4811822Derbyhaven1 - 9
Douglas1 - 13
Peel1 - 7
Ramsey1 - 5
BT 107/4831823Derbyhaven1 - 11
Douglas1 - 5
Peel1 - 6
Ramsey1 - 8

Two official numbers

Official numbers were supposed to be unique, but the Isle of Man registers contain the only instance that we have come across of a ship gaining two official numbers. The Sage, which was registered Peel, 3/1867 with official number 49797 was sold to owners in County Cork. She was then registered at Skibbereen 9/1881 as a first registration with the same name. She was given a second official number, 68650, according to an entry in the Peel shipping register and the central Appropriation Books confirm the entries. The mistake appears to have escaped the notice (and wrath) of the central authorities.

CLIP transcription and indexes for the Isle of Man shipping registers

Methodology

Images were made of all the shipping registers using a digital SLR camera under ambient lighting in the searchroom of MNHL and stored as .tiff files, using two separate images for each folio. Apart from the improved quality of using two images, this allowed us to deal with some of the earlier volumes where the entries for a ship are on the front and back of the same folio, rather than on facing pages as in the later registers.

Copies of the images have been compressed in .jpg format and written to a single DVD. A copy of this and of the original images have been deposited at Manx National Heritage Library.

Transcription

The register entries were transcribed onto a custom MS-Access database, with both the image and the database on the computer screen at the same time. The database has a single front-end, but separate data files for each register. The database system will work for the registers of any port, and we'd be happy to discuss licensing it (for free) with anyone who would be interested in using it elsewhere.

Transcription was carried out according to the same protocols that have been used for all CLIP transcription. These include:

Transcription quality

Both main transcribers have long experience of transcription from documents of this period, particularly maritime documents. However, it should be noted we do not have a native's knowledge of Manx surnames and place names, though we had previously transcribed extensively from crew lists of Manx vessels. Our checking procedures included:

Experience in using these procedures with similar databases has produced assessed error rates of less than 0.1% for individual data items and we have no reason to think that this data is different.

That means that there are still likely to be some errors in the data, for which we apologise. Please tell us about them, so that we can make corrections.

Indexes

The data on this site is a union of the data from all of the shipping registers, with index files for surnames and ship's names.

The data shown in the transcripts and indexes is essentially 'as transcribed' particularly in relation to information about people's names and the ships' details. However, to improve the presentation, we have added small amounts of text which is generated within the database. In describing the transaction types, for example, we have used standard text such as 'Died, leaving xxx shares to " which is close to, but not necessarily a transcript of, the phrases the registrars used. Where other notes are added, these will usually be direct quotes, as described above. In the few rare cases where we have added our own notes of explanation, [these are in square brackets].

Further research

We are far from completing every task with the maritime records of the Isle of Man.

We'd suggest that any of the following could be usefully undertaken:

We are aware that the Manx National Heritage Library has plans to present the records and data they hold in an imaginative way. The Isle of Man is uniquely well placed in respect of maritime records of this period, with excellent data sets from crew lists, shipping records and wrecks, together with a large photo archive. This presents an excellent opportunity to present interlinked data sets to researchers. We know that plans are afoot and we await developments with interest.

Acknowledgements

We're glad to thank everyone who has helped us with this project.

The staff of the Manx National Heritage Library were unfailingly helpful in making facilities available for the photography, in producing document after document, and in providing friendly advice and encouragement. Many thanks to Roger Sims, Alan Franklin, Wendy Thirkettle, Jude Dicken and their colleagues.

Thanks to Adrian Corkill, who was partially responsible for instigating the project and who has provided welcome assistance with transcribing and checking some of the data, and with retaking some of the images. We hope this data will be a useful complement to his book Shipwrecks of the Isle of Man.

We are also extremely grateful to the Manx Heritage Foundation, who provided significant funding for the project, enabling us to spend the time necessary to get a good set of images and to develop the custom database.

Thanks also to the staff of the Isle of Man Ship Registry for information about the registers they hold.

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