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.

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

Welcome to the CLIP web site

The CLIP site provides information and data about the records of British merchant seafarers, mainly from 1863 to 1913. Even after twenty years of work by ourselves and others, the millions of entries transcribed are only a small sample of the huge volume of crew documents scattered across many archives. This site is designed to help you to find records of a merchant seafarer, either from our data, or from other data sites, or by helping you find the original documents so that you can order copies.

The site also provides information and data about the records of British merchant shipping with records of every British registered ship from 1855 to the 1950s - all 200,000 of them. The data is focussed on tracking down crew lists, but we provide other resources, such as indexed images of the Mercantile Navy List, as well as a comprehensive set of links to other sites.

If you need help, we're glad to assist. Please note that we do not do privately commissioned research, not at any price - we'd like you to have the fun. If you have hit a snag, please first read carefully through the details on this site. We've spent a lot of time trying to make it as clear and helpful as possible. However, we know that the records of ships and seafarers are a complicated tale and if you really are stuck, do please get in touch. We enjoy dealing with awkward questions; we don't think there is such a thing as a silly question, and we often learn something along the way. We'll do our best to advise. Oh, and if we've helped, a thank-you is appreciated!

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

Pete and Jan Owens

Navigation down arrow icon

Information icon  Records of seafarers and ships

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.

We have added some case studies to illustrate research into records of seafarers and ships.

Navigation down arrow icon

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.

The aim of CLIP is simple - to improve access to the records of seafarers on British registered ships of the late 19th and early 20th century.

We do this by making available information about the records, and providing data drawn from crew lists and agreements. Alongside that we provide data and image sets relating to British registered ships aimed at assisting researchers to finding their crew documents.

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 the Mercantile Navy List - both our own images and sets from the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland, (with their kind permission). The coverage from 1857 to 1939 now only lacks two years.
  • Made the first full transcription from the shipping registers for a group of ports.
  • Discovered the basis of a vital link in the records of seafarers from 1845 to 1854 - the port rotation numbers. We worked with an Australian researcher, Peter Hamersley, to make data available online, easing access to the records of 500,000 seafarers.
  • Set up this site which is widely used as a resource for researchers into maritime records.

We have now completed all the transcription projects that we manage. We have no plans to organise more ourselves, but that is far from the end of CLIP.

We are continuing to add to this site, in particular the images of the Mercantile Navy List and Olsen's Almanack together with 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.

Navigation up arrow