Excellent records of British merchant shipping and crews have survived. They provide a rich resource which can be used to paint a vivid picture of life at
sea in Victorian times. If you have some experience of researching into family, maritime or local history, these records provide a good next challenge.
The CLIP site is designed to help you to do that. This page sets out what the site can and can't do, explains some key facts
and provides a few pointers on how to start.
This is not simple! Please take your time, read our information and be patient and persistent.
Are you in the right place?
Have you got the right country? CLIP is about seafarers on British registered ships, which include the ships of the former British colonies such as Australia and Canada.
Have you got the right navy? CLIP deals only with merchant ships, not the Royal Navy.
Have you got the right time period? CLIP covers seafarers from 1835 to 1945 (concentrating on the period from 1861 to 1913) and ships from the 1830s to the 1950s.
What does the CLIP site provide?
Information about the original documents and how to find them.
Data about some individual seafarers and all British registered ships.
Images of key reference documents.
Links to external sites which provide more information and data.
Background reference material.
What does the CLIP site not provide?
Quick and easy answers The records are complicated and scattered across over seventy archives. There is guidance on this site to help you with your own research.
Transcriptions and images of every document There are millions of documents and only a small percentage have been digitised by CLIP or anyone else.
A research service We concentrate on providing this site to help you do your own research, though we're happy to help if you get really stuck.
Information and data about passengers.
If you are new to this subject, the information pages
give you further information. It's worth studying these pages carefully; it's a complicated subject.
There are also links below to some of the main data and image pages - each page has a set of notes to explain more about the data set or images.
General information about crew lists.
Finding seafarers on crew lists when you know the name of the ship they sailed on.
Records of seafarers pre-1861.
Records of seafarers post-1913.
Finding seafarers when you do not know the name of the ship they sailed on.
Search CLIP data for seafarer’s names in crew lists, 1861-1913.
General information about records of ships.
Finding ships by name, official number or port.
The Appropriation Books were the central record of ships' official numbers. Use them to find basic details of the ship's first registration.
The Mercantile Navy List was the annual list of British ships afloat at that time. Use them to trace the details of a
ship, including changes of name, port of registry and/or ownership.
The documents held at local archives are shown here.
The documents for ports of registry are shown here.
These case studies help to show how it all works.
These are some frequently asked questions.
If you can't find what you want, try the site index.