Crew list indexes

If you have no details of the ships that a seafarer sailed on, you will need to rely on indexes.

There is no single index anywhere for this period, and probably never will be. However, there is some hope - many indexes do exist as you can see below.

Where data is available online, we provide a link. A (£) symbol means you will have to pay for the data.

This page details:

People icon CLIP indexes

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People icon  Maritime History Archive databases and CD-ROM

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People icon  Indexes at local record offices

Several local archives have indexes of seamen from the crew lists and agreements they hold. The format varies - card indexes, printed, or as part of the catalogue. Some ROs have indexes of masters and owners only. Unfortunately, many online indexes at archives work through catalogue systems that are best described as nomadic and user-hostile.

It's worth searching all of them because seafarers often sailed on ships registered in other parts of Britain, not just their own home port. The table below shows the record offices which have at least partial indexes.

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People icon  Indexes on-line

The following web sites have databases of seafarer's names:

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People icon  Seamen's tickets after 1913

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People icon  Indexes at The National Archives

If the seafarer was (or might have been) a Master, Mate or Engineer, search at The National Archives (TNA) in the registers of certificates (BT 122 - BT 130 and BT 138), Lloyds Captains’ Register and Engineers’ certificates registers (BT 139 - BT 142). However, many officers did not have certificates.

As mentioned above, the original copies of Lloyd's Captain's Register are held at London Metropolitan Archives. The volumes have been indexed and some are available online They have an information leaflet about the registers here.

If the death is recorded, it may be possible to obtain a certificate of death from the General Register Office (GRO) - see below.

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People icon  Census indexes

British censuses were taken every tenth year from 1801, but the names of individuals were only recorded from 1841. Crews of vessels were included from 1851 using special enumeration forms. Only ships which were in a British port on the night of the census were included, though from 1861 arrangements were made to include ships which were at sea in the home trade, Ships in a foreign port on that night were not enumerated.

The complete story is more complicated. Edward Higgs' guide to the census take four pages to describe it. (E. Higgs, Making Sense of the Census Revisited, London, Institute of Historical Research, 2005, ISBN: 300100396X, pp.48-52)

Indexes of British census returns from 1851 to 1911 are available online from various genealogical publishers including FindMyPast (£), Ancestry (£) and The Genealogist (£).

If you have an image of a census return for the ship, be sure to look for the ship's official number, which will help in finding other records, particularly crew lists. This information may be on a separate page. Unfortunately, FindMyPast images do not include this page.

The ship's port of registry is also useful information (ie her "Port or place to which she belongs", not the port at which the enumeration was made).

For details of the census returns for ships from a historian's perspective, see Dr Valerie Burton's paper here.

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People icon  General Register Office indexes

The General Register Office (GRO) has recorded births, marriages and deaths from 1837 including events at sea, which were reported to the Registrar General with varying efficiency.

They were entered into registers similar (but not identical) to those now held at The National Archives which has a leaflet setting out the details.

The indexes show the age at death and the ship's name (but not her official number) from 1875 onwards.

You can find out more about these records at FindMyPast (£) and look up various indexes. There is a charge for viewing the index images.

Death certificates, which are copies of the register entries (and could therefore include details such as the ship's official number), can be obtained by fax, phone, post or online from the General Register Office.

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People icon  If all else fails ...

If all indexes fail, you can only search through all the records for a particular port or ship which may have links to the seafarer. This is not recommended. You may be inspired to start making your own index - if you do, let us know!

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