CLIP data

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The CLIP data sets are a series of linked indexes which will help you to find records of ships and seafarers.

This page details:

  • how the finding aids can help your research;
  • the abbreviations we have used;
  • the transcription procedures and protocols we have used;
  • the sources and limitations of the indexes;
  • how we check the CLIP data;
  • our acknowledgements;
  • copyright and using CLIP data.

  How the CLIP finding aids can help your research

CLIP began with the challenge of finding records of seafarers for the period 1863 to 1913, for which period there was no official index of any sort and just the crew documents themselves. When we started, a single pioneering index had some 30,000 entries; 25 years later projects run or supported by CLIP have produced some 1.5 million entries. Some of that data is available on this site, here: Seafarers names from crew lists

We soon realised that there are also difficulties for researchers in tracking down records of ships - finding the official number of a ship, and finding where the records for a particular ship are held.

Finding the official number is important because The National Archives (TNA), the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and the Maritime History Archive (MHA) all use them to identify vessels. They do this with good reason - the number is a unique identifier which avoids difficulties to do with changes of name and port of registry, to say nothing of spelling variations and transcription errors. For the same reason, we have used the official number as the key to several of our finding aids. The ship index Search for ships by name is the starting point because it provides a list of possible official numbers for a particular name of a ship and leads on to more data.

To find the records for a ship, the CLIP finding aids include data on the records held at archives around Britain, which can be searched in a variety of ways, for example, by archive Documents by archive or by port Documents by port This data is drawn from the CLIP project and the catalogues of individual archives. It includes an index of the holding of crew lists.

CLIP data also covers the years before and after the 1861 to 1913 period. In particular, we recently made a significant discovery about the way in which the records for the period 1845 to 1855 were coded using 'Port Rotation Numbers'. This site now provides the key to those codes, unlocking data for more than 450,000 seafarers which was previously difficult to access. See our pages, here: Port rotation numbers

Be aware. Please note that these finding aids do not include the full CLIP index of crew list entries for the period 1863 to 1913. Some of this is available on-line from Findmypast; the rest is on this site.

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We have used these abbreviations throughout the CLIP site:
AS - Archives Service; RO - Record Office;
MNHL - Manx National Heritage Library;
MNL - Mercantile Navy List;
MHA - Maritime History Archive;
NAA - National Archives of Australia;
NLW - National Library of Wales;
NMM - National Maritime Museum;
RCUS - Royal Commission on Unseaworthy Ships;
RSS - Registry of Shipping and Seamen, Cardiff;
TNA - The National Archives.

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  Transcription protocols, conventions and caveats

So far as is humanly possible, all CLIP transcription has been done to a strict protocol, which we have made clear to our volunteer transcribers. We have worked with them throughout the various projects and supported them in working to a high standard.

As far as possible, all CLIP data has been checked. For example, the data for ships from MNL was double-keyed - ie it was transcribed and entered by two separate transcribers and the two data sets cross-checked. This is recognised as the gold-standard for transcription. Other data has been checked by a second transcriber and cross-checked against other sources. Errors can still occur but they are usually in places where the original data is obscure. We estimate our transcription error-rate as under 0.5%.

Our transcribers are instructed to transcribe 'as seen'. They are instructed not to correct the data in the light of other knowledge they may have. We edit the data in the same way.

Transcription of data 'as seen'

Our reasons for doing this are:

Please bear in mind that our databases are of entries in documents, not databases of ships or crew. We do not make any attempt to say what the 'real' name of a ship is. We leave that to the 'experts'. That is not the point of this site - it would be in conflict with its purpose and misleading to do so. If it is of interest to you, the evidence we provide may help.

Where there are doubts about an entry - for example, if we are aware of other conflicting data we mark it with a  ? . It is for you to decide.

To assist with searching and indexing, there are one or two exceptions to our strict 'transcribe as seen' rule:

Some of the names, especially those which we have taken from elsewhere, have not yet been standardised in this way. Also, MNL is not always consistent in the way in which it orders ship names. For vessel names of this sort, it would be sensible to use the fuzzy searching facilities when searching the data.

Where the name of a port is shown against a vessel, this is its port of registry (or 'home port' if that is how it has been referred to in a publication). At least some of the shipping records for that port should be available at the local archives.

Where data is taken from shipping registers, the folio number within the register is included if we know it. If the same vessel turns up twice in the same register volume, it usually indicates that the vessel was re-registered at the same port and so it does have two entries in that volume.

Where data has been taken from crew lists, a range of dates indicates the earliest and latest dates for which there are lists, but not necessarily that they exist for all the included dates. Refer to the CLIP index of crew lists at archives for more detail. Where crew lists are shown against an archive but with no dates, you will have to refer to the archives for more information.

In referring to publications, we have used a convention of:

We do not include the publisher's name or town, but we hope the above will be enough to identify the publication concerned.

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  Sources and limitations of the CLIP indexes

The sources for the CLIP data include:

The data in these indexes is not comprehensive or definitive. For example, while we have catalogues of crew lists for a substantial proportion of the archives which are known to hold them, we do not have complete or even partial catalogues from some archives (neither do they, in some cases!). The absence of entries for a particular vessel therefore does not mean that they do not exist - in the case of crew lists, for example, you should check with the relevant archives.

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  Checking CLIP data

As explained above, all the data that CLIP volunteers have transcribed has been checked, for example by double-keying (two independent data sets which are checked against each other).

We have also extensively cross-checked the data internally, for example by checking one year of MNL against another. We have also checked against external sources such as Lloyd's Register to assist in reading poor handwriting in the originals. The aim of the checking is to eliminate errors such as typos, not to produce a definitive version - see our note above.

We have checked external data (from on-line catalogues, for example) as far as possible. Where records have been taken from publications, we have usually accepted the author's data without further checks, beyond checking the accuracy of our transcription. Because the CLIP data is drawn from several sources, anomalies will often be obvious.

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The data has been compiled through the efforts of many archivists and volunteers, which we are glad to acknowledge. Please see our acknowledgements page: Acknowledgements  for more details.

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We have made every effort to ensure that we have permission from all the relevant parties to publish data in this format. If we have inadvertently failed to do so, please bring this to our attention so that we can put matters right.

This data is provided for private research purposes only: please do not publish it in any form without permission. As well as the inevitable errors, our data includes one or two spurious items to make it identifiable. Some are obvious, some are not, but they are unlikely to impede normal research.

May we remind you that if you make use of CLIP data in creating a publication, it is the usual convention (to say nothing of common courtesy) to make full acknowledgement of your source, with a link to our site.

Of course, while we have made efforts to check the accuracy of the data reproduced here, we cannot accept liability for losses that users may incur through using these finding aids. It is basic research practice to check out the original sources yourself!

Please bring any errors to our attention.

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