Search for crew lists pre-1860 at TNA

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Records of the crew of British registered ships date back to the 18th century, but the main run begins in 1835. All the crew lists for the period before 1861 are held at The National Archives (TNA) in series BT 98. The documents have been digitised (though not indexed) and the images are available on FamilySearch.

This page is mainly an index of the holdings at TNA for the period 1845 to 1856. There are also notes below on how to find records for the periods before 1845 and after 1856.

For more details of the records of seafarers and the crew lists for this period, see our page, here: Records prior to 1861

How to search for documents for a ship held at TNA

Use the search form to enter the name of the ship and select her port of registry from the list.

Then click

Reading the results

From 1845 to 1856

The first section of the page is an index of the crew lists for the period from 1845 to 1856. For these years, the series is sorted by year, by port of registry and then by ship's name. The TNA catalogue does not include details of the ships covered by each box (piece) and there is no guarantee that there are documents for a particular ship.

Our page returns a list of the pieces which are likely to hold documents for that ship and port, arranged by year. It shows the piece reference (for example BT 98/1234) with a link to the Discovery catalogue. This in turn provides a link to order the documents in advance of a visit to TNA or to order a copy of the document.

Images of these documents are available online via FamilySearch, though only with a FamilySearch account (free) at FamilySearch Centres or FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries worldwide. The results table shows the film(s) for that piece and provides a link to open the images (if you have access, as described). There are more details about FamilySearch images here: FamilySearch images

against a reference indicates that data from that reference is included in The Genealogist's name index (£) The Genealogist (£) for the 1851 records in BT 98 which was made by Family History Indexes.

Prior to 1845

There are documents in BT 98 going back to 1800 for some ports, but the catalogue arrangement is complicated, so we have simply provided a link to it so you can look for yourself. Our link uses the port name you have chosen, to give you start. Bear in mind also that some ports (Hartlepool, for example) only became ports of registry in or after 1845, so there will be no records for the port prior to that.

To be sure of covering all the possibilities, it would be advisable to make a careful search of the catalogue for the earlier part of BT 98 - ie the pieces up to BT 98/140.

These documents were included in the FamilySearch images and can be accessed via the FamilySearch catalogue page: FamilySearch catalogue pre-1856

1856 to 1860

In 1855 a system of official numbers (ON) for ships was introduced. From 1856 onwards the documents at TNA were sorted by the ship's official number and the year, not by port. The official numbers were not directly connected to the ports of registry so, from 1856 onwards, it is necessary to know the ON to find the BT 98 piece which might hold the documents (again, there is no guarantee that it will actually be there).

At the foot of the results page is a link which will take you directly to the CLIP search page to find possible ONs for ships of that name and port. The results provide further links to the BT 98 pieces covering that ON for each year.

These documents were included in the FamilySearch images and can be accessed via the FamilySearch catalogue page: FamilySearch catalogue 1856-1860

Data sources

The sources of the data are:

Please see the  CLIP data  page for more details on sources, the abbreviations we have used, and our acknowledgements.

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