This page is an index of ships by name drawn from the primary records of British shipping from 1855 to the 1950s.
All British ships were registered at one of the hundreds of ports of registry around Britain and the then British Colonies. From 1855 onwards, each ship was allocated an official number. These numbers provided a unique reference and they are still used by modern archives as a means of identification of documents.
The prime purpose of this page is to aid the identification of official numbers from ships' names.
The index shows the ships' names, official numbers and ports of registry, with links to other data such as the location of crew list holdings and clear references to the sources of our data.
The database includes every British registered ship from 1855 to the early 1950s with official numbers 1 to 200000. It was last updated on 6th May 2023 and contains 794743 entries.
For a full explanation of the records of British shipping, please see our information page: Records of British ships
On the search form, enter at least three letters of the ship's name and select whether you wish to make an Exact match search, or a fuzzy search based on whether the name Starts with this, Includes this or Ends with this.
The form will not accept wild-card searches using '*', '%', '?' and suchlike.
For a search which does allow wild-cards, please see our advanced search page: Advanced search
If you know an approximate date for the ship, the images of Mercantile Navy List (MNL) available on this site provide an alternative way to search by name. Our coverage up to 1939 is nearly 100% and you can easily work through the images year by year. MNL images are here: Mercantile Navy List
For fishing vessels, Olsen's Almanack provides a similar year by year search: Olsen's Almanack
For exact searches, the results show matching names and their official number.
For the fuzzy searches, the results show an alphabetic list of possible ship names, from which you can select one to go to an exact search result.
The results show a list of ship's names, with their official numbers and ports of registry, together with other detail such as tonnage, sorted first by name, then by official number.
The source of our information is shown in all cases, with links to images of documents or to archive catalogues wherever possible. For example, the icons link to images of the Appropriation Books or the exact Mercantile Navy List page. You can check our data for yourself.
On the right hand side of the results table, there are links to the MHA and CLIP indexes of crew lists and agreements.
There is also a link to more details on the CLIP site showing any other details and links for ships with that particular official number.
There are also links below the results which will search for ships of that name on the Mercantile Navy List and on other web sites.
Some searches may produce data from shipping registers for ships with official numbers greater than 300000 from the second series of allocations. We have no further crew list data and nor does MHA, so the crew list links are disabled for these ships. The links to the registers data will work, however.
The sources of the data are:
Please see our general information page CLIP data for details on sources, methodology, the abbreviations we have used, and our acknowledgements.
Be aware! Discrepancies between sources are common: we transcribe 'as seen'. Where the original source probably contains an error, such as a typo, we have marked our transcription with ? .