There are NO organised service records of ordinary merchant seamen who
served between1857 and 1913.
Fourth Register of Seamen 1913-1941 (Central Index Register)
If a man served between 1913 and 1940 his details were recorded in the CIR,
also known as the Fourth Register of Seamen. Surviving records have been
transferred to the Public Record Office (BUT SEE ALSO NOTE BELOW RE SOUTHAMPTON ARCHIVES) from the Registry of Shipping and Seamen.
The records are filed in a card index, now viewed on microfiche.
There are several series of cards within this series (CR1, CR2, CR10), each
compiled slightly differently and comprising slightly different information.
You should be able to find discharge number, vessels noted (normally by
o.n. only), a physical description, sometimes a photograph.
Index cards in CR1 CR2 for 1913-1920 have been destroyed, but there is a
separate index covering part of that period (CR10).
BT348 Register of Seamen Central Index Numerical Series (CR2) 1921-1941.
Cards filed in numerical order by discharge number, dates of signing and
lists of ships which may be shown by official number only.
BT349 Register of Seamen Central Index Alphabetical Series (CR1) 1921-1941.
Cards arranged alphabetically by surname. You should find name, place, date
of birth, capacity, brief description and sometimes a photograph.
BT350 Register of Seamen, Special Index, Alphabetical Series (CR10) 1918-1921
These are similar to CR1, and have a photograph of the seaman.
Later records comprising the fifth register (from 1941) are yet to be
transferred to the Public Record Office.
Once you have identified the name of ships on which a man served, you may
be able to locate crew lists and agreements to enable you to compile
information about a man's service during the latter part of the years for
which service records do not exist. The records of Agreements and Crew
Lists are the subject of a separate page. The Public Record Office has
recently updated their leaflets and the most recent versions are now online
at their website, http://www.pro.gov.uk which give additional information
about what you may find. The PRO's catalogue is now also online at their
website which will allow you to select the records which best suit your research.
Much of the information held at the PRO (as above) for the period 1918 to 1941
is available on microfiche at Southampton Archives.
They also provide a search service at a very reasonable cost (currently £5 per surname)
Click here for details
Click here for Southampton Archives Website