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TRACING BRITISH CREW LISTS & AGREEMENTS

The following information may be useful for anyone wishing to trace Official

Logs, Agreements and Crew Lists of British merchant ships. Note that none of these records have been filmed.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1835 required crew lists and related documents to be filed with the Register Office of Merchant Seamen (now the RGSS).

There were different types of crew list, dependant on the particular

voyage. In addition to information relating to the voyages, it may be

possible to identify the seaman's ticket number, his place of birth and age,

the capacity in which he is now employed, the last ship in which he served,

and the place and date of joining and leaving the ship. All records up to

1860 are filed at the Public Record Office.

The first series of agreements discussed here are filed in class BT98. In

order to access them, it is necessary to know the port of registration...

the easiest method of locating this is to check Lloyds Register or the

Mercantile Navy List.

After 1857 the system changed - ships were given an official number on

registration and the documents were filed accordingly in numerical order

though may still be found in BT98. It follows then that the port of

registration is no longer required in order to locate an agreement. The

survival rate varies from reasonably good in 1835 to excellent in 1860.

After 1861, the documents have been scattered between archives.

The PRO holds 10 percent of all Crew lists from 1861 -1938, and 1951 - 1989

in BT99.

The National Maritime Museum holds the remaining 90 percent for 1861, 1862

and all for years ending in 5 except 1945, up to 1972.

Certain County Record Offices and other archives hold many crew agreements

for vessels registered in ports within their area, for the years from

1863-1912.

The Registry of Shipping and Seamen holds all Crew lists from 1939-1950, and

those from 1990 to the present day.

From 1972 to 1989 all apart from those held at the PRO and those for

1975 and 1985 at the NMM, have been destroyed.

Almost all other records are held at the Maritime History Archive at the

Memorial University of Newfoundland for the period 1863-1972.

The main exception is the class of records in BT100 - documents relating to

celebrated ships... those vessels considered to be 'famous' such as the

Great Eastern, are held at the PRO in the class Agreements and Crew Lists,

Series lll - Celebrated Ships.

Fishing Agreements and Crew Lists from 1894 - 1929 are held in BT144, also

at the Public Record Office.

OFFICIAL LOGS OF BRITISH MERCHANT SHIPS

The Mercantile Marine Act of 1850 laid out rules requiring masters of all

British registered ships to keep an Official Log Book for every voyage. The

information contained in them varies and as you may expect, the earliest

ones include much less information than 20th Century examples. In general,

they will all include such information as births and deaths on board,

illness, disciplinary issues, conduct of crew including notes of desertion,

and anything else of significance taking place on board a ship during the

period of the voyage or voyages.

Home Trade ships were to required to deposit the Log half-yearly, and

Foreign Trade ships after each return voyage, with the Registry of Shipping

& Seamen.

These records begin to appear around 1852, but relatively few remain for the

early years. Any containing a note of a birth, death or marriage at sea

should have been retained but in reality that is no guarantee that you will

find the one you need.

They are filed with the Agreements and Crew Lists, EXCEPT for the period

1902-1919, when there is a separate class in BT165 at the Public Record

Office in Kew, England containing all surviving logs from that period.

They are filed with the Agreements and Crew Lists, EXCEPT for the period

1902-1919, when there is a separate class in BT165 at the Public Record

Office in Kew, England containing all surviving logs from that period.

From 1835-1860, all Agreements and Crew Lists, and any surviving Logs

(1852-1860) will be held in BT98, Agreements & Crew Lists Series l, at the

Public Record Office.

After 1861, the documents have been scattered between archives.

The PRO holds 10 percent of all records from 1861 -1938, and 1951 - 1989

in BT99, Agreements & Crew Lists Series ll. All Official Logs 1902-1919 are

held at the Public Record Office, as stated earlier.

The National Maritime Museum holds the remaining 90 percent for 1861, 1862

and all for years ending in 5 except 1945, up to 1972.

Certain County Record Offices and other archives hold many papers for

vessels registered in ports within their area, for the years from 1863-1912.

Again, logs from 1902-1912 are at the Public Record Office.

The Registry of Shipping and Seamen holds all Agreements, Crew lists and

Official Logs from 1939-1950, and those from 1990 to the present day.

From 1972 to 1989 all apart from those held at the PRO and those for

1975 and 1985 at the NMM, have been destroyed.

Almost all other records are held at the Maritime History Archive at the

Memorial University of Newfoundland for the period 1863-1972.

The main exception is the class of records in BT100 - documents relating to

celebrated ships... those vessels considered to be 'famous' such as the

Great Eastern, are held at the PRO in the class Agreements and Crew Lists,

Series lll - Celebrated Ships.

This is just an overview of the records and what you may find in them. To

find out in greater detail what may be available and what else you may be

able to search, try the PRO's web site at http://www.pro.gov.uk where there

is an on-line leaflet which you may find useful.

Click here to see an example of what can be obtained from Crew Agrements.

I have now indexed all Master Mariners contained in Cardiff Crew Agreements 1863 to 1913 and the ships within those agreements, alphabetically and by ship register number. Click here to visit the indexes.

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