The Central Index Register of Seamen, 1918-1941
A Central Index of Merchant Seamen was introduced in October 1913, and continued in use until 1941. The index takes the form of a number of card indexes, containing in total over a million and quarter cards. There are 4 main series of index cards held here, two arranged alphabetically and two arranged by the number of the individual's discharge book.
1. CR1 Series
This is the main series of alphabetically arranged cards. It covers 1921-1941, the first portion of the index having been destroyed sometime during the 1960s. CR1 cards often include the following information:
Front of a CR1 Card
Back of a CR1 Card
2. CR2 Series
The series of CR2 cards run alongside the CR1 series, covering the same period of 1921-1941. However, these are arranged by the individualís discharge number, rather than by name. The series of CR1 cards generally provides an index to this less accessible series.
Details given on the CR2 cards are:
Front of a CR2 Card
Back of a CR2 Card
3. CR10 Series
This alphabetical series covers the years 1918-1921, partly filling the gap caused by the destruction of the earlier cards from the main two series of CR1s and CR2s. The CR10s were created for a very particular purpose: to issue merchant seamen with identity cards during World War I. For this reason, women are not usually included in the index (although one card for a woman has been found). Neither does this part of the index cover seamen engaged on home trade. Details you would expect to see on CR10 cards are:
Front of a CR10 Card
Back of the CR10 card
4. The Combined Series
This series was created (for reasons unknown) by pulling together cards from the other three series. Combinations of CR1s, CR2s and CR10s for an individual are included, all arranged by the individualís discharge number. Cards are often included which fall outside the 1918-1941 time-period; some have entries as late as the 1950s. Since this series has no alphabetical index, it is less accessible to search than the others.
Questions about the Central Index Register
The Registrar of Seamen and Shipping, in Cardiff, hold apportionment registers, from which it is possible to find a shipís name from its official number. Another option is to consult the registers of changes of masters at the PRO (BT 336), which are also arranged numerically by shipís number
Service records for mariners who served after 1941 have recently been transferred from the Registry of Seamen and Shipping in Cardiff to the Public Record Office. If an individualís service at sea started before 1941, but continued after this date, then often they do not appear in the 1918-1941 register.
Since there is no surviving Central Index before this date, then you are reliant on largely unindexed Crew Lists of vessels for this.
You are very welcome to come and search the Central Index Register free of charge at Southampton Archives. We are open to the public Tuesday to Friday, between 9.30 and 4.30, and no appointments are needed. It is worth avoiding arriving between 12.30 and 1.30, since documents cannot be produced from the strong-rooms during this period. We also operate a monthly late evening, during which the office is open until 8.45 pm. This is by appointment, so please contact the office for more details.
If you cannot come in person to search the index, we offer a research service. A search of the Central Index costs £5.00 per surname (with a maximum of 3 individuals of that surname included in this price). For more details, contact:
Southampton Archives Services
Tel. (023) 8083 2251
Other Useful Addresses
Tel. (029) 20747 333
Tel. (020) 8876 3444