The 20th Century description of this profession is a Customs & Excise

Officer, but it must be remembered that the two services did not join

forces until 1909, and if you do not know which a man served in, it may

be necessary to search the separate records of the Board of Customs and

the Board of Excise in order to find him.

The proximity of Britain to the continent meant that smuggling was an

ever present threat and the resultant evasion of duties on imported

goods was a loss of valuable revenue for the British Government. Customs

men operated within ports, collected duties on goods and endeavoured to

prevent evasion of duties, a small fleet of Revenue cruisers patrolled

the coastal waters, and a force of Riding Officers patrolled the

coastline to ensure that smugglers were unable to land their goods. The

Board of Excise was set up in 1643 to collect duties on certain British


Records of the Board of Customs

There are no official registers of service, and in order to trace a

Customs Officer it is necessary to search several record series.

Cust 18 Board of Customs: Pay Lists 1675-1813

Cust 19 Board of Customs: Pay Lists 1814-1829

These records include names listed alphabetically, port by port. Men

from the London Headquarters are listed first, followed by those at the

remaining ports of the British Isles going in a clockwork direction

around the country. The name and salary should be shown.

Cust 39 Board of Customs Staff Lists 1671-1922 (Incomplete series)

These records require care in searching as the organisation of the lists

varies. Reference to the instructions at the beginning of the class list

is important before conducting a search of individual lists in this

class. Some are arranged in geographical order around the British Isles,

some are divided into areas and then listed in alphabetical order.

Cust 39/145-159 Board of Customs: Superannuation Registers 1803-1922

These registers whilst not service registers, are however the key to

compiling a career. By following each section in the book it is possible

to find rank, dates of commencing and ending service, and the ports from

which superannuation was transferred. Certain other biographical

information may also be obtained from these records, including date of

death (at which time superannuation ceased), any widow's pension and

date of cessation, and if this latter is given, then also included is

often the names and dates of birth of any children. Cust 39 also

includes superannuation records for Irish Board of Customs.

Cust 28 Board of Customs: Minute Books 1734-1885

Note was made in these books of all successive postings during a man's

career. The search may be time consuming but the full career of a

Customs Officer can be compiled.

The main records of the Irish Board of Customs and the Irish Revenue are

in a similar record series:

Cust 20/154-159 Irish Board of Customs Register of Appointments


Board of Excise

Cust 116 Board of Excise, Entry Papers 1820-1870

Entry papers usually contain a letter of recommendation, giving name,

age, place of birth, plus a written character reference. There is

usually a letter of confirmation from the Excise Officer in charge,

stating that the man was literate and numerate. There is an alphabetical

card index to this class.

Cust 47 Board of Customs, Minute Books 1695-1867

These contain all successive postings of a man's career. There are

approximately 6 books covering each year, each internally indexed. These

records do not contain information of a biographical nature.

Cust 48 is a class comprising correspondence with the Treasury

department, also indexed.

Irish Board of Excise

Cust 110/1-8 Irish Board of Excise, Minutes and Appointments 1824-1833

As stated earlier, in 1909 the two Boards merged to become HM Customs &


Many of these records have been filmed and therefore may be available

through LDS libraries.

This is a brief overview of a large class of records. They are simple to

search once the organisation of the various records has been understood,

but are time consuming and not always correctly alphabetical so care

must always be taken. Outports may be given unfamiliar names and you may

need access to a good atlas to assist in identifying a location. The

Public Record Office has a series of on-line leaflets including records

for the Boards of Customs and Excise, which explain in greater detail

what may be obtained from a search in the records

Information courtesy of Debbie Beavis