For anyone wishing to trace a Master Mariner the following information may

be useful.

The filmed volumes of Lloyds Captains' Registers found in large archives

worldwide are frequently cited as the main, if not the only source, for

tracing the career of a Master Mariner. This is unfortunate as they are just

one of the sources available and they do have limitations. The purpose of

this posting is not to explain the reasons for and methods of compiling

information at each source, which for most people is irrelevant. Rather it

is to list the main sources available for anyone wishing to trace Master

Mariners. It is not an exhaustive list. Where there is overlap you should

check all sources. Remember also that most Masters and Mates will have seen

service as ordinary seamen or apprentices before gaining their certificate

and the various Indexes and Registers of Seamen and Seamen's Tickets should

be also be searched together with Registers of Apprentices. Certain sources

replicate information found in others, but as in any research, you are wise

to check all possible sources.


Before 1845 Masters and other Officers were not separately registered. Use

the Indexes and Registers of Seamen and Seamen's Tickets.

1845 -1854 Masters and Mates of all craft; Alphabetical Register of

Masters, BT115

1845 - 1850 Men passing voluntary examinations for Masters; Certificates of

Competency & Service, Miscellaneous; BT143

1845 - 1921 Series of six RGSS registers, comprising several volumes.

(BT122-128) Each register differs in the masters whose details are included,

depending on the category of certificate and the period covered. Indexed

from 1845-1894; Index to Registers of Certificates of Competency and

Service, Masters and Mates, Home & Foreign Trade; BT127

1880 - 1921 Fishing Officers - two registers each in several volumes

(BT129-130) indexed 1880-1917; BT138

1910 - 1930 Index To Certificates of Competency, Masters, Mates, Engineers

and Fishing Officers, Home and Foreign Trade; BT352

1913 - 1935 Registers of Examinations for Certificates of Masters, Mates and

Engineers, Returns of Passings and Failures; BT318

1917 - 1968 Registers of Masters and Mates Certificates, Passings and

Renewal; BT317


1851 - 1947 Series of Registers each in several volumes predominantly only

listing men employed in the foreign trade. Earliest date available, 1869

which has been published on microfiche. Note that although this contains

retrospective details to 1851, it contains the details only of those Masters

in service in 1869. Note that these registers can contain a wealth of

information about individual voyages and also some biographical information

about each man…colour coded entries are used and black and white photocopies

are not therefore always adequate.


Dr. Reg Davies is compiling an index to all Welsh Master Mariners, Mates and Engineers

who held certificates of competency or service.

For information and look-ups E-mail him at


Lloyds Register of Shipping and Mercantile Navy List both contain lists of

those men who passed the voluntary examination, and the latter includes

lists of all those granted certificates.


Applications For Certificates (awarded before 1900) are held at the National

Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF. For these, you will need to

provide the certificate number. Not all have survived. They include all

voyages undertaken over at least the four years prior to the award of the

certificate, along with useful biographical information supplied by the

applicant. The NMM makes a charge for production of these certificates and

has a long waiting period.

Note that they do not answer email enquiries!

Click here to visit their website.

Later applications are held by the RGSS, Cheviot Close, Parc Ty Glas,Llanishen, Cardiff CF4 5JA.

RGSS records, held in classes with prefix BT are held at the Public Record Office, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Surrey, England. Click here to visit their website..

Some records have been filmed and may be available through archives near you.

Some records are still in the process of being transferred to the PRO and

you should contact them to check access before travelling. The PRO will not

conduct a search on your behalf but will send out a list of researchers

prepared to undertake such work. There is a series of on-line help leaflets

available also via their web site.

Lloyds Captains' Registers. Originals are at the Guildhall Library,

Manuscripts Department, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ.

Click her to visit their website. The staff will undertake only limited research.

Filmed copies may be available at an archive near you.

Other published records - Lloyds Register of Shipping and Mercantile Navy

List are readily available at many large libraries and maritime



Once the various registers and indexes of Masters and Mates have been

searched, the next step is to obtain a copy of the man's application for a

certificate. Having passed the examination for a certificate of competency,

a man had to make written application for the granting of the certificate.

The information was entered in registers and the resultant information is of

great value to the researcher. Amongst the information he had to give, the

man was required to give his name, date and place of birth, current address

and details of all the voyages he had taken in at least the four years

immediately preceding his application. The form also contains his signature.

The applications, together with office copies of the certificates, are held

at the The National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF

Click here to visit their website.

There is a charge for extracting the documents, and for providing a

photocopy. The NMM will require the certificate number in order to conduct a

search for the application, and will not currently reply to enquiries by