The original CLIP database reached over 260,000 entries from crew lists. The data was transcribed from records held at
local Record Offices and covers only a small percentage of their holdings, but it's the largest database of records from local
record offices. It includes the indexes made at Bristol, Flintshire and Somerset archives (with permission). The data was originally
on CD-ROM but is now published by FindMyPast.
We have also worked with TNA to index their 10% holdings for the years 1881 and 1891. The data has been transferred
to TNA's catalogue and added to the original CLIP index.
We have completed additional data from crew lists held at Devon Archives and Anglesey Archives, which has also been transferred to
With the TNA data, the total on FindMyPast is now 570,000 entries.
We have completed transcription of the crew lists for Union-Castle ships held at Southampton City RO, and are continuing to work with
Portsmouth City RO and Glamorgan Archives. Data from recent CLIP projects is available on this site with over 500,000 entries available at present.
The Maritime History Archive, Newfoundland (MHA) holds
a substantial percentage of all British crew lists. They are gradually digitising their holdings of
crew lists for 1881. There are currently over 320,000 entries on their database. You can search the index on-line and view the images.
The MHA NL Crew Lists Database contains over 40,000 entries taken from the crew lists of Newfoundland
and Labrador registered vessels for 1915 to 1942. As with the 1881 Crew Database, you can search the index on-line and view the images.
MHA also has a database which is available on CD-ROM or download, giving
details of 80,000 seafarers on British registered ships and 120,000 on
Canadian registered ships. The cost is about £30 - you can order on-line.
Some British record offices and reference libraries may
have a copy of the CD-ROM, but we’ve not found one yet!
You can check a list of the
surnames on the CD on the MHA's web site.
Several local archives have indexes of seamen from the crew lists and agreements they hold. The format varies - card indexes, printed, or as
part of the catalogue. Some ROs have indexes of masters and owners only. Unfortunately, many online indexes at archives work through catalogue systems
that are best described as nomadic and user-hostile.
It's worth searching all of them because seafarers often sailed on ships registered in other parts of Britain, not just their own home port. The table
below shows the record offices which have at least partial indexes.
Part of CLIP data on FindMyPast (£), also available at the archives.
Berwick-upon-Tweed Record Office
RO catalogue includes partial index of crew names, transferred to electronic format by CLIP (at RO).
Bristol Record Office
Part of CLIP data on FindMyPast (£), also on fiche available from Bristol and Avon FHS
Ceredigion Archives Service
A small number of Aberystwyth ships. Part of catalogue of crew lists, with no search facility but only a few ships so it can be searched quickly
Recently completed transcription of Aberystwyth crew lists is available as a zip file download containing thousands of spreadsheets (!). The data has now been transferred to the CLIP database and is available on this site.
A system of registration for seafarers was re-introduced in 1913, including 'tickets' for seafarers, recording their service at sea. Tickets
may possibly show service before 1913. The tickets are held in the Central Index Register of Merchant Seamen at
Southampton City Record Office.
If the seafarer was (or might have been) a Master, Mate or Engineer,
search at The National Archives (TNA) in the registers of certificates (BT 122 - BT 130 and
BT 138), Lloyds Captains’ Register and Engineers’ certificates registers
(BT 139 - BT 142). However, many officers did not have certificates.
As mentioned above, the original copies of Lloyd's Captain's Register are held at
London Metropolitan Archives. The volumes have been indexed and some are available
They have an information leaflet about the registers
The 'seamen's pouches' for the period from 1913 to 1972 are in BT 372 and may contain records of
seafarers whose service began before that time. You can search this part of The National
Archives catalogue on line by seafarer's name.
You may wish to use our toolkit for BT 372. Enter the seafarer's name and (optionally) initials, date of birth and birthplace, then click the
search button for BT372. This will open TNA's catalogue and submit your search. The result will be shown in a new tab or window.
Records of merchant seamen who served in Royal Navy ships during World War 2 are in BT 390. You can search using the link above, or the toolkit also provides a search for BT 390.
Records of merchant seamen engaged in the liberation of Europe (6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945) are in BT 391 and can be searched in the same way.
From 1823, masters of merchant ships over 80 tons were required to carry indentured apprentices. They were recorded by the local customs officers and a
list compiled at the Board of Trade, the index to which is in BT 150 and has been digitised by Ancestry (£).
If the death is recorded, it may be possible to obtain a certificate of death from the General Register Office (GRO) - see below.
British censuses were taken every tenth year from 1801, but the names of individuals were
only recorded from 1841. Crews of vessels were included from 1851 using special enumeration forms. Only ships which were in a British port on the night
of the census were included, though from 1861 arrangements were made to include ships which
were at sea in the home trade, Ships in a foreign port on that night were not enumerated.
The complete story is more complicated. Edward Higgs' guide to the census take four pages to describe it. (E. Higgs, Making Sense of the Census Revisited, London,
Institute of Historical Research, 2005, ISBN: 300100396X, pp.48-52)
Indexes of British census returns from 1851 to 1911 are available online from various genealogical
FindMyPast (£), Ancestry (£)
and The Genealogist (£).
If you have an image of a census return for the ship, be sure to look for the ship's official number, which will help in
finding other records, particularly crew lists. This information may be on a separate page. Unfortunately, FindMyPast images do not include this page.
The ship's port of registry is also useful information (ie her "Port or place to which she belongs",
not the port at which the enumeration was made).
For details of the census returns for ships from a historian's perspective, see Dr Valerie Burton's paper
General Register Office indexes
General Register Office (GRO) has recorded births, marriages and deaths from 1837 including events at sea, which were reported
to the Registrar General with varying efficiency.
They were entered into registers similar (but not identical) to those now held at The National Archives which has a leaflet setting out the details.
The indexes show the age at death and the ship's name (but not her official number) from 1875 onwards.
You can find out more about these records at FindMyPast (£) and look up various indexes. There is a charge for viewing the index images.
Death certificates, which are copies of the register entries (and could therefore include details such as the ship's official number),
can be obtained by fax, phone, post or online from the
General Register Office.
If all else fails ...
If all indexes fail, you can only search through all the records for a
particular port or ship which may have links to the seafarer. This is not recommended.
You may be inspired to start making your own index - if you do, let us know!