This page is a flexible search engine based on the CLIP index of ships by name, drawn from the primary records of British shipping from 1855 to the 1950s.
All British ships were registered at one of the hundreds of ports of registry around Britain and the then British Colonies. From 1855 onwards, each ship was allocated an official number. These numbers provided a unique reference and they are still used by modern archives as a means of identifying documents.
The main purpose of this page is to aid the identification of ships from partial data, in particular by assisting in choosing from a range of possibilities to identify an official number. The search engine will cope with abbreviations for port names and allows you to filter the range of years covered. It leads on to more information such as the location of crew lists for the ship.
The search engine will interpret the data you enter and set up suitable searches using CLIP know-how and our ships, ports and places database. It will then work through a series of searches to find a match or matches for your data. In many cases, it will be able to identify a single match.
The database includes every British registered ship from 1855 to the early 1950s with official numbers 1 to 200000. It was last updated on 6th May 2023 and contains 794743 entries.
For a full explanation of the records of British ship, please see our information page: Records of British ships
On the search form, enter your data for the ship's name, starting with a letter and using '%' as a wild-card to stand for any number of letters.
If you want to restrict the search to a range of dates, enter the years to search in the range 1857 to 1940 (these are the default values).
If you have data for the ship's port of registry, including as an abbreviation such as L'pl, you can add that to the search.
The advanced search engine looks for records of ships in the CLIP databases, using CLIP know-how to guide the search.
These are the steps it takes:
If you have provided a range of dates, the search results are colour-coded, like this:
Good match, with MNL data close to the target date.
Fair match, with MNL data fairly close to the target date.
Poor match, with MNL data much earlier than the target date.
Many researchers will be interested in finding crew lists and agreements. There are links to the MHA and CLIP indexes of crew lists and agreements.
A further link (More ...) is provided to the CLIP database based on the ship's official number, so that you can look for more information about the ship, and see where we got our data from.
The sources of the data used for this search are:
Please see our general information page CLIP data for details on sources, methodology, the abbreviations we have used, and our acknowledgements.