Discover your ancestors who died at sea aboard British-registered vessels between 1781 and 1968. The records may reveal where your sea-faring relatives were born and where they died, the name of the ship, and their cause of death. Included in these records are those of the passengers and crew members who were killed in the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania.
Each record comprises a transcript of the original register. The amount of information listed varies, but the records usually include a combination of the following information about your ancestor:
• First name(s)
• Last name
• Birth date
• Death date
• Birth place
• Death place
• Ship departure port
Many of the records include images, which may contain further details, including:
• Last residence
• Port of registry
• Rank or rating
• Cause of death
• Details of wages and personal effects of the deceased
The record set comprises 950,860 records of 15 nationalities, the vast majority of them, almost 748,000) British.
The set contains the following series from The National Archives:
This series contains a card index of naval officers who were killed between 1914 and 1920, including some Royal Marines and Naval Reserve officers, as well as officers of the Canadian and Australian navies. It also includes a card index of ships lost from 1914 to 1919; a war graves roll of those same dates, and statistical casualty books 1914-1933.
This series contains autopsy reports and register of dead men's wages from the Royal Greenwich Hospital between 1787 and 1809. The deceased are from the Royal Navy or merchant navy seamen on vessels travelling to and from the West Indies.
This series contains records from the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and its predecessor. It includes Registers of Wages and Effects of Deceased Seamen, 1852-1889.
This series contains Monthly Lists of Deaths of Seamen, 1886-1890 from the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen.
This series contains Registers of Seamen's Deaths, Classified by Cause, 1882-1888 from the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen.
This series contains Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages of Passengers at Sea, 1854-1890 compiled from ships' official logs of births, deaths and marriages of passengers at sea by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and its predecessor.
This series contains registers and indexes of births, deaths and marriages at sea 1891 – 1972 maintained by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen. In addition, for the period 1910-1918, there are registers recording events specifically reported to one of the national Registrars General of births and deaths. The registers include both British and foreign subjects, passengers and seamen. The registers also contain some entries related to the deaths of seamen ashore. The death registers include records for the SS Titanic and Lusitania.
This series contains the Register of births and deaths of emigrants at sea, 1847-1854 and Registers of deaths of emigrants at Sea, 1854-1869 from the Colonial Office: Land and Emigration Commission.
This series contains the Register of deaths and births at sea, Falmouth, 1892 to 1918.
Some of the Place of Death fields on the images contain the precise latitude and longitude coordinates of the event.
The majority of deaths are due to drowning, but other causes include heart failure, bronchitis, inhalation of petroleum fumes, hanging, ‘common assault causing him to fall on the back of his head’, enteritis & dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever, apoplexy, phthisis, oligemic shock from burns, skull fracture, boiler explosion, fatal injuries from falls on the boat, apparent barbiturate poisoning, excessive drinking, yellow fever, consumption, scarlatina (an older term for scarlet fever).
Many of the causes of death are uncertain, probably due to the deaths occurring far from land: there are many “Probably”, “Assumed”, “Apparent” or “Presumed” causes of death. A number are “Missing, presumed drowned”.
The records contain fatal incidents from both world wars, as well as details of the sinking of the most famous ship in the world, the Titanic.
On 27 August 1941, the cause of death of a number of passengers on the Saugor, listed at London, is recorded as “Supposed drowned Vessel sunk by enemy action”. This cargo ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat, resulting in the loss of 59 of her 82 crew.
The BT334 records include 1,196 of the 1,198 passengers and crew members who died when a German U-boat torpedoed and sunk the RMS Lusitania off the south coast of Ireland on 7 May 1915. The Place of Death field for these individuals is described as “Off Kinsale Vessel Sunk By German Submarine”. Their causes of death are listed as “Supposed drowned”.
The Bt334 records also include those passengers and crew members who were killed in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15 April 1912 after hitting an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Britain to the United States. It’s unclear exactly how many people died as a result of the sinking, due to such factors as passengers cancelling their trip, travelling under aliases or departing the ship at various ports and not returning, but it’s thought that between 1,490 and 1,635 people lost their lives. Fewer than one-third of those aboard the ship survived.
In these records, the Place of Death field is noted as ‘About Lat 41.16N Long 50.14 W'. The Port of Registry is listed as Liverpool, and the Cause of Death is noted as ‘Supposed drowned’ for all victims. In the Remarks category, ‘Ship lost’ is written.
The records also provide details on which class the deceased were travelling. Of the approximately 1,317 passengers on the Titanic, 324 traveled First Class, 284 were in Second Class, and the vast majority, 709, were in Third Class. Survival rates were comparatively low in Third Class, while the wealthier passengers in First Class were prioritized in terms of getting into lifeboats.
Possibly the most interesting image is of a typewritten record of 19 crew members who died on the Titanic. The final residence of most of these people was listed as Southampton, the port from which the ship sailed. Their jobs on board are listed: steward, clerk, assistant plateman, assistant vegetable cook, assistant lounge steward, bedroom steward, assistant pantryman, lift steward, fireman, electrician, 2nd Class saloon steward, and lounge pantry steward. These job titles give an indication of both the volumes of people on board and the kind of luxury on offer. In total, there were approximately 885 crew members on board: 66 deck crew, 325 engine crew, and 494 victualling crew. Only 23 of the crew members were female.