Search The National Archives’ merchant seamen records and discover your ancestor who lived his life at sea. The records include seamen from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Republic of Ireland, as well as such far-flung places as Malta, Canada, and Denmark, to name a few. The records provide physical descriptions of your ancestor.
With each record, you will find an image of the original document and a transcript of information found in the record. The amount of information listed varies, but the merchant navy transcripts usually include the following information about your ancestor:
Identity certificate number
The details you can find in the images vary for each series. We have listed the additional items you can find in each series.
BT112 – Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Register of Seamen
BT113 – Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Register of Seamen’s Tickets
Physical descriptions such as height, hair and eye colour, complexion and distinguishable marks
Occupation upon embarking and when the seaman first went to sea
Whether he served in Royal Navy
BT114 – Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Alphabetical Index of Registers of Seamen’s Tickets
BT115 – Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Alphabetical Register of Masters
BT116 – Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Register of Seamen, Series III
BT120 - Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Register of Seamen, Series I
The Merchant navy seamen 1835-1857 records represent individual seamen that the central government created to monitor a potential reserve of sailors for the Royal Navy. Over 1.9 million records are available to view between these dates.
Merchant navy seamen records are split into two very distinct sections / timeframes because in 1857 the Board of Trade abandoned the seamen's register, deeming the agreements and crew lists enough to meet the department's needs. This means that no register of ordinary seamen's service was kept between 1858-1913.
From 1835, central government began to monitor a potential reserve of sailors for the Royal Navy, which resulted in the creation of thousands of records that identify individual seamen. The main series of records feature the ships' agreements and crew lists, from which registers of service were created.
These are volumes from The National Archives' record series BT112, BT113, BT114, BT115, BT116 and BT120.
© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.
Applications for any other use should be made to:
The National Archives Image Library
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