How to look for records of... Customs officers

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

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This is a brief guide to help you with your research. The National Archives holds most surviving English and many surviving Irish records of Customs officers. There is no single index of people or places that can be used to find service records, so your search for information might require some patience.

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • in which county the person was posted
  • the dates of his service

What records can I see online?

Consult Parliamentary Papers for published reports of Customs activities. They can be searched online from subscribing organisations.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Customs Board minute books (1734-1885)

Browse CUST 28 in Discovery, our catalogue, for minute books of Customs officers. These do not record appointments but include details such as leave, transfers, suspensions, sackings, resignations and pensions for existing officers.

Unfortunately, because of a fire at Custom House in London in 1814, very few minute books from before 1814 have survived.

From 1839 the volumes are quarterly. They are internally indexed, but before 1849 some of them have been split into two parts, with the index in the first part.

Pension records and staff lists (1642-1970)

Browse CUST 39 in our catalogue for pension records and staff lists of Customs officers. These records have not been indexed, so you will need to search records for the relevant years.

Quarterly bills of salaries (1675-1829)

Browse CUST 18 and CUST 19 in our catalogue for quarterly bills of salaries and pay lists.

Warrants for the appointment of Customs officers (1714-1797)

Search the indexes to warrants for the appointment of Customs officers in C 202/267-269 for a reference to the warrants themselves in C 208.

General records

Search, browse and consult the following departments for various records of Customs officers:

  • Boards of Customs and Excise (CUST) – the main department for records of Customs officers
  • Chancery (C) – including Customs officers patent rolls
  • Treasury (T) – including applications for pensions and appointments

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Scottish records

Contact the National Records of Scotland for records of Customs officers in Scotland.

Irish records

Contact the National Archives of Ireland and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland for some surviving Irish records of Customs officers.

Cornish records

Contact the Courtney Library at the Royal Institution of Cornwall and the Cornwall Record Office, for records about Customs officers in Cornwall.

What other resources will help me find information?

Books

Consult Ham’s Customs Year Book and Ham’s Inland Revenue Year Book, available in major research libraries. These are indexed directories of Customs officers, Excise men and Inland Revenue officials covering 1875 to 1930.

Did you know?

Customs officers were introduced to collect duty on imported and exported goods and to prevent smuggling.

In 1849 the Board of Excise was amalgamated with the Board of Stamps and Taxes to form the Board of Inland Revenue. In 1909 the Board of Customs and the Board of Excise merged.