How to look for records of... Merchant seamen serving after 1917
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
This is a brief guide to researching records of merchant seamen serving after 1917. Many, but not all, records of merchant seamen survive from 1918 onwards. The records are kept in a variety of archives.
What do I need to know before I start?
What records can I see online?
What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?
What records can I find in other archives and organisations?
What other resources will help me find information?
Did you know?
The central indexed register, or Fourth Register of Seamen, was started in 1913 and maintained until 1941. The entries for 1913-1918 were destroyed, therefore the register covers the period from 1918 to 1940.
The dates given in our catalogue for the records of service do not refer to date of discharge but reflect the dates of service.
For the period 1913 to 1917 you should consult the agreements and crew lists. For more information read Crew lists, agreements and log books of merchant ships after 1861.
The National Archives holds the following proportions of agreements and crew lists after 1861:
- 1861-1938: 10%
- 1939-1950: 100%
- 1951-1994: 10%
Most crew lists from 1863 to 1976 are held by the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland, and are searchable online by ship’s number.
Access to full details of seamen born less than 100 years ago may be restricted.
It may be because:
- the seaman was not a British seaman or did not sail on British vessels
- the seaman was only employed temporarily and was not issued with a discharge ‘A’ number or a British Seaman’s Identity Card
- the seaman was an apprentice and had not yet been issued with a discharge ‘A’ number or a British Seaman’s Identity Card