1. Indexes to the National Register of Archives
The indexes to the NRA are indexes to the creators of records. It is possible to search for the records of corporate bodies or the papers of families and individuals, and for groups of letters from prominent individuals which are to be found in collections other than their own. It is not possible to use the indexes to search for single letters or papers relating to a certain theme, e.g. navigation.
Users can access the indexes to the National Register of Archives online. Guidelines on how to undertake searches are available on the search pages.
2. Accessions to repositories
Each year The National Archives contacts over 250 of the principal record repositories in the British Isles in order to discover which major and unusual accessions have been received. This information is added to the indexes to the National Register of Archives. It is also edited and used to produce thematic digests, including one relating to maritime history. The digests are made available online and distributed for publication in a number of learned journals and newsletters. Further information is available on accessions to repositories on The National Archives' website.
3. Relevant repositories
The following provides details of repositories and institutions that hold major collections relating to maritime history.
British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
The extensive records of the India Office Marine Department include material relating to the East India Company's maritime service, the Bombay Marine, the Indian Navy and the Bengal Pilot Service. There are stray records relating to individual east indiamen in other collections, as well as a small collection relating to the Irrawaddy Flotilla Co Ltd.
Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections, George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LJ
Holds the whaling records of Christian Salvesen of Leith as well as voyage books of Ben Line Steamers Ltd.
Glasgow City Archives, The Mitchell Library, 210 North Street, Glasgow G3 7DN
Most of the records relating to Clyde shipbuilding are held either by Glasgow University or here in the city archives. In addition, there are numerous shipowners' collections including Burns & Laird and Donaldson lines, H Hogarth & Sons Ltd and Lyle Shipping Co Ltd. Other holdings include records of Clyde Marine Society, Glasgow and Clyde Ship-Owners' Association and Glasgow Sailors Home.
Glasgow University Archive Services, 13 Thurso Street, Glasgow G11 6PE
The University is particularly rich in modern business collections and holds, for example, records of Clyde Shipping Co Ltd, Ellerman Lines Ltd and Walter Runciman & Co Ltd. There are also collections relating to some forty Scottish shipbuilding, repairing and marine engineering concerns, and survey reports of the British Corporation for the Survey and Registry of Shipping, which later merged with Lloyd's Register of Shipping.
London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB
The archives holds the records of the former Guildhall library including numerous overseas merchants and shipping agents, the extensive shipping records of Inchcape plc, the archives of the Watermen and Lightermen's and Shipwrights' companies, Lloyd's Marine Collection, and the records of the Corporation of Trinity House, the general lighthouse authority for England, Wales and the Channel Islands.
Liverpool Record Office, City Libraries, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EW
The record office holds the records of numerous shipping companies including the Booth Line, CT Bowring & Co Ltd, Thos & Jno Brocklebank, China Navigation Co Ltd, Lancashire Shipping Co Ltd, and the White Star Line. There are also the logbooks of a number of slave ships, the records of numerous marine insurers and the minutes of the Mersey Ship Repairers' Association.
Liverpool University: Special Collections and Archives, Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX
The university holds the extensive archives of the Cunard Steam-Ship Co Ltd.
Memorial University of Newfoundland, Maritime History Archive, St John's, Newfoundland A1C 5S7
Because of the enormous physical bulk of the records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman, and the reluctance of any single UK repository to house them, roughly 70% of crew lists, agreements and official logbooks are now deposited in Newfoundland. The remaining 30% are spread between The National Archives, the National Maritime Museum and various local repositories in the UK.
National Records of Scotland, HM General Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YY
Shipping collections include those of the British Railways Board, Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd and the London & Edinburgh Shipping Co Ltd. The office also holds considerable shipbuilding collections including Burntisland Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Henry Robb Ltd and Ramage & Ferguson Ltd.
National Maritime Museum: The Caird Library, Manuscripts Section, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
See RJB Knight, Guide to the manuscripts of the National Maritime Museum, Vol. 1: The personal collections (1977), Vol. 2: Public Records, Business Records and Artificial Collections (1980). Among collections are the business records of P & O and William Denny & Brothers Ltd, the museum's 10% share of British crew agreements 1861-1965, certificates of competency or service for masters, mates, engineers and skippers 1845-c1927 and Lloyd's Register of Shipping survey reports c1834-1960.
National Museums Liverpool, Maritime Archives and Library, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AQ
The Centre holds records of local dock companies, shipowners, overseas merchants, shipbuilders and repairers, shipbrokers and sail makers. There are also records for related employers' associations and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. See Gordon Read and Michael Stammers, Guide to the Records of Merseyside Maritime Museum (1995).
The National Archives, Kew, TW9 4DU
The National Archives also holds business records from several sectors of the economy which were nationalised in the mid twentieth century. Canal, dock, harbour, navigation and steamship company records are described in British Transport Commission Historical Records (List & Index Society, volume 142, 1977). This is in addition to all the records relating to government regulation of merchant shipping among the public records, such as the records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen.
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, BT3 9HQ
The records of numerous harbour companies and authorities are held by PRONI, including those of Belfast Harbour Commissioners. Shipping collections include records of the Antrim Iron Ore Co Ltd, the Head Line, Newry & Kilkeel Steamship Co Ltd and the Ulster Steamship Co Ltd. The office has also holds the important shipbuilding collection of Harland & Wolff Ltd.
Tyne and Wear Archives, Blandford House, Blandford Square, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 4JA
This a particularly rich regional archive containing records as diverse as the North East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, the North of England Shipowners Association, South Shields Marine College and Sunderland Pilotage Authority. The region's connection with shipbuilding and shipowning are also well represented in collections of the records of R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd, Swan, Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd, Hall Brothers and Stag Line Ltd.
Warwick University: Modern Records Centre, University Library, Coventry CV4 7AL
The Centre specialises in the records of trade unions and employers' associations. These include the records of the National Union of Seamen and the British Marine Industries Federation. See Richard Storey and Alistair Tough, Consolidated Guide to the Modern Records Centre (1986) and Richard Storey, Alistair Tough and Christine Woodland, Supplement to the Consolidated Guide (1992).
4. Useful links
The A2A database contains catalogues describing archives held locally in England and Wales and dating from the eighth century to the present day.
The Archives Hub provides a single point of access to descriptions of archives held in UK universities and colleges. At present these are primarily at collection-level, although where possible they are linked to complete catalogue descriptions.
AIM25 is a major project to provide electronic access to collection level descriptions of the archives of over fifty higher education institutions and learned societies within the greater London area.
The Scottish Archive Network allows online searching of over 20,000 collections in 52 Scottish repositories.
5. Further reading
Rita V Bryon and Terence N Bryon, Maritime Information: A guide to libraries and sources of information in the United Kingdom (3rd ed, 1993)
Edward Carson, 'Customs Bills of Entry', in Maritime History vol 1, number 2 (1971)
Edward Carson, 'Customs records as a source for historical research', in Archives vol XII, no 57 (1977)
HAL Cockerell and Edwin Green, The British Insurance Business. A Guide to its History and Archives (1994)
Nicholas Cox, 'The Records of the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen', in Maritime History vol 2, number 2 (1972)
Rupert C Jarvis, 'Ship Registry - to 1707', in Maritime History vol 1, number 1 (1971), 'Ship Registry - 1707-86', in Maritime History vol 2, number 2 (1972) and 'Ship Registry - 1786', in Maritime History vol 4, number 1 (1974)
DJ Jeremy (ed), Dictionary of business biography (5 vols, 1984-86)
Lloyd's Maritime Directory (2003)
Peter Mathias and AWH Pearsall, Shipping: a survey of historical records (1971).
K Matthews, 'Crew lists, agreements and official logs of the British Empire 1863-1913 now in the possession of the Maritime History Group, Memorial University, St John's, Newfoundland' in Business History VXI (1974)
LA Ritchie, The shipbuilding industry: a guide to historical records (1992).
Anthony Slaven & Sydney Checkland (eds.), Dictionary of Scottish business biography 1860-1960 (2 vols, 1986-90).
CT and MJ Watts, My ancestor was a merchant seaman: how can I find out more about him? (1986)
Donald Woodward, 'The Port Books of England and Wales', in Maritime History vol 3, number 2 (1973)