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 (£).
Ships’ muster rolls, 1747-1834
From 1747 masters or owners of merchant ships were required to keep a muster roll giving details of the number of crewmen and the ship’s voyages.
Ships’ muster rolls, recording very brief details of crew, survive for a few ports only:
- Shields and other northern ports from 1747
- Plymouth from 1761
- Dartmouth from 1770
- Liverpool from 1772
- other ports from 1800
Search the muster rolls in BT 98 by date range and port of registry:
We provide more advice on finding muster rolls in our guide to these records.
Agreements and crew lists, 1835-1860
In 1835, following the Merchant Shipping Act, muster books were replaced by similar records known as ‘agreements and crew lists’.
You can search for crew lists and agreements by ships’ port of registry (1835-1844), alphabetical ranges of ships’ names (1845-1856) or numerical ranges of ships’ numbers (1857-1860) in BT 98.
There is more advice on finding crew lists and agreements in our more in-depth guide to these records.
Agreements and crew lists, 1861-1938
The National Archives holds a 10% sample of agreements and crew lists for 1861 to 1938, held in record series BT 99.
Search the agreements and crew lists in BT 99 by the ship’s official number for the period 1861 to 1938. For the years 1881 and 1891 only you can search by official number, ship’s name or name of crewman.
There is more advice on finding crew lists and agreements, 1861-1938 in our more in-depth guide to these records.
Merchant Navy apprenticeship indentures, 1824-1955
Merchant Navy apprentices served their apprenticeship under the terms of an indenture (contract) which usually stipulated a term of four or five years working for a particular master. We hold a sample of these indentures – a two month sample for every five years between 1824 and 1955.
Search for copies of these indentures in BT 151 (all vessels) and BT 152 (fishing boats only) by date and port. There are original indexes to these records in BT 150, available online for the years 1824-1910 (see ‘Online records’ section above). The indentures provide more or less the same information as the indexes and if you have seen an index entry you are unlikely to gain any additional insights form the indenture itself – though they do contain the signatures of the apprentice and master.