Drawing of people embarking at Liverpool dock (catalogue reference: ZPER 34/17)

23 February

Merchant seamen records from the 19th century have been made available online for the first time today.

Covering the years 1835-1857, 359,000 records of individuals have now been added to findmypast.co.uk, who have released the records in association with The National Archives. Details contained within the records can include name, age, place of birth, physical description, ship names and dates of voyages. 

Janet Dempsey, Maritime Expert at The National Archives, said: 'These records are as significant to the social historian as they are to the family historian. No other group of working class men and women had the same freedom of movement and ability to see the world as these 19th century mariners. 

'This was the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen's earliest attempts at keeping individuals records and resulted in four different registers over 22 years. Although more of a challenge to work with than other family history sources, it can be very satisfying to decipher the codes and have your investigative efforts rewarded with sometimes surprisingly rich detail.'

The records are taken from volumes held at The National Archives in series BT112, BT113, BT114, BT115, BT116 and BT120 and were created by central government to regulate the merchant shipping industry. As the series spans two decades, some individuals may appear in multiple series, making it possible for maritime historians or those with ancestors in the merchant navy to trace a seaman's service over time.

Search the records now.