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1. Why use this guide?

This guide will you tell you what sort of information you are likely to find and help you interpret selected merchant seamen service records from 1835 to 1857.

Use this guide in conjunction with Abbreviations in merchant seamen records to interpret information found on the service records.

You may wish to read our guide on Merchant Navy serving up to 1857 first.

If you are looking for a record of a merchant officer, read our guide on Officers in the Merchant Navy.

2. Essential information

2.1 How do I access these records?

All of the merchant seamen service records from 1835 to 1857 are available to view online at findmypast.co.uk.

2.2 What are merchant seamen service records from 1835 to 1857?

Merchant seamen service records are made up of four different registers which cover different date ranges. These are:

  • Register of Seamen Series I in series BT 120 (1835-1836)
  • Register of Seamen Series II, in series BT 112 (with its associate name index in BT 119) (1835-1844)
  • Register of Seamen's Tickets, BT 113 (the surname index is in BT 114) (1845-1854)
  • Register of Seamen Series III, in series BT 116 (1853-1857)

You may find more than one service record for a merchant seaman if he served for a number of years.

2.3 Records of merchant seamen before 1835

Before 1835 central government took little interest in the activities of individual seafarers.

Those searching for further details of seamen, before 1835, must look elsewhere either in:

  • private collections
  • newspaper collections

It is possible to find records of apprenticeships for merchant seamen in BT 150.

3. Register of Seamen Series I, BT 120 (1835-1836)

3.1 What information do they contain?

Each entry in BT 120 typically includes:

  • the number of the seaman's entry (which corresponds to that found from the index BT 119 and subsequently used in the Register of Seamen Series II, Part 1)
  • first and last name
  • the seaman's age (not always accurate)
  • his/her place of birth
  • the seaman's role on the vessel
  • the ship's name and port of registry with date of registration
  • 'how disposed of' or a note of why the seamen left the vessel or where he/she went

3.2 What do the records look like?

The example shows what a typical record in BT 120 looks like.

 

4. Register of Seamen, Series II, BT 112, (index BT 119) (1835-1844)

4.1 What information do they contain?

The registers of seamen in BT 112 contain the following information:

  • name
  • age
  • date of birth
  • rank
  • foreign trade voyages taken
  • home trade voyages taken

4.2 Details of voyages recorded

The form of the entry is different for a home trade and a foreign trade voyage.

Home trade voyage entries do not simply record a single voyage, but a half year (January to June or July to December) during which the seaman was engaged on a particular ship.

During that period the ship may have been on several voyages. The seaman may have been engaged for some or all of the period.

Foreign trade voyage entries record a single voyage during which the seaman was engaged on a particular ship.

Bear in mind that the clerks were trying to record details of the filing of crew lists at the end of one or a series of voyages, during which the individual had been on the relevant ship.

The dates given are the dates on which the various schedules were filed and are not arrival dates. Find out dates of departure and arrival by consulting:

  • the crew lists in BT 98
  • the Lloyd Lists which are available at the Guildhall Library or the National Maritime Museum

4.3 What do the records look like?

The registers are of two types. The entries in the earlier registers, part 1 1835-1840 (first image) look slightly different in layout to those from the later period 1842-1844 (second image).

 

5. Register of Seamen's Tickets, BT 113 (index BT 114) (1845-1854)

5.1 What information does it contain?

The Register of Seamen's Tickets contains the following information:

  • first names and last name
  • place of birth
  • register ticket number
  • age
  • rank
  • physical appearance

5.2 Details of voyages recorded

The tickets also include details of home trade voyages (or engaged on a particular ship in the home trade) and foreign trade voyages (or engaged on a particular ship in foreign trade).

Home trade voyage entries do not simply record a single voyage, but a half year (January to June or July to December) during which the seaman was engaged on a particular ship.

During that period the ship may have been on several voyages, and he may have been engaged for some or all of the period.

Foreign trade voyage entries record a single voyage during which the seaman was engaged on a particular ship. An entry for a foreign trade voyage might be in two parts:

  • for leaving the UK is under 'out'
  • for returning to the UK is under 'home'

The seaman may leave the UK on one ship and return on another. The ship may depart in one year and return in the next.

The dates given are the dates on which the various schedules were filed and are not arrival dates. Find out dates of departure and arrival by consulting:

  • the crew lists in BT 98  
  • the Lloyd Lists which are available at the Guildhall Library or the National Maritime Museum

5.3 What do the records look like?

See below for an example of one of the registers in BT 113, which often give details of the voyages in abbreviated form. The Alphabetical Register of Masters in BT 115 follow a similar format.

5.4 Can't find an entry?

Even if there is an entry in the name index BT 114, you may not find a service record in BT 113 if:

  • the ticket number exceeds 546,000 
  • the entry was issued towards the end of the ticketing system

Under 'reported voyages' no entries seem to have been made for the years 1849, 1850 and 1854. If you have the name of the vessel, search for any agreement and crew lists for these years in BT 98.

image

 

6. Register of Seamen, Series III, BT 116 (1853-1857)

6.1 What information does it contain?

Each record typically includes:

  • name
  • age
  • place of birth
  • ship's name (including date and port of departure)
  • details of voyages
  • any existing ticket numbers

6.2 What do the records look like?

The example shows what BT 116 looks like.

image

 

7. Further reading

Christopher T and Michael J Watts, My Ancestor Was a Merchant Seaman (Society of Genealogists, 2nd edition with addendum, 2004)

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