Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Agreements and Crew Lists, Series I

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Details of BT 98
Reference: BT 98
Title: Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Agreements and Crew Lists, Series I

This series contains surviving muster rolls from 1747, agreements, 1835-1860, and official log books kept by the General Register and Record Office of Seamen.

A few of the official log books survive from about 1852, but it was not until 1854 that masters were required to deposit them at the end of the voyage.

The log books that have been preserved are chiefly those containing entries of a birth or death at sea, or log books of smaller vessels which were printed on the same form as the crew list and agreement. Also from 1850 a form M was introduced for mutual release of seamen at the end of a voyage; a few of these survive.

The rolls include names and addresses of seamen, dates of engagement and discharge and the name of their previous ship.

Date: 1747-1860

The muster rolls are filed alphabetically by port under name of ship in one run for the years 1835-1844. With the introduction in 1845 of a system of register tickets for merchant seamen a record of the ticket numbers was attached to the crew list: from here on the documents are kept in separate yearly runs. With the introduction in 1855 of a central registry all ships were given an official number as soon as practicable. From 1857 the agreements are filed under official numbers rather than alphabetically.

Crew documents of celebrated ships are in series BT 100.

Port Numbers and other numerical codes used in the Records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen:

Five major schedules are to be found amongst the agreements and crew lists from 1835, namely:

  • Schedule: A, Type: Agreement (Foreign Trade), Filing requirements: Within 24 hours of return to a UK port;
  • Schedule: B, Type: Agreement (Home Trade), Filing requirements: Within 30 days after the end of each half year (30 June and 31 December);
  • Schedule: C, Type: List of Crew (Foreign Trade), Filing requirements: Within 24/48 hrs of return to a UK port;
  • Schedule: D, Type: Account of Voyages and Crew (Home Trade), Filing requirements: Within 21 days after the end of each half-year;
  • Schedule: G, Type: Names & Register Tickets of Crew (Foreign Trade), Filing requirements: On sailing from the UK;

Pertinent information was annotated on these schedules and entered in the relevant registers of service.

Port Rotation Numbers:

It should be noted that whilst a Port Rotation Number was used to uniquely identify a ship within its Port of Registry, no key to these numbers has been discovered. Thus, whilst it does confirm that the correct schedules have been found, it cannot now be used as an effective finding aid.

Port Numbers:

From 1835-1844, Port Numbers were used as a shorthand for a ship's Port of Registry; numbers 1-108 were used during this period. Ships with other home ports in the UK, were in fact registered at a nearby one of these 108 ports, and thus the crew lists for them will be found under that port of registry (e.g.. Shields based ships were registered at Newcastle). After 1845, new UK Ports of Registry were gradually introduced, and Port Numbers 109-130 and 147-52 apply to these.

Port Numbers were also used, from 1845, to designate the port at which the various schedules were filed, and all the numbers 1-152 were used for this purpose.

Port Numbers 200-299 all apply to ships registered at Colonial ports, and their schedules are filed together by year.

In various other places, in the records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Port Numbers were used as a shorthand for the name of the port - all numbers apply.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

General Register and Record Office of Seamen, 1835-1872

Physical description: 6944 box(es)
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Selection and destruction information: Some of the muster rolls were destroyed in 1876.
Unpublished finding aids:

The system of codes used for the Muster Rolls and Agreements is summarised in the additional information available at The National Archives, Kew. A list of port numbers for all UK Ports of Registry, together with those currently known for other ports is available at The National Archives, Kew.

Administrative / biographical background:

By an Act of 1747 for the relief of disabled seamen and their dependants, masters of merchant ships were required to deposit muster rolls with the Collectors of Customs, for each voyage. These Rolls were used until about 1851 when the Merchant Seamen's Fund Act made new arrangements for seamen's pensions.

From 1835 the masters of British ships were required to enter into agreements with their crews and to deposit copies of these agreements and lists of crew. The lists were transmitted to the Registrar General of Seamen. From 1850 masters were required to keep official log books to record such events as illnesses, deaths, and misconduct.

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