Leading family history website www.findmypast.co.uk has today released online for the first time Merchant Seamen records from the 19th century in association with The National Archives of the United Kingdom.
* First time that 19th century merchant navy records are available online
* UK merchant seamen records from two centuries now searchable at findmypast.co.uk
359,000 records of individuals covering the years 1835-1857 have now been added to the website. Details contained within the records can vary, but can include name, age, place of birth, physical description, ship names and dates of voyages. Often this information can be given in the form of coded entries which can easily be deciphered using downloadable finding aids from The National Archives.
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.
Janet Dempsey, Maritime Expert at The National Archives commented:
"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 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 twenty two 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."
In 2011 findmypast.co.uk published Merchant Navy Seamen records from 1918-1941 in association with The National Archives, some of which include photographs.
Debra Chatfield, family historian at findmypast.co.uk added: "The Merchant Navy Seamen records will be of great interest to family historians worldwide, as so many of us have generations of ancestors, who made their living at sea. These records will add more detail to our mental picture of their lives."
All the Merchant Navy Seamen records at findmypast.co.uk can be searched for free from the Education & Work section of the website. Transcripts and images can be viewed either with PayAsYouGo credits or a Full Subscription.