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Merchant Navy - Ship's Logs

Nature of Source

A record of events on board the ship concerning the crew and passengers. The information detailed events such as illness, births, marriages and deaths, crew movements and disciplinary proceedings. If survived, the log will be found with the crew agreement papers, except for the years between 1905-1912 and 1914-1918 when they were kept separately. These are now held at The National Archives in series BT 165.

Sailing dates are sometimes recorded but were not compulsory for a ship's log. Only about 20 per cent of logs have survived.

See also
Merchant Navy - Apprenticeship Records
Merchant Navy - Certificates of Competency & Service
Merchant Navy - Crew Lists & Agreements
Merchant Navy - Death At Sea Indexes
Merchant Navy - Musters
Merchant Navy - Registers of Seamen/Service (Seamen)
Merchant Navy - Registered Ticket Records
Merchant Navy - Trinity House Petitions

Where Found

Separate Logs
The National Archives (BT 165, Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Ships' Official Logs, 1905-1912 and 1914-1918)
Crew Agreements
The National Archives (BT 98, 1835-1860; BT 99, 10% sample covering 1861-1938 & 1950-1994)
National Maritime Museum (90 per cent coverage)
Maritime History Archive (1863-1977 excluding years covered by TNA and the NMM)
Merseyside Maritime Museum (Maritime Archives and Library: The library holds registers of merchant ships and records of the major shipping companies operating from Liverpool; records of the port of Liverpool, local trade associations, shipping companies, merchant houses, port services, charities and ship builders; plans, photographs and oral tapes. A series of detailed information sheets dealing with the maritime research are available at the web site)
Imperial War Museum
(Collections include photos, art, souvenirs, ephemera, recordings and newspapers, journals and books)

Period Covered

1852 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names and careers of seamen. Date of births, marriages and deaths on board.

Further References

Bevan, Amanda. Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives: The National Archives, 2006


Fenton, Roy & Briody, Nuala & Macdonald, Mike. Maritime Information, A guide to libraries and sources of information in the United Kingdom: MIA, 2004


Hailey, John. Maritime Sources in the Library of the Society of Genealogists: Society of Genealogists, 1997


Spencer, William. Family History in the Wars: The National Archives, 2007


Smyth, W. H. The Sailor's Wordbook: The Classic Source for Over 14,000 Nautical and Naval Terms: Conway Maritime Press, 2005


Tracing Your Family History: Merchant Seamen: Imperial War Museum, 2006

 

Tracing Your Family History: Merchant Navy, Imperial War Museum, 2006

 

Watts, Christopher & Watts, Michael & Smith, Kelvin. Records of Merchant Shipping & Seamen, PRO Publications, 1998

 

Watts, Christopher & Watts, Michael. My Ancestor Was a Merchant Seaman: Society of Genealogists, 2011

 

Watts, Christopher & Watts, Michael. Tracing Births, Deaths and Marriages at Sea: Society of Genealogists, 2004

 

Wills, Simon. Tracing Your Merchant Navy Ancestors: Pen & Sword Books, 2012

 

Wills, Simon. Tracing Your Seafaring Ancestors: A Guide to Maritime Photographs for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2016

Woodman, Richard. The Merchant Navy: Shire Publications, 2013

 

 

TNA Research Guides

Websites

www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/merchant-ships (TNA Research Guide: How to look for records of Merchant ships)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/merchant-seaman-serving-1858-1917 (TNA Research Guide: How to look for records of Merchant seamen serving 1858-1917)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/merchant-seaman-serving-after-1917 (TNA Research Guide: Merchant seamen serving after 1917)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/merchant-seaman-serving-up-to-1857 (TNA Research Guide: Merchant seamen serving up to 1857)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/officers-merchant-navy (TNA Research Guide: Officers in the Merchant Navy)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/registration-merchant-ships (TNA Research Guide: Registration of merchant ships
www.iwm.org.uk/research/tracing-your-family-history/tracing-your-merchant-navy-family-history (Imperial War Museum: Merchant Navy Family History: Guides include: Where to find Merchant Navy Records; Casualty Records; Medal Records; Other sources)
https://museum.wales/curatorial/industry/resources/maritime-history (National Museum Wales: Researching Welsh maritime history)
www.rmg.co.uk/discover/researchers/research-guides (National Maritime Museum Research Guides: Tracing family history from maritime records; The Merchant Navy: World War Two; The Merchant Navy: Tracing merchant seamen; he Merchant Navy: Tracing people: Crew lists, agreements and official logs; The Merchant Navy: Tracing people: Master-mariners, mates and engineers; The Merchant Navy: Sources for enquiries; The Merchant Navy: Sources for ship histories; The Merchant Navy: First World War)
http://lrfoundation.org.uk/public_education/research_resources/information-sheets (Lloyd’s Register Foundation: Information sheets: Guides include: Registry of Shipping and Seamen; Useful sources for genealogists; Sources available to historical researchers; Collections of the Lloyd’s Register of Ships and associated publications in UK and Ireland)
http://lrfoundation.org.uk/public_education/reference-library/register-of-ships-online (Lloyd’s Register Foundation: Lloyd’s Register of Ships online: How to access the historical Lloyd's Register of Ships. Links to volumes of the Lloyd’s Register of Ships which are fully accessible and searchable online. Resources include the 1764 Register Book)
www.mun.ca/mha/research/principalrecords.php (Maritime History Archive. List of the principal records of British shipping and seamen, showing their present locations)
www.mariners-l.co.uk/UKMerchantNavyIndex.html (Researching the mariners and ships of the Merchant Marine)
www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/listGuides.aspx (Merseyside Maritime Museum: Tracing Seafaring Ancestors in the Merchant Navy)
www.merchant-navy.net/forum/forum.php (Forum Thread: Complete Guide to Researching Merchant Navy Records)
http://globalgenealogy.com/globalgazette/gazfd/gazfd50.htm (GlobalGenealogy: Maritime Records & Resources by Fawne Stratford-Devai)
www.crewlist.org.uk (Crew List Index Project: Volunteer project transcribing records held at County Record Offices. Site includes guides to finding and using crew lists. The index is available online at www.findmypast.co.uk)
www.angelfire.com/de/BobSanders (Tracing British Seamen & their ships)
www.angelfire.com/de/BobSanders/CREW.html (Tracing British Crew Lists & Agreements)
www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/pdf/Naval%20History-Tracing%20Seafaring%20Ancestors%20in%20the%20Merchant%20Navy%20no43.pdf (National Museums Liverpool: Tracing Seafaring Ancestors in The Merchant Navy)
www.history.ac.uk/gh/capreg.htm (Guildhall Library. Leaflet Guide, Lloyd's Captains Registers at Guildhall Library and related sources)
www.poheritage.com (P&O Heritage: The site highlights the history and the collections and archives of the P&O shipping line as well as the companies acquired by the group over the years. The site hosts a number of Family History Research Guides and an online database of nearly 2,500 P&O ships)
www.parishchest.com (Online store selling Merchant Navy records from a variety of suppliers)

Online Databases

TNA Online Collections (Medals issued to Merchant Seamen, Second World War extracted from BT 395. TNA Online Collections is produced by The National Archives and contains online access to indexes, transcriptions and digital images of some of the TNA's most important holdings. Searches are free but a fee is levied for each downloaded item. However downloads are free if used at TNA or the Society of Genealogists)
www.history.ac.uk/gh/capintro.htm (Indexes to Lloyd's Captains Registers)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Crew List Index Project 1861-1913: Indexes to around 33,500 lists of crew members on board vessels and around 413,500 records of individual crewmen. The lists are indexes to original documents held in various repositories in the UK as well as in Canada)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Merchant Navy Seamen 1835-1941: The records comprise two main sections: Firstly, Merchant Navy Seamen 1835-1857 which consists of records of individual seamen that the central government created to monitor a potential reserve of sailors for the Royal Navy and secondly, Merchant Navy Seamen 1918-1941 which consist of records of index cards that the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman used between the two world wars to produce a centralised index to merchant seamen serving on British merchant navy vessels. The datasets consists of registers from Series I, Series II, Series III but not Series IV which will remain unpublished)
www.welshmariners.org.uk (Welsh Mariners: Online index of 23,500 Welsh merchant masters, mates and engineers covering 1800-1945, compiled by Dr. Reg Davies. The sister site at www.irishmariners.ie has records of Irish merchant seamen)
www.angelfire.com/de/BobSanders/CREWIN.html (Cardiff Crew Agreements, transcribed records of master mariners named in the crew agreements)
http://weblog.rmg.co.uk/memorials (National Maritime Museum: Maritime Memorials: The database contains records of over 5000 church, cemetery and public memorials to seafarers and victims of maritime disasters)
www.dgcommunity.net/historicalindexes (The Shipping Registers for Dumfries 1824-1904, Kirkcudbright 1824-1841, Stranraer 1824-1908 and Wigtown 1836-1908)

CD Roms

Family History Indexes (Seamen's Crewlists, 1851 extracted from BT 98)
S & N Genealogy Supplies (Crew Lists and Agreements 1863-1913)
The Maritime History Archive (Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada. Searchable CD containing data on the vessels, captains and crews of Great Britain and Atlantic Canada, 1787-1936)
London Cornish Association (Cornish Masters & Mates Project. Cornish-born Merchant Navy Officers extracted from TNA BT 127)