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There was no systematic registration of seamen. There are however some muster rolls
dating from 1747 to 1860 in BT 98. These are incomplete and are based on the port of registry and
the date of sailing. You will also need the name of the vessel.
You may find details of seamen through other types of records, most commonly records
relating to trade, taxation, legal disputes and the Royal Navy.
For more detailed information see the publication Records of Merchant Shipping and
Seamen, by Kelvin Smith, Christopher T & Michael J Watts, (PRO, 1998).
They give age and place of birth, sometimes a description and cross-references to the
crew lists in BT 98.
1858 - 1913
There was no central register of seamen. It may be possible to find something from crew
lists or log books (BT 99), but we only have a 10% sample of those.
Another 10% are at the National Maritime Museum, Maritime
Information Centre, Romney Rd, London SE10 9NF 020 8858 4422. Website: http://www.nmm.ac.uk/.
The rest are with the Maritime History Archive, Memorial
University of Newfoundland, St John's Newfoundland, Canada A1C 5S7.
1913 - 1917
There was registration, but as most registers were destroyed there is no guarantee that
you will be able to find the information you are looking for.
1918 - 1920
There is a card index BT 350 (CR 10) available on microfilm at the Public Record
Office.These cards often include a photograph, and are arranged in alphabetical order.
1921 - 1941
The Register of Seamen survives for this period so it may be worthwhile visiting the PRO at Kew. The Register consists of two large card
indexes (BT 348 and BT 349) which are available on microfilm.
They give place and date of birth, ships served on, and, sometimes next of kin.
In 1941, when the next register was being prepared, cards were extracted from BT 348 and
BT 349 for seamen who intended to serve during World War 2.
At some time in the past, a partial attempt was made to bring BT 348, BT 349 and BT 350 together, resulting in a further class of records known as BT 364. Cards are organised in Discharge 'A' number sequence. (If you
know a ship on which a seaman sailed, and can find the agreement and crew list, this may
provide you with the Discharge 'A' number.
1941 - 1972
A Fifth Register of Seamen was compiled for this period, comprising Seamen's Pouches and
When seamen were discharged their documents were placed in the Seamen's Pouches (BT 372), some of which may include details dating back to 1913. These
documents are searchable by surname using the online catalogue.
The Docket Books (BT 382) contain place and date of birth,
discharge book (Dis.A.) number, rank or rating (with certificate numbers for officers),
other qualifications, a list of ships with date and place of engagement, F or H (for
Foreign or Home trade voyage), date and place of discharge and character. These records are in the process of
being transferred to the PRO - please call to check availability.