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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tracking down a seaman?

1835 Registration of British Seamen

    He no sooner lands than he becomes the prey of the infamous harpies who infest maritime London.   
    He is robbed by outfitters... he is robbed by the tavern-keepers, the crimps, and the boarding-masters.
    He is robbed by his associates, robbed in business, robbed in amusement.
    'Jack' is fair game to everybody.
'Gaslight and Daylight' by Augustus Sala (Chatto and Windus, 1872)  

The Merchant Shipping Act required all men serving in the Merchant Navy to register formally - so that they could be called up for the Royal Navy if required.

  • Men who registered were issued with tickets, which contained their personal details.
  • The Liverpool Seamen's Orphanage was one of the many institutions set up to educate, house and feed the children of men killed at sea.
  • Voluntary registration of ships' masters and mates was introduced in 1845, with certificates of competency issued. The system descended into chaos, and was abandoned in 1857.

  • If you are hunting down a seaman, here (courtesy of the BBC) are some very useful links:

    If you think your ancestor was an officer on a merchant vessel, you should look for his certificate of competency at The National Archives
    If you think your ancestor was a seaman on a merchant vessel:
    If you know the name of a merchant vessel on which your ancestor served, you can track down the crew list and agreement.

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