Explore 300,000 records of masters and apprentices with new Merchant Navy records

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17 May 2019
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TheGenealogist has announced the release of 300,000 records relating to masters and apprentices who served in the Merchant Navy between 1824 and 1910.

TheGenealogist has announced the release of 300,000 records relating to masters and apprentices who served in the Merchant Navy between 1824 and 1910.

The BT 150 records from The National Archives comprise of an index that had been compiled by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and its predecessor. 

The index was begun as a result of an Act of the UK Parliament in 1823 which introduced a law that required the Masters of British merchant ships of over 80 tons to carry a given number of indentured apprentices on their vessels. The law required that these apprentice seamen’s names were to be enrolled with the local customs officer. 

By the middle of the 1830s, however, these provisions were extended by the Merchant Seamen Act 1835 which now made it necessary that the indentures were officially registered. In London, this was done with the General Register and Record Office of Seamen; while in “outports” (other ports around the country), the registration was made with the local Customs officers who were under orders to submit quarterly lists to the Registrar General.

Compulsory apprenticeship was abolished in 1849, though the system of registration was maintained by the authorities and the index continued to be kept. The books have now been transcribed by TheGenealogist and include colour images of the original registers to add a fascinating resource to their broad range of records which can be used to build an ancestor’s story.

What can I find in the records?

● Find ancestors who had learned the trade of a professional merchant seaman

● Discover the age of an ancestor at the time that he went to sea and his year of birth

● Find the name of the company and the port that he was registered as an apprentice 

● In some cases also learn the name of the ship that your ancestor sailed on

Find out more about writing up your family history in the June issue of Family Tree.