This guide provides information about Lloyd’s Register of Shipping as an aid to research. The National Maritime Museum’s Library has copies dating from 1764 to date.
From the late 17th onwards Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, initially in Tower Street but moving in late 1691 to Lombard Street in the City of London, was a popular meeting place for sailors, merchants and shipowners. Edward Lloyd catered for them by providing reliable shipping news. Out of this grew two unrelated internationally-known and enduring institutions bearing Lloyd’s name. The first is the insurance market Lloyd’s of London; the other is the maritime classification society Lloyd’s Register. Further details can be found in Wikipedia.
In 1760 the Society for the Registry of Shipping, later to become called Lloyd’s Register, was formed by customers of the coffeehouse. The Society printed its first Register of Ships in 1764 to give both underwriters and merchants an idea of the condition of the vessels they insured and chartered. Ship hulls were graded on a lettered scale (A being the top), and ship's fittings (masts, rigging, and other equipment) was graded by number (1 being the top). Thus the top classification was "A1", from which the expression A1, or A1 at Lloyd's, is derived, first appeared in the 1775–76 edition of the Register.
Not all ships were surveyed and included in the Register. From 1834–37, an attempt was made to include all British vessels of 50 tons or over, although very little information is given about those which had not been surveyed. From 1838–1875, only vessels which had been surveyed were included in the Register. After that date, the Register was extended to take in all British vessels over 100 tons, and from 1890 its scope was broadened to include all British and foreign sea-going vessels over 100 tons. It is always possible to determine whether or not a ship had been surveyed from the entry in Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, as the resultant Lloyd’s register classification will be given.
A vessel will remain in the Register until something happens to her; for example if she is sunk, wrecked, broken up, hulked, scrapped, etc.
From 1834 onwards Lloyd’s Register was published mid-year and covered the period 1 July–30 June the following year. To reflect this, volumes published after 1868 started to give both years, e.g. 1869–1870.
Some indexing to Lloyd’s Register has been undertaken.
Content of Lloyd’s Register
The scope and arrangement of the register varies as the nature of shipping changes. Full details are to be found in Barriskill, D.T., Guide to the Lloyd’s Marine Collection and related maritime sources at Guildhall Library (Guildhall Library, 3rd edition, 2006) on which the list below is based. Amongst the information to be found is:
- Name, and previous names if any, of the vessel from 1764
- Official number from 1872/73
- Signal code from 1874/75
- Rig and/or description from 1768
- Tonnage from 1764
- Dimensions (load-draught) 1775-1833
- Dimensions (length, breadth and depth from1863
- Description of engines from 1874/75
- Date and place of building from 1764
- Name of builder from 1860
- Name of owner from 1764
- Name of master 1764-1920/21
- Number of crew 1764-1771
- Port of registry from 1834
- Port of survey from 1764
- Classification of vessel from 1764
- Casualties etc 1775-1966/67
- Destined voyage 1764-1873/74
Key to the earliest registers
The columns in the 1764 Register are:
Former name, if applicable
Port of registry, or home port
Port of destiny
Tons burthen, approximately equivalent to present-day net tonnage
Number and size of guns, and description of vessel
Possibly mean (M) draft
Place and year of build
Name of owner
Classification of vessel
Examples of place name abbreviations
Place names were often shortened in the early Registers, due to a lack of space. Examples are as follows:
Amftm = Amsterdam
Apldre = Appledore
Bdfrd = Bideford
Br = Bristol
Cheftr = Chester
Dntzc = Dantzig
Dort = Dortmund
DStrt = Dover Strait
Elfinr = Elsinore
Gbrltr = Gibraltar
Glafg = Glasgow
Grnds = Grenada
Grnfy = Greenland Fishery
Hmb = Hamburg
Hlnd = Holland
HlStraits = Hull Straits
Imdm = Isle of Madeira
Jy = Jersey
Lbrdr = Labrador
Lncftr = Lancaster
Lh = Leith
Li = Lisbon
Ly = Lynn
M/Mn = Moulmein, Burma
MRIMC = Merrimac, Wisconsin, or
R Merrimack, New Hampshire
Mrypt = Maryport
Nflnd = Newfoundland
Petrfb/Ptrfbg = St Petersburg
Pifcat = Piscatagua Harbour
Po = Poole
Qebc = Quebec
Rofth = Rostock
Trdm = Rotterdam
Sdrld = Sunderland
Swnfe = Swansea
Tbag = Tobago
Wtfd = Waterford
Wn/Whtvn = Whitehaven
Ya/Yrmo = Yarmouth
Yghal = Yourgha
The classifications that appear in Lloyd’s Register are based on actual surveys of the ships. Survey reports survive, from 1834 onwards, and are preserved at the National Maritime Museum. Details are to be found in Research Guide H6: Lloyd's: Lloyd's Register survey reports.
Other similar publications
The National Maritime Museum library also holds copies of:
- Lloyd’s Register of Yachts for the years 1879–1939, 1947–1996.
- Hunt's Universal Yacht List, 1866–1934 (an incomplete run with gaps: 1867–1871, 1873–75, 1893, 1910–12, 1915–1933).
- Olsen's Fisherman's Almanac, 1907–1994 (an incomplete run with gaps: 1908, 1910, 1926–27, 1929, 1932–1942, 1944–46, 1949, 1951–54, 1956–57). This lists British fishing vessels over 15 tons.
The Mercantile Navy List is the Board of Trade official list of all British-registered vessels, started in 1850. Most annual volumes exist from 1857–1976 and are in the National Maritime Museum library.
The Registre Veritas is published by the French shipping registration agency Bureau Veritas, who are based in Paris. It can sometimes prove useful for 19th century British and American ships trading with the continent. The register is available on microfilm in the National Maritime Museum library for the period 1829–1985.
For more information, contact their UK offices at:
Tower Bridge Court
224–226 Tower Bridge Road
London SE1 2TX
Tel: +44 (0)20 75508900
Fax: +44 (0)20 70897084
E-mail: via online contact form
The Record of American Shipping is the US record produced by the American Bureau of Shipping. The National Maritime Museum library holds copies for most years from 1879–1980. These are outstored and notice is required to consult them.
Other guides in the series which may be useful for researching the Merchant Navy are:
- Research guide H1: Lloyd's: Lloyd's List: Brief history
- Research guide H3: Lloyd's: Lloyd's Captains' register
- Research guide H4: Lloyd's: Lloyd's List indexes
- Research guide H6: Lloyd's: Lloyd's Register survey reports
For general research help see:
- Research guide A2: Principal records for maritime research at the National Maritime Museum
- Research guide A3: Tracing family history from maritime records
Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.