Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Agreements, Crew Lists and Official Logs.

The records were transferred from the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen's Office in Cardiff in 1971. Any crew lists from 1860 or earlier which have survived are kept at the National Archives (BT/98). From 1861, because of the bulk of the records and because the population censuses from 1861 record those aboard British merchant ships, only a ten per cent example consisting of every tenth box has been preserved at the National Archives. The National Archives also holds Agreements and Crew Lists for celebrated vessels such as the TITANIC, the GREAT BRITAIN etc. (BT/100). At the Museum, however, there are some official logs of special interest, 1909 to 1913, and for the CUTTY SARK, official logs, 1870 to 1874, and Crew Lists, 1870 to 1895. The records acquired by the Museum are for the years 1861, 1862, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895 and 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935, 1955, 1965, 1975, 1985 and 1995, less every tenth box already taken by the National Archives.

Related Material
The remainder of the records, 1863 to 1939, with the exception of some which went to local record offices, are now in the custody of the Maritime History Archive Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland; an index to these records is available at the Museum on microfiche, or online at:

The online index is searchable by a ship's official number only.

Fishing Vessels: The Merchant Shipping (Fishing Boats) Act of 1883 made special arrangements for fishing vessels of under eighty tons and from this date the Agreements and Crew Lists for these vessels were filed separately. A ten per cent sample of their records was retained by the National Archives (BT/144) and a further ten per cent, 1884 to 1914, was acquired by the Museum. Agreements and Crew Lists of unregistered fishing vessels were filed separately in alphabetical order either by the name of the vessel or by the name of the company. All of these papers, 1861 to 1913, were acquired by the Museum. See Nicholas Cox, 'The Records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen', Maritime History, II, 1972, 168-88; K. Matthews, 'Crew Lists, Agreements, and Official Logs of the British Empire, 1863-1913 now in possession of the Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, St John's, Newfoundland', Business History, XVI, 1974, 78-80.

Administrative / biographical background
In 1747 an Act for the relief of maimed and disabled seamen required the masters or owners of merchant vessels to keep muster rolls for each voyage. These rolls were to contain the names of all officers, seamen and other persons employed on the vessel, their usual place of abode, date of joining the vessel and the name of the vessel in which their last voyage was made; they were arranged under the port of deposit and kept until 1851, but after 1835 their value was reduced by the Agreements and Crew Lists which were introduced in that year. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1835 required the master of any vessel belonging to a British subject, bound on a foreign voyage, or any British-registered vessel of eighty tons or more, employed on the coastal or foreign trade, to carry a written agreement made before the voyage with every man; this was to specify the wages he was to be paid, the capacity in which he was to serve and the nature of the voyage. At the end of the voyage the master was to deliver up to the Registrar of Seamen the original agreement together with a list of all men who had been on board during the voyage. Coastal vessels were required to submit agreements every six months. The agreements can be identified by the official number of the ship or vessel. The Mercantile Marine Act of 1850 required vessels to keep official logs during the voyage which were to record illness, births, deaths, misconduct, desertions and punishments. These official logs, it should be stressed, are not logs in the usual sense. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 made the deposit of official logs compulsory. From 1852 until the early 1870s the official logs occur fairly frequently with the agreements and crew lists, although many have been destroyed. After this they may appear if there had been a birth or death on board. In many cases, however, even when the official logs have survived, they contain only a list of the crew and many pages are blank. From 1902 to 1912 and 1914 to 1919, vessels' official logs were removed from the agreements and crew lists and filed separately. These are now at the National Archives (BT/165).

Record Details

Item reference: RSS/CL; XX(62969.1)
Catalogue Section: Public records: records of the central administration of the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy
Measurements: Overall: 488 m
Date made: 1861-1995
Creator: Seamen, Registrar General Of Shipping And
Credit: © Crown copyright. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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