The Caird Library and Archive at the National Maritime Museum subscribes to a range of electronic resources to assist you in your research. From specialist dictionaries, encyclopaedias and indexes to family history research services and maritime research journals.

Resources are available free of charge in the Caird Library and Archive and database login details (if required) are available from Library staff. The resources we subscribe to cannot be accessed outside the Museum buildings.

Caird Library & Archive digitised collections

The Caird Library & Archive holds many important collections, including: the documents of the P&O Shipping Line; Lord-Macquitty (the Titanic collection) and the Michael-Graham Stewart Slavery Collection. It is necessary to consult these in person. 

One of the numerous crew list collections held at the National Maritime Museum are the 1915 Crew Lists - the originals have been transcribed and digitised as part of our contribution to the World War One centenary. Please see the link below. 

Three additional prominent collections are online: the Masters and Mates Certificates, the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital Admissions and Discharges and Merchant Seamen Deaths (World War II) which have been digitised by Ancestry. (Links provided below.) 

If you find the links to Ancestry do not work, please copy this url into your browser  -  -  To verify this is the museum's subscription, you should see National Maritime Museum in the top right corner. 

Search tip: the content is organised in more than 30,000 separate collections, so it's worth searching the Ancestry title list to see which ones are likely to have the information you're looking for.

Great Britain, Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927 This database contains masters and mates certificates issued to merchant seamen by the British Board of Trade. The certificates and other documents included in this database were issued to merchant seamen who qualified as masters or mates aboard merchant ships. Records include certificates of competency, certificates of service, examination applications (which list the names of ships served on), and similar documents. Originals can be ordered here.

Merchant Seamen Deaths, 1939-1953 This collection holds information about the merchant seamen who lost their lives during and after World War II.

Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital Admissions and Discharges, 1826-1930 The Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital at Greenwich was the main clinical site of the Seamen’s Hospital Society (now Seafarer’s Hospital Society), founded with the philanthropic mission of providing relief to sick and injured seafarers of all nations.   Did you know?  The Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital records can be searched by place of birth and will include seafarers and sailors of Caribbean and African descent. For example, a search for place of birth in  Barbados results in 3,306 sailors who were in the Merchant Navy.   

1915 Crew List Access to the 1915 Crew List images and transcriptions was a collaborative project between the National Maritime Museum and the National Archives highlighting the contribution of the Merchant Navy in the First World War. Over 400 volunteers from around the world transcribed the 1915 crew lists of the British Merchant Navy in our collection which ensures a high standard of accuracy. These crew lists contain the details for around 39,000 voyages, including the names and personal details of over 750,000 seamen.

Research Guides

The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum has produced a range of research guides to help people carry out their own research on a wide range of topics. They provide information about the Museum's collections and other sources for research into maritime history. The information in the guides was produced by the staff of the museum, with additional contributions from researchers. The guides are the copyright of the National Maritime Museum.

Research Guide B1: The Royal Navy: Tracing people

Research Guide C1: The Merchant Navy: Tracing people: Crew lists, agreements and official logs

Research Guide V5: African Caribbean Family History 

Research Guide: Finding Black and Asian Sailors in the RMG Collections

Dictionaries, encyclopedias and indexes

Bibliography of British and Irish History

Originally developed by the Royal Historical Society, the Bibliography of British and Irish History is an index to books, articles in books, and articles in journals. It is a key tool for anyone researching British and Irish history from the Romans to the present. It indexes several maritime journals, including the Mariner's Mirror.

British History Online

Printed primary and secondary sources for the history of Britain and Ireland: 1300-1800. Examples include Calendars of State Papers and Statutes of the Realm.

Lloyd’s Register of Ships

(Login required – please ask Library staff) Please note: the online access is limited to information from 1990 only.

Lloyd's Register of Ships 1764-1979 can be accessed in print in the library. Print copies from 1980 are available to order from the stores. 

A highly-regarded reference source providing information on all sea-going, self-propelled merchant ships of 100 GT and above, whatever their classification, for the current year.

Lloyd’s Directory of Shipowners - This resource is no longer provided online. (28 Mar. 2019)   Please note:  Lloyd's Directory of Shipowners 1764-1979 are found in print in the Lloyd's Register of Ships.    Lloyd's Directory of Shipowners post 1980 are published in separate volumes and are available to order via the Library Catalogue.

Oxford Art Online and Benezit Dictionary of Artists

Oxford Art Online is an encyclopedia-style resource covering every aspect of the visual arts from prehistory to the present day. It is particularly good for biographies of artists and subject overviews on styles, movements and places. Over 5000 images from art museums and collections are included.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Over 50,000 biographies of people who shaped the history of the British Isles and beyond, from the earliest times to 2003. You can search, browse, or explore themed essays.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History

Search or browse over 900 entries on topics including naval history, shipbuilding, navigation and scientific instrumentation, maritime art and literature.

Oxford English Dictionary Online

The OED is the authoritative dictionary of the English language. It contains information on the past and present meaning of words from across the English-speaking world. It traces the history of words through quotations, from the earliest usage to the present day.

Who's Who, and Who Was Who

Who's Who is an annually published directory of noteworthy and influential individuals in all walks of life, in the UK and worldwide. It has been published since 1849, and previous editions are also included in this online version as Who Was Who.

Where relevant, entries also contain links to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Family history

Ancestry Library

Ancestry Library is a key resource for researching family history. The primary resources for England, Wales and Scotland are the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1901 censuses as well as birth, death and marriage indexes, trade, town and telephone directories.

Maritime resources found on Ancestry Library include: Apprentices Indentured in Merchant Navy, 1824-1910; Campaign Medals Awarded to WWI Merchant Seamen, 1914-1925 and WWII Medals Issued to Merchant Seamen, 1939-1945. This information is provided by various record offices including the National Archives. In addition to Merchant Navy and Royal Navy resources, maritime resources can include: The National Roll of the Great War, passenger lists and medal rolls.

Ancestry now includes 3 datasets from the documents in the Caird Library & Archive collection.

Great Britain, Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927. This database contains masters and mates certificates issued to merchant seamen by the British Board of Trade. Records include certificates of competency, certificates of service, examination applications (which list the names of ships served on), and similar documents. Originals can be ordered here.

Merchant Seamen Deaths, 1939-1953 World War Two and the Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital Admissions and Discharges, 1826-1930 Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital at Greenwich / Seamen’s Hospital Society (now Seafarer’s Hospital Society)

Search tip: the content is organised in more than 30,000 separate collections, so it's worth searching the Ancestry title list to see which ones are likely to have the information you're looking for.

Research Guides

The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum has produced a range of research guides to help people carry out their own research on a wide range of topics. These include: Black & Asian Seafarers, Charts & Atlases, the Cutty Sark, Merchant Navy, Navigation, Polar Exploration, RMS Titanic, Royal Naval Greenwich, the Royal Navy and more. 

The guides provide information about the Museum's collections and other sources for research into maritime history. The information in the guides was produced by the staff of the museum, with additional contributions from researchers. The guides are the copyright of the National Maritime Museum.

Find My Past

This is another key family history e-resource. It is very user-friendly and has a wealth of valuable material. (RMG staff please note: due to licensing agreement restrictions Find My Past may not be accessed when you are working from home.)

The Records of Merchant Navy Seamen were deposited at The National Archives, however, they have been digitised and are available on Find My Past as follows:

Merchant Navy Seamen 1835–1857

Records of Merchant Navy Seamen for the period 1857-1918: These records do not exist as the Board of Trade decided they were not necessary and were superseded by crew lists and ship agreements. 

Merchant Navy Seamen 1918–1941

Records may include name, age, place of birth, physical description, ship names and dates of voyages. 

Other notable resources on Find My Past:

Search tip: copy the Title into the Card Catalogue (click on Search, scroll down to Card Catalogue)  

  • Census Collection of England, Wales and Channel Islands (1841–1911)
  • Birth, Marriage and Death Index (primarily 1837–2006)
  • British Newspapers 1710-1963 : thousands of local and regional publications across England, Wales, and Scotland.

Outgoing Passenger Lists for all ships leaving the UK 1890–1960

  • Records of ticket-holding passengers embarking or transiting through the UK on long-distance voyages 1890–1960 can be searched.
  • Passenger lists of SS Titanic are included. Information about understanding the lists, by Stephen Rigden, is available.
  • Records of individuals or groups of people leaving for destinations including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and USA featuring ports such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York.
  • Passengers include not only immigrants and emigrants, but also businessmen, diplomats and tourists.
  • Images of the passenger lists are available to view, download and print.

The National Archives’ Discovery

The National Archives' (TNA’s) Discovery enables the searching and full-text downloading of TNA's large collection of digitised public records. It is a vital family history resource, and is especially helpful for seaman’s service records and wills. There is an extensive collection of naval records available.

The collection also includes the selected wills of well-known historical figures such as Horatio, Lord Nelson and Sir Francis Drake. A variety of First World War records, including war diaries (containing operations reports, intelligence summaries and other material), medal index cards (giving information on military personnel and their medal entitlements) and service records are also available.

Maritime journals and research

Manual of Maritime Curatorship

Produced by the Maritime Heritage Network, this handbook provides a useful introduction to maritime curatorship for those who work in maritime museums, as well as those in related museum and heritage fields who are not maritime specialists, but who may have to deal with maritime material. As such it is an excellent overview of the extraordinarily broad and deep knowledge of the maritime world built up by curators and others over many decades.

Online journal articles

Mariner's Mirror -The international journal of the Society for Nautical Research. It has been published since 1911 and is recognised as the world's leading  journal of naval and maritime history. Print copies are available in the library's reading room. 

Some of the journals we subscribe to in print form come with online access. Please search for the title in the Library Catalogue and click on the url link in the catalogue record. 

Journal of Maritime Research

'The Journal for Maritime Research (JMR) is the first electronic journal in the field of maritime studies. From contemporary issues to the political, economic, cultural and social aspects of maritime history, the JMR publishes innovative, multi-disciplinary research on maritime subjects. It is published by the Centre for Research at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.'

Full-text free access to this publication

The Naval Chronicle

The Caird Library now has permanent free electronic access to The Naval Chronicle (published in 40 volumes from 1799 to 1818).

The Naval Chronicle is a key historical maritime source, containing accounts of battles and lists of ships, plus details of naval marriages, promotions, deaths, courts-martial and biographies, plus some engravings and charts.

Journal archives

JSTOR Archive

JSTOR is a digital archive containing important scholarly journals and a large collection of 19th century British Pamphlets. The journal content covers all disciplines, while the pamphlet collection is strong on issues of political debate – for instance the anti-slavery movement.

The JSTOR website has some good online tutorials on searching the archive and locating a specific article.

Lloyd's List Archive

(Login required – please ask Library staff) 
A searchable database of articles from Lloyd's List, going back to 1991.

Rare and historic books

Early English Books Online

Early English Books Online contains digital (PDF) versions of books, broadsheets and tracts printed in English between 1475 and 1700. It includes 100,000 of over 125,000 titles listed in the Pollard & Redgrave and Wing Short-Title Catalogues, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640–1661) collection. Around 14,000 titles have also been transcribed and are available in printable text format.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) is a wonderful resource, covering every noteworthy English-language and foreign-language title printed in Great Britain during the 18th century, along with thousands of significant works from the Americas. E-content pages are available, plus fully-digital images of each page from the original historical works, which may be viewed online from cover-to-cover.

ECCO contains 33 million pages, over 180,000 titles, making up 200,000 volumes. It is a full-text searchable database and is based on the English Short-Title Catalogue.


17th and 18th Century Burney Collection

The newspapers and pamphlets collected by Reverend Charles Burney (1757–1817) are the largest single collection of 17th and 18th century English news publishing. Most material is from London, but there are also English provincial, Irish and Scottish papers, and a few examples from America, Europe and India. Titles include the Daily Courant (1702–1735) and the London Gazette (1666–1792).

You can find out more about the Burney collection from the British Library website.

19th Century British Library Newspapers

This resource contains the digitised content of 49 influential national and regional newspapers from the 19th century. Titles include the Daily News (1846–1900), the Morning Chronicle (1801–1865), the Graphic (1870–1900) and the Liverpool Mercury (1811–1900).

The British Library also hosts its own version of this database, which is free to search on their website, and articles are via pay-per-view online or for free at their St. Pancras site. The website has some good topical articles, and also offers the entire runs of the Graphic and the Penny Illustrated News on open access in their reading room.

A version of the British Newspaper Archive can be found on Find My Past.  British Local Newspapers such as the Liverpool Daily Post, the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Portsmouth Evening News can be found under the Family History heading on this page.   Included is the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette which was absorbed into Lloyd's List

Guardian and Observer Digital Archive

The Guardian/Observer Digital Archive contains more than 200 years of reporting from the Manchester Guardian (1821–1959), Guardian (1959–2003), and Observer (1791–2003) newspapers. There are a variety of search options, and you can view articles in PDF.

Illustrated First World War

This group of publications, editions covering 1914-1919,  includes : The Bystander, The Illustrated London News, The Illustrated War News, The Sketch, The Sphere, Sporting and Dramatic News and The Tatler are provided online as a Free resource by the publishers in commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.     

The Illustrated London News Historical Archive

With its debut in 1842 the Illustrated London News became the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper, sparking a revolution in journalism and news reporting. The publication presented a vivid picture of British and world events – including news of war, disasters, royalty, social affairs, the arts and science. Containing over 260,000 full colour pages, fully searchable and browseable, the ILN Historical Archive 1842–2003 provides users with unprecedented access to the entire run of this unique historical record.

Times Digital Archive

The Times Digital Archive contains more than 7 million articles from The Times newspaper from 1785 to 1985. There are a variety of search options, and you can view articles and pages in either text or facsimile image.