The Caird Library and Archive at the National Maritime Museum subscribes to a range of electronic resources to assist you in your research.
Resources are available free of charge in the Caird Library and Archive and login details are available from Library staff. The resources we subscribe to cannot be accessed outside the Museum buildings.
Dictionaries, encyclopedias and indexes
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.
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.
(Login required – please ask Library staff)
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.
(Login required – please ask Library staff)
Designed to accompany the print edition available in the Caird Library, this basic database provides the latest address and contact details of the companies appearing in the printed edition, for the current year.
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.
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.
Search or browse over 900 entries on topics including naval history, shipbuilding, navigation and scientific instrumentation, maritime art and literature.
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.
Shipindex.org is an online resource that gives references to information about particular vessels in books, magazines and other websites. A large proportion of the site is free to access, but a growing number of entries are defined as premium content. The Museum has a subscription to this premium content, which you can access from the Library.
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.
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 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. 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. Read more
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.
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.)
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. For more information, please see Research Guide C13: The Merchant Navy
Records may include name, age, place of birth, physical description, ship names and dates of voyages.
Other notable resources on Find My Past:
- Census Collection of England, Wales and Channel Islands (1841–1911)
- Birth, Marriage and Death Index (primarily 1837–2006)
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' (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.
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.'
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.
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.
(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 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 (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.
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.
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 the database, which is free to search but pay-per-view for articles. The website has some good topical articles, and also offers the entire runs of the Graphic and the Penny Illustrated News on open access.
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.
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.
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.