Are you doing family history research related to the Merchant Navy? Are you stuck with finding the Official Number of a British-registered vessel? Perhaps you have a list of Official Numbers but do not know the ship names?
Knowing a ship’s Official Number is crucial when you do family history research, because the large repositories holding crew agreements and logbooks, including the National Maritime Museum, the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland and the National Archives at Kew, use Official Numbers as a reference point, rather than names. From 1855, merchant vessels were given an unique number when they first registered with the Board of Trade, and this number stayed with the vessel throughout her life, even if she was re-registered or re-named.
There is a very useful free online database called the Crew List Index Project (CLIP) which was set up to improve access to the records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th century and has gathered the largest database providing details of the locations of surviving crew lists. This site currently contains over 450,000 records of vessels’ names and Official Numbers with a complete coverage of British-registered vessels with numbers from 1 to 200,000 and covering the period 1855 to the 1950s.
Searching by names: (This is an index of vessels by name; it shows matching names and their Official Numbers, sorted first by name, then by number.)
Searching by Official Numbers: (This is an index of vessels by Official Number. You must bear in your mind that ships were often re-named so there may be several different names for one vessel.)
Once you know the relevant name and Official Number, the next step is to track down the crew lists for that ship. The National Maritime Museum’s research guide C1: The Merchant Navy: Tracing people: Crew lists, agreements and official logs may help you how to do so. For more information, please follow the link: http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/research-guides/the-merchant-navy/tracing-people-crewlists-agreements-logs
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