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The Merchant Navy needs you!
- Are you interested in volunteer work?
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If you can answer “yes” to these three questions, then we would love to hear from you.
In partnership with The National Archives (TNA) the National Maritime Museum last year launched a project to transcribe and make available online, all of the surviving Merchant Navy crew lists from 1915. As there are no records for individual merchant seamen from this period, these records are of national significance in high lighting the vital contribution made by the Merchant Navy during the First World War. They are also of immeasurable value to family historians, as one of the few sources of information about the contribution of our sea-faring ancestors active in 1915. If you had an ancestor at sea in the British merchant navy in 1915, there is a high chance a crew list for one or more voyages survive. Approximately 39,000 crew lists have been photographed and NMM and TNA volunteers from as far afield as Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, France and Ireland as well as all over the UK are transcribing these records to make them available and searchable. This is marvellous effort really demonstrates the international interest and demand for the information these records contain.We hope to launch the project in August 2014, to coincide with the centenary of the start of the First World War and really contribute something valuable to our memory and understanding of this conflict.
Your Museum Needs You: Could you invest some hours and transcribe a box of crew lists and help this valuable project?
For more information please contact:
The work on the Sammy Ofer Wing is continuing, and we are busy preparing the collections to move into the new building in April-July 2011. We’ve updated the information on the progress of the building work and our plans for the new research and reading room on the website. The information is updated every two months, so please take a look at the blog or website in the future.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
The NMM Archive and Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of copies of the Registers of births, deaths and marriages at sea, 1854-1890, from the General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen [microform version].
This resource consists of microfilm copies of registers compiled from ships’ official logs of births, deaths and marriages of passengers at sea. These records are also available in digital format from the National Archives (Catalogue reference BT 158) for a fee but these copies allow browsing and can be a good starting point for compiling a genealogy, adding considerable detail about the seafaring life of an individual.
Gregory (Information Assistant, Library)
We’ve just added two fantastic new electronic resources to our collection. Both are created from holdings at the British Library, and complement Early English Books Online and the Times Digital Archive as primary source material in digital form.
The first is 19th Century British Library Newspapers, a great new resource that contains the digitised content of 49 influential newspapers from the 19th century. The titles are both national and regional, and include the Daily news (1846-1900), the Morning Chronicle (1801-1865) and the Liverpool Mercury (1811-1900).
The British Library also hosts its own version of
the database, which is free to search but you will have to pay-per-view to see the digitised articles. It’s worth looking at this version however, as it offers some good background essays, such as this primer on the Napoleonic Wars. Perhaps best of all though, are the entire runs of the
Graphic and the Penny Illustrated News on open access.
The second new resource is the 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection. This resource includes newspapers, pamphlets and broadsides from the very beginning of serial publishing, all of which were collected by the Reverend Charles Burney (1757-1817) and are now held at the British Library. Most of the 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.
Both of these resources are available free of charge from the Library and E-Library here at the museum. If you would like to know more or arrange a introductory session, leave a comment or email me at library[at]nmm.ac.uk.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
We are pleased to announce that six of our most popular Research guides have been revised and are available on our website, see http://www.nmm.ac.uk/researchers/library/. Researched and written by the highly respected merchant naval historian and genealogist, Dr Christopher Watts, they have been updated to include new online resources such as those in DocumentsOnline at the National Archives and commercial websites. They also contain detailed information, including the NMM’s records of the deaths of seamen (C9 & C10). The six guides are:
Research guide A3: Tracing family history from maritime records
Research guide C4: The Merchant Navy: Sources for enquiries
Research guide C5: The Merchant Navy: Sources for ship histories
Research guide C9: The Merchant Navy: World War One
Research guide C10: The Merchant Navy: World War Two
Research guide H5: Lloyd’s: Registers held by the National Maritime Museum
We hope you find the new guides useful.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
A new Stuarts storybox became available this year and has been used to support study day sessions at the Queens House. It contains four manuscripts and two rare books, covering the period 1638-1671, which spans the reigns of two Kings and the inter-regnum period.
The study session includes interactive palaeography, focusing on a commonplace book written by Sir Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671) and others. This includes a collection of historical notes, transcripts, a seamen’s dictionary and contemporary accounts of actions during the civil war. A few sentences from the commonplace book have been provided here to put your palaeographic skills to the test (see right hand image. Full transcription provided at the bottom of this post).
Also included in the storybox is a letter written by Oliver Cromwell, 23 February 1648/9. Notice the discrepancy between the two years to distinguish between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian new year. The letter concerns an order for new flags to be flown in the fleet and new, ‘more appropriate’ parliamentarian ship names to be used. For example, the Henrietta Maria was renamed Paragon and the Prince Royal was renamed Resolution.
Another item from the manuscripts collection is a holograph letter from Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669) to the Prince of Orange, 27 February 1642/3 (notice the two dates) reporting completion of Admiral Tromp’s task to safely transport her from Holland to England and asks the Prince to reward the Admiral for his service.
One of the rare-books in this treasure trove of Stuart material is the declaration of Charles II, read in Parliament, 1 May 1660. The proclamation was read to the English fleet by Samuel Pepys, the same year he began his diary and was appointed clerk of acts to the Navy Board; a prominent role in the administration of a leading government department.
In contrast to the writing style of the mid-17th century, is text from the Intelligence book of William Lytlestone, 1582, also used in another of the NMM’s education events on the subject of the Armada. Here is an example of the writing from Tudor times. Let’s see if you can decipher the text here and observe the contrast between the text here and the previous examples!
We shall be running a competition to complete a full and accurate transcription of the excerpt above. Please email answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. A prize draw will commence on 3 April, the winner will be announced and receive a £5 voucher for findmypast.com, home of Ancestors on Board as well as many other genealogical sources.
Excerpt from the commonplace book (17th century)
The Kings field forces for the Midland countyes. The field forces for which the King had for the securing of these Midland countyes and garrisons &c. was 1st the Royall army (countenanced by the Kings own presence in it) com(m)anded by Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice, which was that Army which fought his excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax’s his army at Naseby. 2. Besides, the King had a very considerable force of Horse and Foot in Wales, under the com(m)and of the Lord Gerrard. 3. and also a good strength of Horse (continuation sign)
Mike (Manuscripts Department)
Another update on the electronic resources front: we’ve added another two new resources to our collection since I wrote my last library update back in May.
Access is available from the Caird Library and E-Library here at the museum. (I’ve added the links below as they contain more information about each resource, but please note that you will only be able to access the content itself if you stop in and pay us a visit.)
Early English Books online is a fantastic complement to our rare printed collections, and contains digital versions of over 100,000 books, broadsheets and tracts printed in English between 1475 and 1700. Works can be viewed in digital facsimile images, or transcribed text, and can be printed page by page or in entirety.
Ancestry Library is a well-known and hugely popular family history database that will be extremely useful for anyone searching for naval or merchant seamen. It’s organised into over 4,000 seperate collections, including census, birth, death and marriage indexes, trade, town and telephone directories and passenger lists. Collections of particular interest include:
- 1841, 1851, 1961, 1871, 1881, and 1901 censuses for England, Wales and Scotland.
- Passenger lists for Australia for assisted immigrants 1828-1896 and unassisted 1826-1922, as wells as convict transportation registers and muster rolls.
- A slave narratives database containing over 20,000 transcripts of type-scripted interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period from 1929.
- A passenger ships and images database containing photographs and information on over 3,000 ships.
A lot of our new resources have been acquired as part of a pilot project initiated by the London Museum Libraries and Archive Group (LMLAG). We’ve been working on this for the last year, so it’s really exciting that we’re now able to offer these resources to our museum visitors and library users. You can read more about the pilot project on the JISC Collections website.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
Whilst the Library team was confined to the laborious task of auditing 9,000 books in the basement last week, the Manuscripts team had the luxury of working in the Caird Library itself.
The project Andrew, Kate, Martin and Mike were tackling was to catalogue a small backlog of recent acquisitions. Irene from the Documentation Department also become an honorary member of the manuscripts team for the week, joining in with cataloguing and data inputting as well as providing guidance and support to the team on data entry.
This work is important preparation for the new research centre and the move to offsite storage next year. It gave us the opportunity to really get to grips with using a new cataloguing system. At the moment manuscripts are in the same catalogue as the Library collections but over the last few months all the manuscripts data (some 66,000 records) was copied over into the new system. A new web catalogue just for manuscripts is being developed right now and should be online at the end of this month (watch this space …).
Unfortunately this means you can’t take a look at the team’s hard work on the catalogue quite yet. To give you a flavour, a letter from the carpenter of HMS Alceste to his father caught the attention of one team member. In the letter, the carpenter provides a vivid first hand account of the ship wreck of HMS Alceste off the coast of Java on 18 February 1817 and his subsequent rescue and return to England. He details a catalogue of injuries and ailments, including dysentery, a broken toe and bruised ribs, and he narrowly escaped having his face burnt! (Once the catalogue goes live you can look this up under HSR/N/9.) And another team member catalogued papers relating to the Court Martial of Admiral Byng, including letters to and from Voltaire (ADL/Z/40).
And here are some photos of both teams hard at work. Well done to all involved.
Cataloguing manuscripts on laptop in the library.
More cataloguing of manuscripts.
Working with the new archival cataloguing standards.
Auditing books in the store using wireless.
Auditing teamwork in action.
Our tallest team member auditing the ‘oversize’ books.
Hannah (Archive and Manuscripts Manager)
The archive and library at the National Maritime Museum
can be an invaluable resource when researching any maritime related family
history. If your genealogical tree holds any members from a maritime
background, be it the merchant navy, the Royal Navy, or if they worked for a
particular shipping company, we may hold that crucial piece of information you
require to complete your family tree. Also, if any of your ancestors emigrated by ship, while we don’t hold any passenger lists, we may be able to help fill out
some details of the ship they travelled aboard.
The library has recently begun subscribing to the BBC
who do you think you are? magazine and the latest issue (Issue 8, Apr.
2008) can be consulted right now in the library reading room. Currently our
holdings begin with issue 5, but will we soon have all the back issues and will
continue to collect the every new issue published.
What’s more, the National
will have a stand at the Who
Do You Think You Are? LIVE event in the Grand Hall, Olympia,
London from 2-4
May 2008. Why not drop by our stand to find out how we can assist you with your
genealogical research or, as always, contact us directly at the archive & library.
Gary (Assistant Librarian)
The great thing about working with manuscripts at the National Maritime Museum is the various collections that you get to absorb yourself in. Just to illustrate this, I’d like to share with you the collections that I enjoyed last year.
One of these is the Admiralty Compass Observatory collection, which was transferred to us from the National Archives in 1983 and includes correspondence and reports from 1842 to 1950, residing at one of our outstations, Kidbrooke. Through studying this area, I discovered how compass deviation was recorded and why it was necessary to produce technical pamphlets for modifications made to the compass over time. This collection is wonderful for studying the history of compass development.
Another important collection catalogued was the papers of Vice-Admiral Sir Norman Egbert Denning. One of his ‘reminiscences’ involving Ian Fleming and a smuggled Christmas tree was used as our festive item of the month for December
What makes this collection of 67 items engaging is his involvement with Ian Fleming and his role as the link between the operational intelligence centre (OIC) and components of the naval intelligence division, including the Ministry of Economic Warfare, the army, the Secret Intelligence, the Special Operations Executive and Bomber commands of the RAF. The Admiralty aerial photographs (1941-5) are quite fun as they reveal detailed images of convoys and naval bases.
Another exciting collection includes journals kept by Captain Edward William Hereford. He writes one of these as midshipman on board the Trafalgar during the Crimean War. When I catalogued this collection I noticed how well it would support the journals of Dr Edward Hodges Cree RN (1814-1901). Both contain striking illustrations: within a midshipman’s journal (see image below) at the bombardment of Sevastopol in 1854 and a surgeon’s account of the capture of Sevastopol and Kinburn in 1855.
What is really inspiring is seeing the way manuscript collections can reinforce and assist each other in terms of creating a more detailed view of historical events. Our archive journey ‘story boxes’ are good examples of how our manuscripts can be brought together thematically to bring our collections to light.
Mike (Manuscripts Cataloguer)