Findmypast.co.uk have released a searchable database of Merchant Navy Seaman Records.
These records are index cards used by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman between the two world wars to produce a centralised index to merchant seamen serving on British merchant navy vessels.
The Board of Trade issued these cards and they fall into three types: CR1, CR2 and CR10. There are 998,838 cards; however, there are two or more cards for some individuals, so the total number of merchant seamen is lower than this.
These records are particularly valuable due to the wide range of people they include. It is possible to find records for British nationals, foreign British-registered men and women, experienced crewmen and young cabin crew. Whatever your ancestor’s role on the merchant ships, it is well worth searching for them in these records.
Another key benefit of these records is that you may find a photograph of your ancestor. For the first time, you could discover what your seafaring predecessor looked like.
The front of a card gives the basic biographical information about each individual – their name, their year and place of birth, their rank or rating, and so on. Initials were sometimes given rather than first names. Sometimes there is a physical description.
The front of a card may also give such other information as discharge number, health insurance number, address of kin and so on.
The reverse of the card may be blank, or may contain a list of official vessel numbers and signing-on dates, and/or a photograph and/or signature of the seamen. Sometimes a photograph is not on the reverse of the card but on a separate attached card. Where this is the case, you will see ‘Viewing Page 1 of 2’ when you open the image, with an option to click on ‘Next Page’ (which will show you the photograph). Where available, the photographs of the mariners are enormously evocative of the inter-war working class men who made the British merchant navy what it was.
Unfortunately, not all fields in each card were completed. Place of birth is not always given.
The merchant marine service drew recruits from all over the world. There are large numbers of seamen from across Britain, especially from ports and their hinterlands – a disproportionate number of sailors were from such areas as Merseyside, Southampton and Tyneside and large numbers from less obvious places such as the Shetlands.
There are merchant seamen from every continent, however, with large numbers from across the English-speaking world (notably the maritime provinces of Canada), from the West Indies and Sierra Leone, and from Scandinavia, Somaliland, China and Japan. There are even some sailors from landlocked Switzerland.
More information – Click here to go to FindmyPast.co.uk