Find your ancestors in Britain, Merchant Seamen, 1835-1857

Search The National Archives’ merchant seamen records and discover your ancestor who lived his life at sea. The records include seamen from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Republic of Ireland, as well as such far-flung places as Malta, Canada, and Denmark, to name a few. The records provide physical descriptions of your ancestor.

The Merchant navy seamen 1835-1857 records represent individual seamen that the central government created to monitor a potential reserve of sailors for the Royal Navy. Over 1.9 million records are available to view between these dates.

Merchant navy seamen records are split into two very distinct sections / timeframes because in 1857 the Board of Trade abandoned the seamen's register, deeming the agreements and crew lists enough to meet the department's needs. This means that no register of ordinary seamen's service was kept between 1858-1913.

From 1835, central government began to monitor a potential reserve of sailors for the Royal Navy, which resulted in the creation of thousands of records that identify individual seamen. The main series of records feature the ships' agreements and crew lists, from which registers of service were created.

These are volumes from The National Archives' record series BT112, BT113, BT114, BT115, BT116 and BT120.