Find your ancestors in London, Watermen, Birth Register Of Contracted Men, 1865-1921

Did your ancestor serve as an apprentice with The Company of Watermen? Search through this database of watermen and discover your ancestor’s birth or baptism date, place of birth and the date he submitted his proof of age to the court to begin his waterman apprenticeship.

The amount of information in each can vary, but most will include the following:

  • Name
  • Birth date
  • Baptism date
  • Registration year
  • Court entry date
  • Birth place and county
  • Document description
  • Former archiver reference – these records were formerly held at the Guildhall Archives
  • Current archive reference
  • Archive

Discover more about these records

The Company of Watermen was created in 1555 during the reign of Queen Mary. The company worked from Gravesend in Berkshire and Windsor in Kent. An apprenticeship system was established from the beginning. At the start the apprenticeship would take one year, but in 1603 this was extended to seven years. Generally apprentices would be between the age of 14 and 20. If an individual’s father was a waterman, then apprenticeship could start before the age of 18 otherwise, apprenticeship would start after 18.

As an apprentice, an individual would be bound to a master and then taught the skill of piloting a boat on the River Thames. A master would be responsible for the apprentice’s training, housing, clothing and food. In order to start an apprenticeship, a proof of age such as a birth certificate or baptism certificate needed to be produced. This database recorded the date that the proof was submitted to the court and the individual’s birth date. These were all presented to the court between 1865 and 1921. Birth place was also recorded. Many were born in the London area, but some can be found from further afield in Liverpool, Dublin, Guernsey and even Norway and India. The records were previously held at the Guildhall Archives but it now housed at the London Metropolitan Archives.