Crew lists and agreements for vessels registered to Isle of Man ports

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of the shipping agreements and crew lists arranged by year and then by Isle of Man port registry (Castletown and Derbyhaven, Castletown, Douglas, Peel and Ramsey). The agreement names the vessel, its official number, port of registry, tonnage, horse power, number of seamen for whom accommodation is certified, name of registered managing owner or manager and address, name and address of master and his certificate number. Log books are also included and the particulars of engagement are given for individual crew members. The records contain information on vessels registered to Glasgow (these vessels were of the Isle of Man, Liverpool and Manchester Steam Ship Company). Records of Manx crew members on vessels registered to Whitehaven and applications for exemptions for Manx vessels of trawler ships registered to Liverpool, Dublin and Galway are also included.

Administrative / Biographical History

From the eighteenth century masters of any British merchant ships have been legally required to keep a record of their voyages and their crews. Muster rolls were the official documents that listed the officers and the men on the ship. By 1835 these were replaced by crew lists and agreements. Under the Mercantile Marine Act 1850 it then became a legal requirement for every British vessel to create an official log book, listing the details of the ship's voyages. The ‘agreement’ was effectively an employment contract between the ship’s master and each member of his crew, signed by both parties before the ship sailed; the crew lists accompanied these agreements. Agreements can reveal a wealth of information regarding details about the ship, its master and voyages at the date of being filed. Crew lists provide information such as the crew members’ names, age, place of birth, position on the ship, previous service on other ships, date and place of joining the ship, time and place of death or leaving the ship and the nature of the seaman’s departure. The crew lists and agreements were completed before each voyage abroad and/or at the end of every six months. An official log book was also required, listing the details of the ship's voyages. The documents were lodged with the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff twice a year and were permanently retained as public records.

In 1971 the crew lists and agreements' records 1863-1913 registered to Manx ports were transferred to the Manx National Heritage Library & Archives. From 1999-2001 the Crew List Index Project (CLIP) occurred throughout the British Isles creating an online index with the aim of providing research access to the British Crew Lists and Agreements 1857-1913 records. Access to the Isle of Man records was made available and resulted in a complete transcription of the Manx registered crew lists and agreements 1863-1913, boasting an index of over 74,000 crew list names, readily accessible through the CLIP website: http://www.crewlist.org.uk/data/vesselsalpha.php.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im

Other Finding Aids

A printed summary of lists held for each vessel is available in the Manx National Heritage Library & Archives reading room. Searches for extracted information regarding individual seamen and vessels may be made via the website CLIP: http://www.crewlist.org.uk/data/vesselsalpha.php

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from MS 09800's deposit file, Elizabeth Shepherd’s Archives and Archivists in 20th century England (2009, pp.43-44) and the website http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/crew-lists-agreements-log-books-merchant-ships-after-1861/

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), December 2015.

Custodial History

The crew lists and agreements records are public records and were filed and housed at the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff, twice a year from 1835 onwards. Some weeding of public records was authorized under schedules made following specific legislation (the former Public Records Office (PRO) Acts 1877 and 1898), but the crew lists and agreements and related documents had to be kept for official purposes for at least fifty years. In the 1950s the significant Grigg Report established weaknesses within British record-keeping and identified the inadequate legislation hindering the PRO after the Second World War. Published in 1954, the report concluded that public records deemed for permanent preservation had to be at least twenty-five years old and still have administrative and historical value. The records eligible for permanent preservation would be transferred and stored at the PRO before their thirtieth year and would be opened to the public at fifty years old; this report formed the basis for the 1958 Public Records Act. The Committee further declared that records should not be retained in the PRO ‘solely because they contain information which might be useful for genealogical or biographical purposes’ (something which the crew lists and agreements greatly benefit).

Under the 1958 Public Records Act the Registry for Shipping and Seamen records were transferred to the PRO. The PRO however estimated that the newly acquired records totalled between three to four million which would occupy approximately 30,000 feet of shelf space; they also estimated this to increase 375 feet per year, a number which could not be justified by the records’ lack of current administrative value. By 1966 a committee (made up by the PRO, the Registry of Shipping and Seamen and the Ministry of Transport) decided that the bulk of the British merchant ships Crew Lists and Agreements 1857-1913 should be destroyed. Documents dated before 1856 would be retained (due to their rarity) and a sample of 10% dated after 1857 would be retained by the PRO for research purposes. This proposal caused public outcry and led to many port authorities and archives in maritime regions offering to take in the unwanted records. The Manx Museum Library (now the Manx National Heritage Library & Archives) offered to take all records from 1863-1913 relating to ships registered in Isle of Man ports (Castletown & Derbyhaven, Castletown, Douglas, Peel and Ramsey) resulting in over 3,000 records arriving in June 1971 under s.3(6) of Public Records Act 1958. The remaining British crew lists and agreements were divided between the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (10%), approximately thirty record offices (10%) across the British Isles and Ireland and the Maritime History Archive Newfoundland (70%), Canada.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes 'Lists of Manx Vessels, 1857-1914' (reference number: MS 06404), 'Registry of Shipping & Seamen, 1866, 1868' (reference number: MS 08018), and 'Shipping Register for Manx Ships, 1824-1971' (reference number: Ms 10046). Further material includes various library and photographic archive resources.