Find your ancestors in Britain, Merchant Seamen, 1918-1941

Search more than 1.1 million Merchant Navy Seamen records for details of your ancestors and relatives. Discover valuable information about their voyages, ranks, personal details including their address, next of kin, and physical descriptions. In some cases, you may even find photographs of those featured in our records. The records include seamen from England, Wales, Italy, Romania, Belgium, West Africa, Latvia and more.

The Merchant Navy Seamen 1918-1941 records include index cards that the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman used 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 two or more cards for some individuals. These are volumes from The National Archives' record series BT 348, BT 349, BT 350 and BT 364. The originals are held by the Southampton Archives.

In most cases, the front of a card gives the basic biographical information about each individual – his name, his year and place of birth, his rank or rating, and so on. Initials were sometimes given rather than first names. Sometimes there is a physical description. You may also be able to see other information about your ancestor, such 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, use the arrow on the right side of the image. 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.

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.