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What I found serves as a great example of how records related to seafaring occupations can be implemented in genealogical research. This post is a bit overdue, considering the research had been undertaken over a month ago, but I am still quite astounded with how much information I have located on Bartholomew Oliver through the databases on FindMyPastTM. Particularly wonderful is the record located in the image below, Bartholomew’s seamen ticket filed at the Central Registry of Shipping and Seamen. According to the database description, men like Bartholomew who were sailing in the United Kingdom during this time period, 1835-1857, had their information compiled into a register by the central government in England so that the Royal Navy had information on merchant seamen who could potentially serve active duty. Before 1835, there was little interest from the central government in the activities of seafarers in the commercial maritime world.[1] The records featured in this post were located specifically in FindMyPast’s database, British, Merchant Seamen, 1835-1857 which compiled volumes from the National Archives (UK) Record Series BT112, 113, 114, 115, 116, and 120.[2]

Names and ticket numbers for each seaman have been compiled into an index, organized alphabetically by surname.  These tickets provide a name and description of each sailor, and I was delighted with the information and genealogical profile given for Bartholomew in this record. He was asked to give his town and county of birth along with exact birthdate. The ticket required information about his maritime service, including any time spent in the Royal Navy or Foreign Service, as well as where he resides when unemployed. The ticket also provides a physical description and notes he went to sea when he was 14 years old and rose to the rank of first mate. Amazing!

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Image 1. Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Registry of Seamen’s Ticket, Bartholomew Oliver, no. 253.765, National Archives volume no. 113, piece no. 127: accessed at British, Merchant Seamen, 1835-1857 (online database, findmypast.com).

I had to dig a little deeper to find out more about these records, particularly because some information, such as unknown abbreviations and series of numbers, appear on the documents.

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Image 2. Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Register of Seamen, Bartholomew Oliver, National Archives volume no. 112, piece no. 51: accessed at British, Merchant Seamen, 1835-1857 (online database, findmypast.com). The register records on the same line the voyages of two different men named Bartholomew Oliver, one born in 1815 in Galway and 1822 in St. John, New Brunswick.

Record keeping practices in the maritime world, I have learned, are more confusing than most, and in this instance, it proves no exception. Finding aids created and compiled by archivists, researchers, and volunteers, are a “Hail Mary” when it comes to understanding the content, administrative practices, and especially the peculiarities or missing items in these records. I would highly recommend, if you want to learn more about these records, to view The National Archives (UK) page, “Merchant seamen serving up to 1857: further research.” This page provides some great diagrams identifying each character and series of number used in these registers of seamen. In regards to voyages, the numbers refer to different codes used for ports within the U.K. A table of these port codes is available on another National Archives (UK) page, “Abbreviations – Merchant Seamen Records.” Because information on voyages in these records is from articles of agreement and crew lists, it is safe to say there is more to the paper trail.

[1] National Archives (UK), “Merchant Seamen serving up to 1857: Further Research.” (accessed at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/merchant-seamen-serving-up-to-1857-further-research/: 16 Feb 2016.)

[2] FindMyPast, “British, Merchant Seamen, 1835-1857.” (accessed at http://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/britain-merchant-seamen-1835-1857: 16 Feb 2016.)

Further Reading:

National Archives (UK), “BT-112, Registry of Shipping & Seamen: Register of Seamen, Series II.” (accessed at http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C3153: 16 Feb 2016.)

National Archives (UK), “BT-113, Registry of Shipping & Seamen: Register of Seamen’s Tickets.” (accessed at http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C3154: 16 Feb 2016.)

Images from FindMyPast reproduced courtesy of the National Archives (www.nationalarchives.co.uk)

Copyright (c) 2016 Jake Fletcher.

Jake Fletcher. “FindMyPast’s Maritime Collection Led to New Documents on Bartholomew Oliver.” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 17 Feb 2016. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/findmypasts-maritime-collection-led-to-new-documents-on-bartholomew-oliver