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Register of Deceased Seamen

Like many people searching for that missing link to their ancestors Andy Boyd has searched various records and archives. While searching for those in relation to his seafaring forebears he came across the Registers of Deceased Seamen - or those copies that are available in the archives held in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

Andy has transcribed some of those records in relation to his areas of interest Northern Ireland, the Shetlands and the Orkneys and they are hosted here for the assistance of anyone who may be looking for a missing seagoing ancestor.

About the Registers

The folowing information giving some insight into the registers and others in relation to deaths at sea is an extract taken from an excellent guide to maritme records produced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

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3. DEATHS AT SEA: MERCHANT SEAMEN AND PASSENGERS

The registers of deaths at sea are public documents and are open to inspection by the public. The various registers concerning deaths at sea contain the following information regarding Merchant Seamen and Passengers:

Name of person, Rank/Occupation, age/date of birth, address, date of death, place of death (This is often given in Lat. and Long.), cause of death: name, official number and port of registry of the ship.

Registers of Births and Deaths at Sea 1965 to present day

These records are held at the Registry of Shipping and Seamen. A search may be made in these registers for the fee of 11.

Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea Death Registers: 1891 to 1964

These records are held at the Public Record Office under category BT 334: Registers and indexes of Births, Deaths and Marriages at Sea. These records contain the death registers of those passengers and crew who died on the SS Titanic and SS Lusitania.

Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea 1851 to 1890

From 1854 registers were compiled from ships official logbooks of births, marriages and deaths of passengers at sea. All these are recorded from 1854-1883, births and deaths only from 1883 -1887 and deaths only from 1888 onwards. These records are held at the Public Record Office in category BT 158 Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths of Passenger at Sea.

Masters were also required from 1874 to report births and deaths of UK subjects and foreign subjects to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen. These records are held at the Public Record Office in category BT 160: Registers of Births of British Nationals at Sea and BT 159: Registers of deaths at sea of British Nationals.

From 1851 onwards Masters of UK ships were required to surrender to the Board of Trade the wages and effects of any seaman who died during a voyage. These records included the following information concerning the seaman: name, date and place of joining the ship, date and cause of death, name, official number (after 1854) and port of ship: name of master, date and place of payment of wages, the amount of wages and date of receipt by Board of Trade.

These records are held at the Public Record Office in category BT 153: Registers of Wages and Effects of Deceased Seamen (1852 to 1881). To access these records you have to consult the following categories BT 154: Indexes to Seamen's Names and Indexes to Ship's Names (1853 1889) These provide the relevant numbers of the pages in the register.

Monthly Lists of dead Seaman 1886 - 1889

Monthly lists of dead seamen were compiled giving name, age, rating, nationality and birthplace, home address and cause of death. Lists for 1886 - 1889 are at the Public Record office in category BT 156: Monthly Lists of Deaths of Seamen. There are also nine manuscript registers of half yearly lists of deaths 1882-1888 classified by cause in category BT 157 Registers of Seaman's Death Classified by Cause.

Deaths at Sea - Returns of Death

When a death at sea occurs on an UK vessel the master is required to complete a Return of Death. This return includes the following information: name, official number and port of registry of ship, date and place of death, name, age, rank/occupation, address and cause of death of deceased.

The reverse of the form includes an extract of the ship's logbook that gives an account of the events that led to the death at sea. Please note however, that the log book extract is not always included. The return of death forms the basis of the death registration (See above).

The earliest surviving returns of death, date from1914 to 1919 are now held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. No returns exist between 1920 - 1938, Returns from 1939 to 1946 & 1964 are also held at the National Maritime Museum. Returns from 1965 to the present day are held at the Registry of Shipping. Please note that there are also some gaps in these records.

Inquiries into Deaths at Sea, Papers and Reports

Inquiry reports concerning deaths at sea, conducted under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts are held at the Public Record Office in classification: BT 341 Inquiries into Deaths at Sea, Papers and Reports. These documents contain statements, log book entries, medical reports and other relevant information regarding the particular death at sea. These cover the years 1939 to 1946 and the year 1964. The Returns of Death, which originally accompanied these papers, are now held at the National Maritime Museum (See above). These records are organised in year order and in alphabetical order of ship name. They correspond to the Registers of death held in BT 334.

Casualties and Deaths Lists (C & D)

When a vessel was lost at sea, the ship's official logbook would have been lost with the vessel. In these circumstances the owners of the vessel would submit a copy of the crew list to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen. These lists would be used for the registration of the deaths of the crewmembers.

Casualties and deaths lists (C & D) for the years 1920-1938 are held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Casualties and deaths on fishing vessel's (List D) for the years 1920-1938 have also been transferred to that office. These records are organised by the official number of the

ship. The official numbers of ships can be obtained from the extensive collection of Lloyds registers held at the National Maritime Museum. Many lists C & D are included in the 1939 - 1950 logbooks and crew agreements held at the Registry of Shipping.

Graves of Seamen/Memorials

The Registry of Shipping and Seamen holds no records of the last resting-place of seamen. Those who were lost or buried at sea and have no known grave are commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial, London, and are also included in the Tower Hill Memorial Registers for both World Wars.

For information concerning the Tower Hill Memorial, you may wish to contact the following address: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX.

Merchant seamen who are buried in various graves and war cemeteries around the world are included on index cards that have been transferred to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These cards also record those seamen included on the Halifax Memorial. There is also a small collection of cards held at the National Maritime Museum that date approx. 1939 to 1950 these include details of the deceased seaman and gives information regarding where the seaman is buried.

Rolls of Honour, Wars of 1914 - 1918 and 1939 - 1945

These records are held at The Public Record Office in their classification BT 339. These include the Rolls of Honour of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, Ships list and Seaman list. The Albert Medal register, Nominal lists and Runnymede Memorial.

 

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