1881 Crew Lists Database
This database contains the names of 138,400 seamen taken from the first 133 of the 358 boxes of crew agreements from the voyages of British registered vessels that ended in 1881. The highest official number entered to date is 56160. The year 1881 was chosen to coincide with the census taken in Britain in the same year. The database is a work in progress with several thousand names being transcribed monthly. Newly transcribed names are added to the publicly accessible database by the end of the day on the first Tuesday of each month.
The database can be searched in any of four fields: Last Name, First Name, Vessel Name and Official Number. The result will list 10 records per page showing information in each of the four fields and a link to images of the actual crew list pages. Further information on the vessel and her crew can be found by viewing the pages of individual crew lists. (N.B. Only those pages containing information have been scanned. The number of pages scanned in relation to the total number of pages in the crew list will appear immediately above each image.)
The scanned pages list each crewmember's name, vessel, official number, age, place of birth, date and place he joined the ship, the ship in which last served, job position, wages, date and place when he left the ship or died, along with other information on the crew and the ship. For an explanation of the headings in a crew list visit the Anatomy of an Agreement page elsewhere on our site. Click on either the Foreign Going or Home Trade link in the left sidebar to view a sample of a crew list. Use the banner scroll bar immediately above the side bar to move between the various pages.
When searching keep in mind that the spelling of a name may have changed over time, or even between voyages. Its spelling today may not be exactly the way it was spelled in 1881. The name Anderson, for example, appears in the database as Andersen, Anderson, Andersson and Andreasen. If you are unable to locate a name enter only the first two or three letters of the word on your next attempt.
Please note also that in the agreements apprentices are listed separately from the other crewmembers, usually on a page near the beginning or end of the agreements. If you find a name appearing in the database cannot be located in the main list of crew in the document itself, check the other pages for a list of apprentices.
If you find a name and discover the previous ship your seafarer served on, you may want to examine that ship's crew list in order to trace his career back in time. To do so you must find the ship's official number since all crew lists are indexed by official number only. Visit the MHA's Mercantile Navy List and Marine Directory and enter the ship's name in the search box. The results will include all years the ship appears in our Mercantile Navy List collection. Click on a year close to 1881. Scroll down until you find the ship's name, which will be highlighted in red. The official number will be immediately to the left of the name. When you have the official number go to Crew List Indices Search page and enter it in the search box. The results will indicate whether the MHA is in possession of a crew list for the vessel in 1880 or even 1881. If you want us to examine that crew list visit our Ordering Copies of Crew Agreements page to obtain more information and our schedule of fees.
The MHA has made every reasonable effort to ensure accuracy. However, you may find a discrepancy between the data in the database and the information in the original crew list. Also on many occasions, because of illegible handwriting, we have been unable to read mariners' names. If you are able to read the name of any of these mariners or find an error or omission, please contact the Maritime History Archive at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make the necessary correction(s).
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