- 1856, 1862-1914 / (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
5.434 cubic metres (304 boxes)
Name of creator
The Merchant Shipping Act 1835 required all British registered ships of 80 tons or more employed in the coastal trade or fisheries to carry crew agreements and accounts, often referred to as crew lists. At the end of each voyage, the master sent these crew lists to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen through Mercantile Marine Offices situated at major and minor ports. Home trade crew lists (i.e. ships sailing in British coastal waters defined as the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and the continent of Europe from the River Elbe in Germany to Brest in France) were required to be delivered half-yearly. For voyages outside British coastal waters, there would be one list per voyage, also to be deposited with the appropriate Mercantile Marine Office. Crew lists (referred to in the catalogue as agreements and accounts) contain the full names of the crew including apprentices, age and place of birth, previous vessel, dates of joining and leaving, in what capacity employed, together with a list of voyages with dates, and occasionally details of cargoes carried. All masters were also obliged to keep an official logbook. These should not be confused with navigational logbooks or daily journals since they recorded accidents, illness, birth or death on board, misconduct, desertion, punishment and other entries concerning the conduct of crew members. Where a vessel sailed mostly in British waters, but made the occasional voyage abroad, there may be both lists and agreements for the same period, as well as logbooks. The crew lists (agreements) and logbooks were endorsed by the British consul at each port of call, and any changes of crew, desertions or disciplinary matters, were recorded.
From 1855, British ships, for the first time, were given a unique official number when they were first registered at a designated Port of Registry. This number stayed with the ship throughout its life, even if the vessel was re-registered or the ship's name was changed. Such numbers were issued at Aberystwyth as the port responsible for the registration of vessels in the Cardigan Bay area from north of Newport in Pembrokeshire to the southern part of Merionethshire.
In 1966, the Public Record Office (now The National Archives) took the decision to discard some of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen's agreements and account of crew and official logbooks for British Empire vessels from 1861 to 1913. In 1970 and 1971, the bulk of the records were transferred to the Maritime History Archive at the Memorial University of Newfoundland at St John's, Newfoundland, Canada. A random sample of 10% of the records for each year was extracted for preservation at the Public Record Office (now TNA BT 99), together with a selection of records relating to celebrated ships (now TNA BT 100). A further 10% sample, being the remaining records for 1861, 1862, 1865, and each successive year ending in five (1875, 1885, etc.) was taken by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. County record offices and other repositories in Great Britain and Ireland also took advantage of the opportunity to acquire records of particular interest to their geographical area.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Public Record Office; London; Deposit; 1971
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Crew accounts and agreements (generally known as crew lists) and logbooks, together with associated papers and correspondence, 1856-1914, for vessels registered at the port of Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
Accruals are not expected.
System of arrangement
The records received by the National Library of Wales from the Public Record Office were arranged chronologically, then numerically by the official number of the vessel for each year. From the outset, this arrangement was found to be unsatisfactory, particularly from the viewpoint of users seeking records relating to a specific vessel over many years. The decision was therefore taken to bring all records relating to a specific vessel together, both physically and in an electronic catalogue, by rearranging the collection alphabetically by vessel into five hundred and forty-four series. Records associated with each vessel have been arranged chronologically within each series. The unique official number given to each vessel when first registered appears in brackets after the name of the ship, which is provided as the title of each series.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their Readers' Tickets.
Conditions governing reproduction
Usual copyright laws apply.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Varying form of title: Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen Records
Title based on contents. The dates noted are those recorded as the start and end of the half year or voyage as opposed to the 'stamped as received' dates of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen used in the former arrangement.
Virtua system control number
Name access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
Description compiled by Wil Williams. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Lloyd's Register of Shipping; the Mercantile Navy List; and the CLIP (Crew List Index Project) website at http://www.crewlist.org.uk/;