Family History online: Merchant Navy records

Spotlight on Find My Past, an online Family History resource available at the library…

One million 20th Century UK Merchant Navy Seaman Records released

For the first time ever the UK Merchant Navy Seaman records have gone online. Thousands of these merchant seamen were recorded as being born in Australia and New Zealand.

The records are index cards which the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman used between the two world wars to produce a centralised index of merchant seamen serving on British merchant navy vessels. They cover the period 1918-1941.

These records are very helpful for any family historian as they include biographical information such as name and date of birth, and in the most complete records this may also include detailed descriptions such as eye and hair colour. In some cases other information such as discharge number, health insurance number, address of kin, official vessel numbers and signing-on dates, a photograph, and a signature of the seamen. They also contain vivid and unusual details such as scars and tattoos.

We found Australian born James Barker, who was listed as a Greaser. James had a tattoo on his right arm of the Australian coat of arms and a kangaroo on his left arm, how very Australian! These rarely seen photos of the mariners mean you can see what your seafaring ancestors looked like for the first time – a real achievement for any family historian.

Start searching today and see what you discover! Access is within the library only, on one of our PCs or with yours using the free WiFi at Blaxland, Springwood and Katoomba libraries.

Search now

The library subscribes to a range of online resources to help with your genealogy research. Explore the Family History services we offer here.

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