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In this episode 5 of the History Show, Nick Barratt and Laura Berry return to take you on another journey into the past. This time around they visit the National Maritime Museum. It is here that extensive records can be found to track the history of seaman merchants.

The show begins at the Caird Library where Laura introduces us to the mate/master certificates that were issued to merchant seamen from the 1800s. Each seaman merchant that applied to be evaluated as a mate or master was assigned a number. Using this number, a seaman merchant’s paperwork can be traced in the archive.

For those who may not know the number of the seaman merchant ancestor they are tracing, the Lloyds Captains Register (dates 1850s to late 1920s) is a useful resource. Using the name of the seaman, one can trace his number. The register can be found at the Guildhall Library in London. Those already at the National Maritime Museum may use the microfilm copies of the register to conduct their search.

Upon tracing the number and corresponding mate/master certificates, one will be able to view additional details about their ancestor on the documentation. The certificate will detail the seaman’s date of birth and place of residence at the time the certificate was issued. The accompanying application form will also give details on the seaman’s physical attributes, including any distinguishing marks on his body. There will also be a listing of the ships on which the seaman worked prior to the application being made.

Laura shows how each subsequent certificate shows the progression in the career of the seaman up to when he earns his master certificate. With each application, one should be able to tell the ships he served on and the times at which he served. Using other resources from the museum, one will be able to revisit the voyages of these ships to know what occurred during those journeys.

In the next segment of the program, Laura and Nick take viewers through 5 tips one can use to trace merchant seamen using archive records. Those carrying out research are advised to start by collecting as much detailed information as they can on the person, including name, number and a list of ships they served on. Using this information, you can then explore the Mercantile and Lloyd lists to find crew lists of the ship.

One should be able to find out a lot of information from the National Maritime Museum archives and even access employment records of some of the shipping companies such as the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company. One can do further research on the life of the seaman by researching the particular voyages undertaken.

Nick Barrett then takes us into an exploration of the some of the material related to the sinking of the Titanic that is to go on exhibit at the National Maritime Museum. The exhibit will feature letters from the survivors detailing their memories of the sinking of the Titanic.


Click to watch Episode 2

Click Here to Watch the Episode


Watch Each Segment Individually

Introduction to Episode 5

Episode 5 Top Five Tips

Laura at the National Maritime Museum Part I

Laura at the National Maritime Museum Part II

Nick with the Titanic Archive at the National Maritime Museum