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National Maritime Museum Research Guides

The NMM website has a lot of information about their collections and advice on how to undertake research. The table below provides a brief description of some of the Research guides available and what they are about. The guides will be of great interest to anyone studying the history of vessels and those that manned them.

Click HERE for the NMM website page on Research Guides.

Other NMM resources include:

Research Guide C1The Merchant Navy - Tracing people: Crew lists, agreements and official logs This describes the records that may be available (not all still exist!) on muster rolls and crew assignments back to 1747. It says that for 1861 to 1938 there is a 10% sample in the National Archives at Kew, the NMM hold records for 1861, 1862 and years ending in 5 - the remainter are in the Maritime History Research Collection in Canada. For 1939-50 agreements, crew lists and logbooks are in the National Archives. For 1951-1977 again 10% are at Kew, the NMM has 90% of material for years ending in 5 and the remainder in Canada. From 1978 onwards crew agreements are held by the General Register and REcord Office of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff. Indexes of the Canada material are held in the NMM library. British merchant ships had to keep logs from 1850 though only about 20% survive apart from WW1 and WW2 years. There is information about where existing logs can be found.
Research Guide C3The Merchant Navy - Bibliography This contains a short bibliography of books in the NMM Caird library. The full catalogue is available on line with search facilities.
Research Guide C4The Merchant Navy - Sources for enquiries This provides a list of places other than the NMM that have records and information related to mercantile history and an overview of what kind of information they hold.
Research Guide C5The Merchant Navy - Sources for ship historiesThis provides information about types of records that may exist and where they may be checked out. It includes Lloyd's Register, Lloyds Lists and indexes - The Guildhall library has a partial index pre-1838, NMM has microfilms from 1838-1927 and there is a card index at Guildhall for 1927 onwards. Passenger records of all ships arriving at or leaving British ports between 1890 and 1960 are in the National Archive at Kew. Final fates of ships can also be traced in the Lloyd's register.
Research Guide C6The Merchant Navy - The Mercantile Navy list The Mercantile Navy List compiled by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen was published from 1849-1855 and 1857-1976 apart from 1941-1946. It contains a comprehensive listing and basic information for all merchant vessels registered under the British flag including many not listed in Lloyds. There is no complete set but the NMM covers 1857-1976.
Research Guide C7The Merchant Navy - Shipping listed in parliamentary papersThis guide lists some of the papers produced for the House of Commons related to shipping. They fall into three main categories - Board of Trade casualty returns, BOT Enquiry Reports and other special reports. Vessels listed include wrecked or mssing ships, steam packets, ships built in certain ports and vessels used for emigrants.
Research Guide C9The Merchant Navy - World War 1This guide outlines the main sources for researching the activities of merchant ships and their crews during the First World War, 1914 to 1918. Although overlapping some of the other guides this includes where to look for information about merchant ships brought into the Royal Navy, ship movements in war time (not publically available at the time), crews and gallantry awards, ships sunk by war causes, ships sunk by marine causes and cargo.
Research Guide C11The Merchant Navy - The handy shipping guide This is a brief introduction to the Handy Shipping Guide which was produced between 1887 and 1988. It provides two main sources of information. (a) A list of all foreign, continental and coastwise ports and the ships presently to sail thereto, with details of the loading port, dock, closing date for cargo and,frequently, ship owners. (b) Custom clearances, inwards and outwards, for every major British port. Later issues include lists of vessels outward and homeward bound etc.
Research Guide C13The Merchant Navy - Tracing merchant seamen - Sources of information in the NMM This contains additional information about tracing individuals to supplement guides C1 and C2.
Research Guide F3Shipping companies - P&O bibliography This is a list of about 20 books covering the history of P&O held in the NMM Caird library. It is a far from complete list of what has been published it seems!
Research Guide J1Historic photographs at the NMM The NMM holds about a quarter of a million negatives, a million prints and fifteen hundred albums! A large proportion cannot be copied for copyright reasons. The guide tells you how to find out what is there. I can vouch for this service as they were able to trace a full set of plans for the RMS Morea which I am researching and said these could be provided for about £200 but I couldn't publish them without permission. The collection includes negatives covering warships and naval life transferred from the Admiralty and other sources; a merchant ship collection from sailing vessels to the 1980s; life aboard ship; shipbuilding etc. etc.
Research Guide M8The Suez Canal - Sources of information in the NMMThis guide is a bibliography covering books etc. in the NMM dealing with the Suez Canal.