Working 1 morning a week from November 2015 to October 2018, Margaret and Terri ploughed through 44 large boxes coming across mutinies, shipwrecks and desertions along the way.
The records had been catalogued by individual ship, but were bundled by year, and each year could be in two or even three bundles which could be in different boxes. There was no way of knowing which ship was in which box, making an individual record very difficult to find – needles in haystacks come to mind!
So, our fantastic volunteers re-organised all the records according to ship number, checked them against the catalogue list, and put them into new protective enclosures and smaller archival boxes, discovering several that we didn’t know we had in the process! This makes finding the right document far easier and quicker than it was and reduces the risk of damage as manually sorting through large bundles is no longer necessary.
The Port of Gloucester Crew Lists, collection reference D3080, are six-monthly port authority returns (so normally 2 per year for each vessel) from 1853 to 1913, of ships trading from the port of Gloucester, down the Severn estuary to Bridgewater and Cardiff and beyond.
Under the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1835 and later, all vessels over 15 tons were required to be registered and return certain documents twice a year to the Registry of Shipping and Seamen (Board of Trade). The main documents concerned are crew lists and agreements and “official logs” for foreign-going ships. These logs are not the ship’s log proper, but a record of particular incidents such as deaths or disturbances on board, which had to be reported to the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen.
As well as listing voyages made and sometimes cargo carried, and any births, marriages, deaths, or other significant ‘incidents’, they contain the name of the ship and its official number, the port of registry, date of registration, tonnage, name and address of owner, name and address of master, details of crew including name, age, place of birth, date and place of joining ship and rank, and date and place of discharge, so they are a good source of information not only for family, maritime, social and local historians, but could also provide plenty of inspiration for creative writing on a sea-going or adventuring theme.
The first batch came to the Gloucestershire Record Office as it was known then, on 23 April 1975. The majority were transferred from the Public Record Office to Gloucester City Library in 1971 but they kept a sample by retaining every 10th year, and then the National Maritime Museum also took their own random sample, and all documents relating to certain notable ships, so if you can’t find what you are looking for here you know where else to look!
The ones we have here can be seen by anyone visiting Gloucestershire Archives’ research room at the Heritage Hub, just check the online catalogue under D3080 first to find the ship you are after. The Port of Gloucester Crew lists are a rich resource ready and waiting to be discovered!