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You are here:home > Leisure > Arts and Heritage > Family and Local History > Maritime history > Central index of Merchant Seamen

Central index of Merchant Seamen

18-Albert-BrayThe Central Index Register of Merchant Seamen is a collection of over a million and a quarter merchant navy service record cards. It has details of people serving on board British registered ships between 1918 and 1941.

Central index of Merchant Seamen

1. What information does it include?

The Register tells us the name, date and place of birth of a seafarer. It gives their rating, discharge number and details of any certificates they hold (for example, master or mates certificates). Sometimes the Register has a physical description of the mariner, even down to details of their tattoos! One part of the Register, which covers 1918 to 1921, includes a passport-style photograph of the seafarer. The Central Index Register has details of a mariner's dates of engagement or discharge on board particular vessels.

2. Who is covered in the Register?

As well as British seafarers, the Register also has service details of foreign merchant seamen serving on board British registered ships. All sections of a ship's crew are included - deck crew, engine crew and victualling crew. Most of the Register includes both men and women. Unfortunately the part of the Register which has photographs (called CR10 cards) does not usually include women.

3. What if I can't find the information?

Some seafarers cannot be found in the Register. There are different reasons for this, but the two most common explanations are:

  • If a seaman continued to serve after 1941 his records have usually been transferred to the next register (the 5th Register of Merchant Seamen) which is held at the National Archives, Kew
  • The seaman's records may be amongst the cards which were destroyed in the 1960s

4. How can I use the Register?

You can use the Register in the Reading Room of Southampton Archives. The National Archives at Kew also has a copy of it on microfiche. If you do not wish to or can't come in person to search the Register, we offer a research service. A search of the Register costs £15 per surname (this price includes up to 3 individuals of the same surname).

5. How can I request a search?

To request a search please write to us at Southampton Archives, Civic Centre, Southampton SO14 7LY along with payment of £15. Payment can be made by postal order or cheque payable to 'Southampton City Council'. If you are requesting a search from abroad and find it difficult to send a sterling cheque, then contact us to find out how you can pay by credit card.

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