Crew Lists of the British Merchant Marine – 1915 is a crowd-sourced project under the direction of the National Maritime Museum (btw, a great place to visit). 39,000 crew lists with over 750,000 names were transcribed by volunteers from around the world. As the front page states: “Each agreement lists all the crew, their rank or rating, their address, rate of pay and dates of joining and leaving the ship. These range from small fishing boats and sailing barges, often crewed by father and son, to the largest passenger liners with whole departments of deck officers, seamen, engineering and victualling staff amounting to as many as 400 individuals. And it wasn’t just men! Women feature in the crew lists too, as stewards, nurses, matrons and many other capacities.” Access to the original documentation is another valued addition.
Archive for September, 2015
In this single volume, as edited by William Long, you can find numerous accounts of naval events ranging from the 1616 encounter of the Dolphin with five Turkish men-of-war to the 1831 capture of a Spanish slaver by the Black Joke. Included is an extensive Journal of a Naval Surgeon, 1758-1763. These are first-hand reports, but what is lacking is the indication of what sources these tales are derived from. That is a drawback as far as verification goes, but the yarns ring true nonetheless. If you just want to randomly peruse entries (none of them too long), you will definitely get the flavor of life at sea over the centuries.
The term “manuscripts” here refers to handwritten, unpublished documents, many of them being collections of family histories, letters, and the like. These form valuable material for researchers but were at times hard to find or access. To remedy this situation, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts was created by royal warrant in 1869 to both locate and describe these repositories. Until its dissolution in 2003, the Commission issued over two hundred “reports“, detailed inventories of the great baronial houses in the UK. Each volume provides a great deal of important information: discussing the content of the manuscript collection, offering a history of the contents, as well as issuing calendars of all the documents and printing selected writings full text. It took the handwritten documents and converted them into printable works, a remarkable achievement. Many of the Commission volumes can be accessed here by their title; other report series are here, too. There is a limited guide to the series, essentially to parts of the first nine reports: Guide to sources of English history from 1603 to 1660 in Reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (1952). All the volumes come with individual indexes. Naval events and situations are discussed in many of the tomes in this series, providing the researcher with an intimate look at maritime affairs.
Reviews in History, a valuable tool from the Institute for Historical Research, posts dozens of book reviews by experts in the field of naval history commenting on other experts’ works. It also allows for those authors reviewed to publish their reactions to the review in question. The reviews themselves are quite lengthy, up to 3000 words, and the rejoinders are equal in their word counts. Edifying reads abound.
The Royal Navy may have had command of the oceans, but no navy has ever mastered them. Shipwrecks are an inevitable consequence from which the Royal Navy was not immune. In Narratives of shipwrecks of the Royal Navy between 1793 and 1857 / compiled principally from official documents in the Admiralty (3d ed., 1864), W. O. Gilly presents selected examples of these maritime disasters as well as a list of all shipwrecks between 1793 and 1857. A rather lengthy preface by W. S. Gilly (The author’s father, a writer in his own right, who possessed “…a warm interest in all that concerns the navy”. vii) makes for fascinating reading.