Frequently asked questions

How do I trace my relative's seafaring career?

Not easy to answer, as there are so many sources that you could consult! The best guide to those sources is published by the Public Record Office (Readers' Guide No. 20), Records of Merchant Shipping and Seamen by Kelvin Smith, Christopher Watts and Michael Watts, available in our reference library. Or visit the Public Record Office's website at More maritime and shipping information is held by Lloyd's Registers of Fenchurch Street, London and the Corporation of London's Guildhall Library.

Do you have photographs of the ships that my grandfather sailed on?

We may do, if you know the ships' names! Perhaps you have his discharge book, similar to a passport, that recorded all his voyages and the ships in which he sailed? We have photographs of nearly 6,000 ships in our photographic archive, all indexed by name. Without the ships' names, however, we can't be of assistance.

Can you tell me about Drake/Cook/Nelson/Scott of the Antarctic/the Golden Hind/HMS Discovery/HMS Victory/Terra Nova, etc.?

For general queries about famous sailors and their ships, see The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea edited by Peter Kemp. It is available in our reference library, or in your local library.

As Scott sailed from Cardiff on the Terra Nova in 1910, our photographic archive comprises numerous photographs of the expedition's departure. We also have the figurehead of the Terra Nova in our collections.

A relative of mine worked in a Welsh colliery. How do I find out about him?

We do not have records relating to individual miners (in fact, records of this kind probably do not exist anywhere), so we will be unable to help with an enquiry of this nature. Alternatively, you could undertake some research into your family's history in order to try and answer this question. To do this, contact the local archive office that covers the geographical region where your relative worked, the Public Record Office in London.

If you are interested in a miner's working environment, then you can consult the Inspector of Mines Reports that are in our library.

Also, see: History research sources
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