Research resources: Welsh maritime history

Interested in maritime history?

The vast majority of enquiries that we receive fall into two main categories: –

  1. Requests for information about ships and the companies that owned them.
  2. Requests for information on seafaring ancestors.

The main source of information on merchant shipping is Lloyd’s Register of Shipping; the museum holds copies dating back to 1836, with some earlier editions available as well.
For vessels of the Royal Navy, we hold J.J. Colledge’s Ships of the Royal Navy and a few editions of Jane’s Fighting Ships, mostly dating from the first and second world wars.

Our photographic archive comprises views of some 6000 (mostly merchant) vessels, whilst specialist information is also available on various Welsh and UK shipping companies.

Our library holds a good selection of books on nineteenth and twentieth century British maritime history, with particular emphasis on the maritime heritage of Wales.

Researching seafaring ancestors is not as straightforward! The museum does not possess any records such as crew or passenger lists, whether merchant or naval – all these are held in other repositories, which are listed below. There are two important guides on the subject, both available in the museum library:

  • Records of Merchant Shipping and Seamen by Kelvin Smith, Christopher Watts and Michael Watts, (Public Record Office, now the National Archive, 1998).
  • Tracing your Naval Ancestors by Bruno Pappalardo, (Public Record Office, now the National Archive, 2002).

If you wish to consult any of the above, please contact Dr. David Jenkins on (029) 2057 3629,

There are also three useful websites:

Here are some of the most important repositories for maritime researchers:

The Keeper
Lloyd’s Marine Collection
London Metropolitan Archives,
40 Northampton Road,
(020) 7332 3820

Collection of Corporation of Lloyd’s records containing: information on marine casualties and shipping movements worldwide back to c.1740 (sources include ‘Lloyd’s List’, ‘Lloyd’s Shipping Index’, war loss records, British Mercantile Navy Lists); Captains’ Registers (records of service of British foreign-going masters and mates) from 1868 to 1947.

General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen
Anchor Court
Ocean Way
Cardiff CF24 5JW

Mostly records relating to current British seafarers; earlier records are in the process of being transferred to the National Archives – see below.

National Archives
Ruskin Avenue
Surrey TW9 9WU

National repository for government and official papers.
Collections include records of No.3; Board of Trade and Ministry of Defence papers; records of defunct companies; census returns (England and Wales) from 1841; information on transportation of convicts and on emigration from UK to British colonies.

National Maritime Museum
Park Row
SE10 9NF

National repository for books, models, plans, photographs, paintings, etc., covering maritime history from earliest times.
Collections include Lloyd’s Registers, atlases, shipping company records, historical journals, covering both merchant marine and naval history

Wreck Section
Hydrographic Department
Ministry of Defence
Admiralty Road, Taunton
Somerset TA1 2DN

Information on wrecks in UK and overseas coastal waters, mainly post 1913.

Companies House
Crown Way
CF14 3UZ

Company registration records back to mid 19th Century.

Merseyside Maritime Museum
Albert Dock
L3 4AD

Maritime history of Liverpool, particularly emigration. With the  development of regular steamship lines from the mid nineteenth century onwards, most emigrants from the UK and much of  continental Europe made their way to Liverpool to board ships for the USA and Canada.

National Archives of Scotland
P.O.Box 36
General Register House
Princess Street, Edinburgh

Scottish equivalent of the National Archive.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
66 Balmoral Ave.
B99 6NY  

Northern Irish equivalent of the National Archive.

Society of Genealogists
14 Charterhouse Buildings
Goswell Road
London EC1M 7BA

Library open to non-members, includes collections of parish register copies and card indices of family names, marriages and wills.

Imperial War Museum
Lambeth Road

Naval history of the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.

Royal Naval Museum
H.M. Dockyard

Most aspects of the history of the Royal Navy.

Maritime History Archive
Memorial University Newfoundland
St. Johns
Canada A1C 557
001-709-737-8428 (from UK)

British merchant crew lists, 1863 – 1938. (An index is available at the National Waterfront Museum).

Welsh County Record Offices and the National Library of Wales

Anglesey County Record Office
Bryn Cefni Industrial Estate
Ynys Môn  LL77 7JA
(01248) 751930

Carmarthenshire Archive Service
Parc Myrddin
Richmond Terrace
Carmarthen  SA31 3DS

Ceredigion Archives
Old Town Hall,
Queen's Square,
Ceredigion SA23 2EB

Conwy Archives
Lloyd St.
Conwy LL30 2YG

Flintshire Record Office
The Old Rectory
Hawarden, Deeside
Clwyd  LL15 1HP

Glamorgan Archive Service
Clos Parc Morgannwg
Cardiff  CF11 8AW
(029) 2087 2200

Gwent Archives [Formerly Gwent Record Office]
Steelworks Road
Blaenau Gwent NP23 6DN
01495 353363

Gwynedd Archive Service
County Offices
Gwynedd LL55 1SA

Gwynedd Archives Service,
Cae Penarlâg,
Gwynedd LL40 2YF0

Pembrokeshire Record Office
The Castle,
Pembs., SA

West Glamorgan Archive Service
County Hall
Oystermouth Rd.
Swansea, SA1 3SN

National Library of Wales
Ceredigion SY23 3BU

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales,
Plas Crug,
Ceregigion, SY23 1NJ
Tel 01970 621200

Most of these repositories hold various maritime records such as crew lists, statutory shipping registers and other incidental documents relating to shipping such as account books and family records.

  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.