Research resources: Welsh maritime history
Interested in maritime history?
The vast majority of enquiries that we receive fall into two main categories: –
- Requests for information about ships and the companies that owned them.
- 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
There are also three useful websites:
Here are some of the most important repositories for maritime researchers:
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
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.
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
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
Ministry of Defence
Admiralty Road, Taunton
Somerset TA1 2DN
Information on wrecks in UK and overseas coastal waters, mainly post 1913.
Company registration records back to mid 19th Century.
Merseyside Maritime Museum
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
General Register House
Princess Street, Edinburgh
Scottish equivalent of the National Archive.
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
66 Balmoral Ave.
Northern Irish equivalent of the National Archive.
Society of Genealogists
14 Charterhouse Buildings
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
Naval history of the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.
Royal Naval Museum
Most aspects of the history of the Royal Navy.
Maritime History Archive
Memorial University Newfoundland
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
Carmarthenshire Archive Service
Carmarthen SA31 3DS
Old Town Hall,
Ceredigion SA23 2EB
Conwy LL30 2YG
Flintshire Record Office
The Old Rectory
Clwyd LL15 1HP
Gwent Archives [Formerly Gwent Record Office]
Blaenau Gwent NP23 6DN
Gwynedd Archive Service
Gwynedd LL55 1SA
Gwynedd Archives Service,
Gwynedd LL40 2YF0
Pembrokeshire Record Office
West Glamorgan Archive Service
Swansea, SA1 3SN
National Library of Wales
Ceredigion SY23 3BU
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.