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Maritime history

  • Lloyd's Voyage Record Card
    Lloyd's Voyage Record card

This is a brief guide to the Merchant Navy and Royal Navy material held at Guildhall Library. Due to a new project, some copies of Lloyd's List are currently unavailable and enquirers are advised to contact the library before their visit.

Guildhall Library is the repository for the Lloyd's Marine Collection comprising of the historical printed and manuscript records formerly held by the Lloyds London Library and is concerned principally with shipping movements and casualties. This collection offers maritime and family historians information on ships' details, shipping movements and shipping news and casualties from 1741 to the present day.

A Guide to the Lloyd's Marine Collection is available to purchase at Guildhall Library or online and is recommended for any detailed research.

Ships' details

Llo yd's Register of Shipping

Guildhall Library holdings:

  • Llo yd's Register of Shipping, 1764 onwards with some gaps in the early years.

The Register lists all vessels surveyed on behalf of ship-owners and Lloyd's underwriters. The first published edition appeared in 1764 and from 1834 became known as Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping when it also began to issue rules for marine surveys. This organisation is quite separate from Lloyd's of London. 

The Register gives dimensions, date of construction and Lloyd's class since its inception but from the mid 19th century onwards there is much more detail about the vessel: if the ship is steam or motor powered there is information on the engines, and repairs and casualties are sometimes inserted. 

Mercantile Navy List and Lloyd's Register of Yachts

Guildhall Library holdings:

  • Mercantile Navy List, 1857 onwards
  • Lloyd's Register of Yachts, 1889-1980 (with a few gaps)

The Mercantile Navy List covers the periods 1850-1940 and 1947-77.  It was the official list of British-registered merchant navy vessels, published by the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen. Like Lloyd's Register, it was published annually and lists similar technical details of vessels alphabetically by vessel name.  It included Commonwealth vessels too but ceased publication with the1977 volume. It is always worth checking because it picked up a number of vessels, notably large yachts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which did not appear in Lloyd's Register.

Llo yd's Register of Yachts covers pleasure and private craft all over the world and was first published in 1877.  It ceased publication in 1980 and was replaced by Lloyd's Register of Classed Yachts.

Shipping movements

Our two main sources for shipping movements are the Lloyd's List, a newspaper in which shipping movements of ocean-going vessels and subsequently shipping casualties were reported and Voyage Record Cards.

Each vessel had one or more voyage record cards on which movements were noted and casualties and other incidents frequently reported. 

Guildhall Library holdings

  • Lloyd's List from 1741 to date (some early years are missing).
  • The years 1827-1945 and 1976-2010 are held on microfilm. 
  • All other holdings are in hard copy format until December 2013 when publication in hard copy ceased.
  • Voyage Record Cards 1927-c1975. A minimum of three working days' notice is required for consultation.

Online subscriptions/databases

Casualties and shipping losses

Lloyd’s sources

There are many different sources at Guildhall that can be used to trace shipwrecks, losses and other incidents at sea:

Lloyd's Shipping Index, 1880 onwards (under a variety of titles) is a useful source of shipping movements and for casualties (up to 1920). It reprints much of the movements and casualties information in the previous week's Lloyd's List, arranged alphabetically by vessel name.

Lloyd's Weekly Casualty Reports, 1920-1994, covers casualties and losses. From July 1992 it was re-titled Lloyd’s Casualty Week

Lloyd's Register Wreck Returns,1900-1975 list, under categories such as "burnt", "collision" etc., all vessels of 100 tons or more removed from Lloyd's Register during the quarter. 

Losses during the two World Wars are covered in Lloyd's War Losses First and Second World Wars,.

Other sources

The Library holds a good collection of books on shipwrecks and shipping disasters which are all listed on the library catalogue. 

Along with the Lloyd's books on wartime shipping losses, there are encyclopaedias of shipping disasters:

  • Richard and Bridget Larne’s Shipwreck Index of the British Isles and Ireland
  • Hocking's Dictionary of Disasters at Sea 1824-1962
  • Hooke's Maritime Casualties 1963-1996 

Not all losses were subject to a Board of Trade Enquiry, but all are listed in the Board of Trade Casualty Returns. They commenced in 1850 with wrecks around the UK occasioning loss of life. In 1865 the scope was widened to include British vessels at sea elsewhere and from 1873 onwards any British vessel involved in an incident which caused loss of life.

We also hold separate volumes of Board of Trade Inquiry Reports for 1908-1965. 

Contemporary sources such as The Times and the Illustrated London News are also worth checking. There is a lot of other useful material in the Parliamentary Papers.

The Times Digital Archive (1785-1985) and the 19th Century British Library Newspapers databases are good sources to check if a named vessel was involved in any type of incident that might have been reported in the national press.

Crews and passengers

Captains Registers

Lloyd's Captains Registers lists alphabetically masters and mates who received their certificates between 1869 and 1948. Information listed includes dates of qualification and names of vessels in which they served. 

The first volume was printed in hard copy facsimile and is available at Guildhall Library. It lists all captains and mates who were still alive or still in active service in 1868.  All other volumes are in the care of London Metropolitan Archives. 

Passenger and crew lists and ships' logs

Guildhall Library does not hold passenger and crew lists and ships' logs, however, upon request we are able to supply a list of locations that do hold the information.

We do however hold the following information relating to passenger and crew lists and ships' logs:

  • Index to Crew Lists and Agreements 1863-1913 and 1913-38 which cover the lists held at the Memorial University of St John's Newfoundland, Canada. 
  • The passenger list of The Titanic for Queenstown and Southampton boardings (not Cherbourg) is available on microfilm. 
  • For the 1861 Census, a Name Index to persons on ships at sea or in port.
  • The 1881 Census Index includes a listing by ship name for those counties which have ports. 
  • Ian Nicholson's Log of Logs...1788-1999 covers ships sailing to and from Australia, New Zealand and the surrounding oceans, and gives locations for ships' logs.
  • Ancestry and Find my past both hold details of incoming and outgoing passenger lists and are free to use in the library.

Immigration passenger lists and shipping indexes

We hold several resources published specifically aimed at helping family historians locate passenger lists outside the UK, specifically North America, Australia and New Zealand:

  • Filby, P. W Passenger and immigration lists index (and annual supplements), covers North America and shows where the passenger list can be found.
  • Morton Allan Directory of European Steamship arrivals...1890-1930 at the ports of New York, Philadelphia, Boston & Baltimore
  • British Immigration to Victoria - assisted immigrants 1839-1871; Index of New South Wales Convict Indents;
  • Immigration Index to assisted immigrants arriving Sydney 1844-96
  • Passengers lists to Port Phillip c. 1839-51 compiled by I. A. Hughes. 

We hold a number of shipping indexes which were compiled for the popular immigration ports in Australia and New Zealand, including:

  • Shipping arrivals and departures, Victorian ports, 1798-1855 (2 vols)
  • Shipping arrivals and departures, Sydney, 1788-1844 (3 vols)
  • Shipping arrivals and departures, Tasmania, 1803-1842 (2 vols)
  • Shipping to New Zealand 1839-1889 (known as the Comber Index)

Royal Navy material

The majority of our maritime holdings relate to the Merchant Navy but we do hold some material on the Royal Navy including:

  • The Navy List, 1782 onwards and listing all commissioned officers. 
  • The Admiralty's Commissioned sea officers of the Royal Navy 1660-1815
  • The 1881 Census Index (microfiche) lists ships of the Royal Navy and people aboard them at the time
  • Jane'sFighting Ships, an illustrated guide to classes of Royal Navy vessel, is held from 1898 with many gaps but virtually complete from 1939
  • Colledge's Ships of the Royal Navy, is a listing of vessels from the fifteenth century to 1985 
  • The London Gazette's listings of gallantry awards and promotions include the Royal Navy

Original records relating to the Royal Naval service of individuals:


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