Searching for Seamen


SS Oceanic 1871

When my wife and I were researching a 19th century ship’s engineer who had died at sea in 1872, we began by looking at Deaths of Seamen at Sea from FindMyPast. This gave us:

  • cause of death,
  • date of death,
  • where he died,
  • the name of the ship he died on.


We then wanted to find out more about the ship and its voyages so went to the Liverpool Maritime Museum where we used a microfilm of Lloyd’s List to find out about the ship’s voyages and Lloyd’s Register (in book form) to find out about the ship itself.

Using the National Archives website, we were able to discover that records of ship’s engineers are kept at the National Archives at Kew, London. When we visited, we found the record of the ships he served on and his progress from Third Engineer to Chief Engineer.

Crew Agreements, which all seamen signed at this time, and ships’ Logs took up too much shelf space in Britain so the records have been distributed around the world. Those we were seeking (for the 1870’s), are held at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Newfoundland. We met a researcher from the university at a Who Do You Think You Are? exhibition in London but I would suggest contacting the University Library if you are seeking help.

If you have found any other useful source or can suggest alternative research strategies, please add a comment below.

By admin