AN INTRODUCTION TO MARITIME ARCHIVE SOURCES
Some visitors to our website seek information that will aid their research into the Merchant, or Royal, Navy careers of their relatives or ancestors. Others might also require information about sailing or steam vessels aboard which the subject of their research served. This short introduction to library and archive sources will give researchers an idea of how to obtain such information.
The following information refers to sources available within the United Kingdom. Researchers from other nations should be able to obtain the reference books quoted in this introduction through their public library systems or national maritime archives.
In the United Kingdom the premier maritime museum and library is that of the National Maritime Museum
Most researchers should be able to obtain, through their local public library service, the following guides to sources:-
Beckett, I.F.W. The First World War: the essential guide to sources in the UK national archives. PRO 2002. ISBN 1903365414. A comprehensive guide to sources, including the Royal Navy.
Imperial War Museum. Tracing your family history: Merchant Navy. IWM 2000. ISBN 1901623378. A guide to sources.
Lloyds Register of Shipping. A separate volume for sailing vessels from 1890.
The Royal Navy List. 1814 to date. A who's who of the Navy listing officers and the ships they were, or are, posted to. Retired officers are also listed. Wartime issues are not as detailed for security reasons.
Saunders, D. Britain's maritime memorials and mementoes. PSL 1996. This survey of some 1,400 memorials gives an insight into Britain's maritime history. Entries include memorials commemorating shipping disasters, two world wars, ship builders and many others.
Watts, C.T. & Watts, M.J. My ancestor was a merchant seaman: how can I find out more about him? Society of Genealogists 1991. ISBN 0901878731. A good, general, guide to historical sources for the merchant navy.
Examples of some good general reference books about sailing vessels:-
Lubbock Basil. The colonial clippers. Brown Son & Ferguson 1948. A history of the sailing vessels which traded from Britain to Australia. In four parts; the wooden emigrant ships of the 1840’s; the wood and composite wool clippers; the iron sailing vessels from the 1860’s to the end of the 19th century; and the New Zealand trade.
Lubbock, Basil. The down easters: the story of the Cape Horners, American deep-water sailing ships 1869-1929. Brown Son & Ferguson 1971. A full history of the ships which sailed between the east and west coasts of America via Cape Horn.
Lubbock, Basil. The last of the windjammers. 2 vols. Brown, Son & Ferguson; Vol 1, 1927. ISBN 0 85174 113 4. Vol 2, 1929. ISBN 0 85174 114 2. A comprehensive account of the ships, trades and shipping companies.
Lubbock, Basil. The nitrate clippers. Brown Son & Ferguson 1932. An account of the nitrate trade from South America. The book concentrates mainly on the "P" boats of F. Laeisz and their French rivals, Bordes.
Lubbock, Basil. The romance of the clipper ships. Hennel Locke 1958. Selected from "Sail" this book includes colour plates of the work of Jack Spurling and Frank Mason.
Hurst, A.A. Square-riggers: the final epoch, 1921-1958. Teredo 1972. ISBN 0903662000. The definitive history of the post WW1 decline of the commercial sailing vessel. Erikson's vessels are the main subject and the book covers every “grain race”.