Tracing Fishermen In British Records

Debbie Beavis 21/04/2002

Note that up until the Merchant Shipping (Fishing Boats) Act of 1883, the records for general merchant seamen include records of fishermen. You will normally find the Master/Captain of a fishing vessel referred to as Skipper. The Mate may be referred to as Second Hand.

Skippers & Mates of Fishing Boats - Certificates of Competency and Service

BT129 - Registers of Certificates of Competency, Skippers & Mates
BT130 - Registers of Certificates of Service, Skippers & Mates
BT138 - Indexes to Registers of Certificates of Competency and Service, Skippers & Mates 1880-1917
The indexes give name, place and year of birth, and certificate number.
Certificates beginning with a 0 (zero) indicate Certificates of Service.
All others are Certificates of Competency.

Certificates of Competency give relatively brief information, largely repeating the information shown in the Indexes. The Certificates of Service include date when the Certificate was granted, and a note of voyages to date as found in registers of ordinary seamen's service which has been the subject of an earlier posting.

There is an overlapping source of information in BT352 recently prepared for release at the National Archives in Kew, England. National Archives »».

BT352 - Index to Certificates of Competency, Masters, Mates, Engineers and Fishing Officers, Home & Foreign Trade 1910-1930

Records of crew of fishing vessels may often be located in BT348, 349 and 350, the Fourth Register of Seamen covering dates 1913-1941.

Records of Apprentices from 1824-1953 are held with the regular Merchant Navy Apprentice records in BT150. Indentures for most years have been destroyed. However, those for every fifth year have been filed as follows:

BT152 - Apprentice Indentures, Fishing.

Agreements & Crew Lists

Agreements and Crew Lists for fishing vessels were filed as follows: Before 1884, Agreements and Crew Lists are filed with the main series.
BT98 - Agreements and Crew Lists Series l: 1835-1860.
BT99 - Agreements and Crew Lists Series ll: 1861-1938 and 1951-1989

From 1884-1929 10 percent of Fishing Agreements and Crew Lists are held at the National Archives in:
BT144 - Agreements and Crew Lists: Series lV (Fishing Agreements)

Please see the Guide to Agreements & Crew Lists for a full explanation of the various locations for these records.


Returns of Fishing Vessels

Fishing vessels were given official numbers, but from 1894 (following the Merchant Shipping Act 1894) fishing vessels were required to be lettered and numbered according to their port of registry. Each port had a letter (or letters) assigned to it along with the fishing register number allotted to the vessel. The letters used by each port - a full list may be obtained via the National Archive website - usually were related to the port name... Grimsby = GY; Folkestone = FE, Ramsgate = R (originally RE) Certificate details and the vessel's letter and fishing number were entered into registers by the Customs Officers at each port. Returns were sent to the RGSS annually, but the original registers are all being transferred to relevant local County Record Offices, a process now almost complete.

The RGSS entered details into Statistical Registers of Fishing Vessels, now held at the National Archive in BT145. The first series covers the dates from 1893-1898, but thenceforth each form includes statistics for a five year period. These registers include the Fishing register number and letter; name, date of registration and reference, official number, tonnage etc along with a description of the kind of fishing in which the vessel was normally employed.... trawling, dredging, shrimping, cockling, musseling.

There was an indication of the number of crew normally employed but there is NO note of the names of any crew nor officer. These registers do however make it a simple matter to compile a list of all fishing vessels working out of a port at any particular time, and a systematic search may then be made of all crew agreements in order to compile records of a fisherman's service.

This is a brief overview of the records available for tracing British fishermen and records of fishing vessels. Other records may be held in local maritime museums and record offices and it is always worth while contacting the nearest archive to the port to enquire about any locally held records. The Public Record Office has recently revised their series of online leaflets and the latest version is available at their website National Archives »». They have also placed their catalogue on line from which you may ascertain the records you require.

Date Name Age Name Of Smack Particulars Of Death
May 5th  Geo. KENNEDY  Apprentice  KATE AND POLLY 
May 17th  - . THOMPSON  A.B.  HOPEFUL 
May 24th  Jas. KEENE   Master  KATE 
Jun. ?  Fred BRADSHAW  Man  LOTTERY 
Jul.7th  Geo. BALDRY  Master   CARL 
Aug.9th  Albert PYE  Apprentice  CLIMAX 
Oct.3rd  J. AMOS  Apprentice  JAS. THORPE 
Oct.5th  J. L. HILL  Deck Hand  CHAMPION 
Oct.8th  Benj. SCOTT  Deck Hand  COVENTRY 
Oct.10th  Thos. MELOY  Mate  JOHN ROBERT 
Oct.28th  H. ROCH  Seaman  ONWARD 
Oct.28th  Thos. SEATON  Apprentice  ONWARD 
Oct.28th  J. MANN  3rd Hand  WILLIE (YH) 
Oct.28th  John SIMPSON  Apprentice  WILLIE (YH) 
Oct.28th  John BROCK  Apprentice  WILLIE (YH) 
Oct.28th  C. CALVERT  Master  SHAMROCK 
Oct.28th  J. ALLEN  Mate  SHAMROCK 
Oct.28th  Herbert BULL  Apprentice  SHAMROCK 
Oct.29th  Jas. WHITTAKER  Deck Hand  ELIJAH 
Oct.29th  W. LAMB  Master  TRENT 
Oct.29th  Jas. HAINES  3rd Hand  TRENT 
Oct.29th  Jas. PLOUGHMAN  Seaman  OSCAR 
Oct.29th  J. JARMAN  Master  SELINA 
Oct.29th   John PECK  Master  PRIDE OF ESSEX (HH) 
Oct.29th  W. ASHWELL  Master  SANCHO 
Dec.29th  J. SMITH  Master  CYCLONE 
Jan.18th  Wm. CHANDLER  Seaman  EDWARD 
Jan.22nd  H. CUTTS  Cook  BEN MORE (DH) 
Feb.5th  Arch. SMITH  Mate  GEORGE AND MARY 
Feb.5th  J. ALDRED  Seaman  GEORGE AND MARY 
Feb.7th  Ed.FANE  3rd Hand  RUNNYMEDE 
Feb.8th  J. GILCHRIST  15  Cook  TRENT 
Feb.14th  Thos. HOWARD  23  Seaman  TALISMAN 
Feb.18th  J. T. LONGDEN  Apprentice  FRANK 
Feb.21st  J. ASH  21  Seaman  ACQUIRE 
Feb.26th  H. GUNSTABLE  18  Apprentice  HAWTHORN (HH) 
Mar.3rd  L. S. WEST  18  Seaman  LIBERTY (YH) 
Mar.5th  G. W. BILTON  30  Mate  SILVERY WAVE 
Mar.6th  H.KILBURN  25  Mate  FRIEND 
Mar.6th  C. DUGGINS  17  Apprentice  GREAT SURPRISE 
Mar.6th  A. DOWSON  30  Master  ELIJAH 
Mar.6th  G. RICHARDSON  30  Mate  ELIJAH 
Mar.6th  E. SPRATLING  20  3rd Hand  ELIJAH 
Mar.6th  C. MOORE  30  Seaman  ELIJAH 
Mar.6th  G. EDWARDS  15  Apprentice  ELIJAH 
Mar.6th  J. JOHNSON  Master  ALICE 
Mar.6th  L. GROUSE  Mate  ALICE 
Mar.6th  E. HARMER  Seaman  ALICE 
Mar.6th  J. DAVIS  Seaman  ALICE 
Mar.6th  J. SMITH  15  Apprentice  ALICE 
Jun.30th  Geo STUBBS  19  Seaman  GEO. STEVENSON 
Jul.8-9th  R. W. ATKINSON  18  Apprentice  GEM 
Jul.10th  Ch. WATMOUGH  23  Seaman  ED. HENEAGH 
Aug.26th  Geo. CORNHILL  17  Apprentice  TWO BROTHERS 
Aug.27th  Fred'k. WRAY  24  Seaman  DEFENCE 
Aug.29th  Wm. ROWLES  17  Apprentice  IJOYEE 
Aug.30th  A. BALLS  24  Seaman  TRAVELLER 
Sep.23rd  C. MUNSON  20  Seaman  HEROINE 
Oct.5th  W. PALMER  Seaman  START 
Oct.13th  Jos. HERD   25  Seaman  FLEETWING 
Oct.14th  R. HEMBREY  Mate  CONTENT 
Oct.14th  H. ROBINSON  Apprentice  CONTENT 
Oct.14th  Geo. PRIDMORE  4th Hand  CONTENT 
Oct.15th  W. DRIVER  Apprentice  REGULUS (H) 
Oct.23rd  Geo. DAWSON  20  Apprentice  CYCLONE 
Oct.28th  Thos WALKER  Mate  MAID OF KENT 
Oct.28th  W. GILLETT  3rd Hand  MAID OF KENT 
Oct.28th  C. CALL  Apprentice  MAID OF KENT 
Oct.28th  J. ASTLEY  Mate  CASTOR 
Oct.28th  J. BURNS  Apprentice  IDA 
Oct.28th  G. BISCOE  Deck Hand  TORNADO 
Oct.29th  Herbt. SMITH  Master  IONIA 
Oct.31st  J. G. ROBINSON  3rd Hand  ANDREW MARVEL 
Oct.28th  H. BUNCH  Master  START 
Oct.28th  J. MILES  Mate  START 
Oct.28th  R. HARRIS  Seaman  START 
Oct.28th  R. CLAYBOURNE  Seaman  START 
Oct.28th  C. PHILPOT  Apprentice  START 
Oct.28th  J. TOLIDAY  Apprentice  START 
Oct.28th  J. MATHEWS  Apprentice  START 
Oct.28th  E. HEMMINGSTALL  Apprentice  START 
Nov.22nd  S. HORTH  Mate  PETREL 
Nov.22nd  W. LAMB  44  Mate  DASHER 
Nov.26th  Jas. TOBY  Master  MONARCH (YH) 
Nov.27th  John TYE  Apprentice  KITTIWAKE 
Dec.6th  F. COLEBY  22  Seaman  EUROPE 
Dec.7th  W. WYATT  Apprentice  ZEALOUS 
Dec.8th  J. STRUTT  Master  LILY 
Dec.8th  E. DAVIS  Mate  LILY 
Dec.8th  Geo. LADD  Seaman  LILY 
Dec.8th  Thos. SMITH  Seaman  LILY 
Dec.8th  Fred SCOTT  20  Apprentice  LILY 
Dec.8th  H. LANGRIDGE  18  Apprentice  LILY 
Dec.8th  Jas. WASHER  18  Apprentice  LILY 
Dec.8th  C. SMITH  19  Apprentice  LILY 
Dec.8th  Jas. STEVENS  14  Apprentice  LILY 
Dec.8th  John ELSEY  19  Apprentice  LILY 
Dec.10th  H.MOUNT  3rd Hand  RHINE 
Dec.13th  J. W. GODDARD  14  Apprentice  WILLIAM AND MARY 
Dec.17th  John JOHNSON  15  Apprentice  ARTILLERYMAN 
Dec.19th  Geo. FELCE  Boy  NORFOLK 
Dec.22nd  T. CLOW  Man  DAWN O'DAY 
Dec.25th  W. LAWRENCE  20  Seaman  AUTUMN 
Dec.30th  H. TILDIN  Apprentice  WILLIAM HOOD 
Jan.6th  E. A. PETTERSON  29  Seaman  JOHN ELLIS 
Jan.6th  N. ANDERSON  24  Seaman  BETSY CAMPBELL 
Jan.17th  Rob. BARRETT  44  Fireman  FORWARD 
Jan.17th  H. J. SPINKS  21  Mate  FORWARD 
Jan.27th  F. REYNOLDS  26  Cook  HAMBURG 
Jan.30th  Jas. SMITH  18  Seaman  EXCEL 
Jan.30th  Ed. BURTON  18  Master  WAVE 
Jan.30th  Thos. GILLETT  25  Mate  WAVE 
Jan.30th  R. VIMCOMBE  45  Seaman  WAVE 
Jan.30th  J. HAYWARD  23  Seaman  WAVE 
Jan.30th  J. POVEY   25  Seaman  WAVE 
Jan.30th  Geo. LAMBERT  20  Apprentice  WAVE 
Jan.30th  J. ANDREWS  19  Apprentice  WAVE 
Jan.30th  Js. JONES  17  Apprentice  WAVE 
Jan.30th  W. BELL  16  Apprentice  WAVE 
Jan.30th  Jos. KEYS  16  Apprentice  WAVE 
Feb.1st  Unknown  Cook  ELIZABETH BAINBRIDGE 
Feb.11th  G. WALLACE  26  Master  WILLIE 
Feb.11th  W. SEALES  22  Mate  WILLIE 
Feb.11th  H. HILLMAN  19  3rd Hand  WILLIE 
Feb.11th  J. P. JAMES  19  Deck hand  WILLIE 
Feb.11th  T. PATRIDGE  29  Cook  WILLIE 
Feb.13th  J. WALLIS or KELLY  24  Seaman  BEN DEARG (DH) 
Feb.16th  Geo. JOLLY  21  3rd Hand  ED HENEAGE 
Feb.18th  Geo. YOUNGS  Master  MELBORNE 
Feb.18th  Robert SMITH  31  Mate  MELBORNE 
Feb.18th  Richard TAYLOR  3rd Hand  MELBORNE 
Feb.18th  C. NEEDHAM  32  Deck hand  MELBORNE 
Feb.18th  A. HANDS  16  Cook  MELBORNE 
Feb.18th  D. EDMUNDS  23  Seaman  TUBAL CAIN 
Feb.18th  Thos. ATKINSON  19  3rd Hand  TWILIGHT 
Feb.19th  W. GOWER  22  Deck hand  WHITE STAR 
Feb.19th  F. WELCH  28  Mate  JUPITER 
Feb.19th  John BURINSTON  18  Deck hand  JUPITER 
Feb.19th  G. J. EATWELL  20  Deck hand  BALAKLAVA 
Feb.28th  Rob't. ELWOODS  28  Deck hand  DAUNTLESS 
Mar.1st  C. SUMMERS  22  Mate  EMILY 
Mar.16th  J. BRANAN  23  Deck hand  LADY PLIMSOLL 
Mar.21st  Tho. KING  22  Cook  GLEANER 
Mar.25th  A. SPINK  17  Cook  MOONLIGHT 
Apr.5th  J. H. PEARSON  19  Cook  NEPTUNE 
Apr.5th  John DAWSON  19  Apprentice  WILLIAM BRASEY 
Apr.26th  Isaac SMITH  20  3rd Hand  WILLIAM AND REBECCA 
Apr.26th  J. COOK  19  Deck hand  WILLIAM AND REBECCA 
May 6th  A. CHRISTIAN  23  Seaman  PEARL 
May 13th  H. HORNE  19  Apprentice  WHITE STAR 
Jun.15th  D. GILBERT  14  Apprentice  T. CHARLTON 
Jul.9th  F. BARNES  17  Apprentice  SIR Wd. LAWSON 
Jul.17th  C. SIMPSON  21  3rd Hand  ENERGY 
Aug.17th  Geo. SMITH  37  Mate  ADVENTURE 
Aug.17th  J. H. MARTIN  56  Man  ADVENTURE 
Aug.17th  A. KINGSTON  17  Apprentice  ADVENTURE 
Aug.17th  R. BUNTING  16  Apprentice  ADVENTURE 
Aug.17th  A. A. FROST  15  Apprentice  ADVENTURE 
Aug.17th  J. CARVER  14  Apprentice  ADVENTURE 
Aug.26th  G. DUNHAM  25  Mate  EXCELSIOR 
Aug.26th  W. ATKIN  20  Apprentice  EXCELSIOR 
Aug.26th  J. SACKEN  27  Master  EXCELSIOR 
Sep.19th  J. H. COOPER  Man  NEW ADMIRAL (YH) 
Sep.20th  D. JOHNSON  3rd Hand  ANNIE