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Duration 00:23:45

Tracing your merchant seamen ancestors through crew lists and agreements

The Merchant Navy Crew Lists and Agreements are one of the greatest sources we have for family, maritime, social and economic history. They are a continuous record of Britain’s maritime trade activity during the 19th and 20th centuries as well as a record of employment for hundreds of thousands of men and women who went to sea. Yet these documents were almost lost to us permanently when they were scheduled for destruction and then saved by an 11th hour intervention. Janet Dempsey tells the remarkable story of these records, the work that is being done to make them more accessible and how they could help you discover your ancestors.

Janet Dempsey is a Records Specialist with the Military, Maritime and Transport team. She has worked at the National Archives for ten years and is currently managing the 1915 crew list project in association with the National Maritime museum to make 1.5 million names of merchant seamen in the First World War searchable online.