Crew Lists and Agreements
It is worth pointing out that, as far as I understand, agreements were first required under an Act of 1729. According to a Board of Trade Precedent Book ‘Masters of vessels proceeding to parts beyond the seas were then required to enter into Agreements with their seamen...’. It was not, however, until 1835 that these had to be kept and surrendered to the then Admiralty office of the Registrar of Seamen on completion of voyages.
Between 1835 and 1856 all were filed by port of register. From 1857 onwards, thanks to the efforts of the first Registrar of Seamen, all vessels in British service were issued with official numbers and have subsequently been filed by this number.
Between 1835 and 1844 there were basically two varieties of crew lists. There was the Schedule C for vessels conducting deep ocean voyages and which was required to be deposited with the local Customs Office within 48 hours of arrival at the final U.K. port of discharge. For vessels on coastal work there was the Schedule D, a six-monthly return to be handed in within three weeks of the end of the half year (June and December).
Between 1845 and 1854 further forms were added. There was the Schedule A for foreign-going vessels. Generally known as ‘agreements’ or ‘articles’, this was a contract between the master and the crew. Schedule G was a list of crew members on sailing for foreign-going voyages, giving their ticket numbers. There was also the Schedule M that indicated those still onboard at the final discharge (which may have been introduced at this stage). And, for the coastal and fishing trades the Schedule B was introduced.
Generally the coastal-trade was much less stringently policed. Undoubtedly part of this was down to an 1851 amendment to the Mercantile Marine Act of the year before, which exempted vessels of less than 80 tons burden involved purely in U.K. coastal work from all this paperwork. However, this does not explain fully a great many gaps that appear in these records.
Surviving crew lists and agreements up to and including 1860 are all at The National Archives, Kew. Due to a determination of civil servants at the then Public Records Office to destroy 95 per cent of these and an almost equal determination by the then R.G.S.S. to have them saved, those from 1861 onwards have been scattered far and wide throughout the world.
Similarly, colonially-registered vessels’ records, where surviving, are to be found all around the world at the ports they were registered in, or operated from.