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Archives In Brief 21 - Records relating to crew

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Provides a brief overview of the major sources held by State Records that relate to the movement of crew on ships visiting New South Wales and the mercantile marine in New South Wales.

Indexes to crew lists

Norma Tuck: Index to ships' musters, 1816-25
Fiche 5287-5289
The index is also available on the Society of Australian Genealogists' website. It indexes NRS 1289.

Pastkeys: Ships and masters to Sydney, 1842-55
Fiche 5723-5724
This index contains some entries relating to ships masters. Available on our website. A CD version covering the period 1842-56 is available in our reading room.

Kaye Vernon & Billie Jacobsen: Index to Registers of discharge of seamen, 1859-87
This index covers crew discharged at the Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle, 1859-87. Available on the stand-alone computers in the reading room.

Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters 1854-1900
Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters consists of transcriptions of the Shipping Master's Office Inwards Passengers Lists, each of which includes Crew names, in some cases includes their on board position and place of origin.

Crew lists

State Records holds lists of crew arriving in New South Wales before 1923. Research into these records can often be difficult as there is no comprehensive index to the nineteenth century crew lists. Furthermore, some lists do not record the crew by name.

References to crew, 1788-1825

Index to Colonial Secretary's papers, 1788-1825 *ARK [Fiche only]
Consult the index under the headings 'Seamen', 'Shipping' and the name of the vessel for references to crew.

Crew lists, 1788-1854

Survivng crew lists are listed in the Shipping Guide, p.67. Researchers can also consult:

NRS 1289, (Departing) Ships musters, 1816-25 *ARK 
Reels 561-562
Crew and passengers departing from Sydney. For the crew, details of their positions on the ship are given. The records are indexed on the Society of Australian Genealogists' website.

Crew lists 1854-1922

Shipping Master's Office, Sydney

NRS 13278, (Arriving) Crew lists, 1854-1922 *ARK [to 1900]
Reels 399-560, 2001-2122, 2751
These lists give for the crew of each ship: name, age, nationality and station. They are being transcribed and indexed online at the website of Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters.

Crew lists after 1922

After 1922 recording the arrival of crew became the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government and the records are held by the National Archives of Australia. The National Archives may be contacted on telephone 1300 886 881 or go to the National Archives website.

Records of crew arriving and departing from Newcastle

These records are held by the National Archives.

Engagement and discharge of crew

Listed below are a selection of records relating to the engagement and discharge of crew at Sydney and Newcastle. For further records researchers should consult the Archives Investigator and the Shipping Guide, pp. 69-71.

Shipping Master's Office, Sydney

NRS 13280, Articles of agreement of crews, 1878, 1880-1922
Each agreement provides brief details of the vessel and its crew.

Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle

NRS 13282, Registers of seamen engaged before the Shipping Master, 1859-1923
Reels 3669-3680

NRS 13283, Index of seamen engaged before the Shipping Master, 1917-20
Reel 3669

NRS 13284, Registers of seamen engaged on board ships, 1864-1919
Reels 3667-3668

NRS 13286, Registers of seamen discharged, 1859-1916
Reels 3680-3688
This series is partially indexed. The index is available on the stand-alone computers in the reading room.

NRS 13288, Registers of discharge papers received from masters of vessels, 1864-1921

NRS 13290, Articles of agreement and accounts of crews, 1875, 1881-1922

Licensing certification and qualifications

State Records holds material relating to the examination, licensing, certification and qualifications of various categories of seamen and related officers, including masters, mates, engineers and pilots.

These records are described in the Shipping Guide, pp. 72-86. They are also listed in Archives Investigator using the Advanced Search - Agency option:

Index to certificates of competency

NRS 10783, Particulars of certificates of competency and of service issued at Sydney to Masters, Mates and Engineers in the Mercantile Marine, 1872-1916
Reel 3718, COD 196
An alphabetical list providing name, date of birth, native place, classification, and date and number of certificate issued.

Shipwrecked crew

The following sources may provide details of crew involved in shipwrecks and of government relief provided to them. Researchers should also consult Government Gazettes for occasional 'notices to mariners' for 'missing vessels' as well as Archives in Brief 56.

Colonial Secretary

Index to Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 *ARK

NRS 922, Indexes and registers to letters received, 1826+
This series indexes Colonial Secretary: Main series of letters received, 1826-1982, NRS 905.
Check indexes under 'Miscellaneous S'.

Index to the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence, Convicts and Others, 1826-94
On Fiche in the reading room
This indexes Colonial Secretary: Main series of letters received, 1826-88, NRS 905.

Maritime Services Board

NRS 9851, Papers relating to inquiries conducted by the Marine Board of New South Wales and the Court of Marine Inquiry, 1872-1989 [2/10541-59]  
These files contain papers relating to marine accidents in New South Wales waters or overseas incidents involving ships registered in New South Wales. There are frequent mentions of crew. The files are arranged alphabetically by ship's name.

NRS 9794; NRS 9822; NRS 10768; NRS 13973 - Special bundles 
These include some papers relating to wrecks and casualties. Full listings are available in the reading room. These listings also contain bundles created by the Sydney Harbour Trust, the Navigation Department and the Marine Board.

Police court and prison records

Some crew of ships visiting New South Wales were involved in court activities as plaintiffs or defendants.

Online indexes

Police records

NRS 10958, Police Gazettes, 1852-1929
Reels 3129-3143 (1862-99), Reels 3594-3606 (1900-30)
Contains entries and photographs of people. Consult Archives Investigator for details about the Gazettes.

Court records

Court records, court depositions and related documents provide details of seamen convicted in New South Wales. These records can provide useful details about the circumstances of seamen's offences and the ships on which they were serving. The various court jurisdictions 1826-1911 of the can be found in the Archives Investigator.

Of special note are the case papers, 1826-1911 of the Vice Admiralty Court, listed in Archives Investigator under Agency No. 1048.

Prison records

Prison records include, from the period of the late 1870s, photographs of prisoners with details of conviction and personal history. Details of prison records can be found in Archives Investigator.

Deserters

Many families have stories of ancestors who 'jumped ship'. State Records holds various sources which may help in researching details of seamen who deserted their vessels in New South Wales ports. Researchers should first check the index of the publication:

Jim Melton, Ship's Deserters, 1852-1900. Library of Australian History, 1986.

Researchers can then proceed to check Police Gazettes, court records and gaol records for details of seamen deserters recaptured.

Naval records

State Records does not hold service records for crews of Royal Navy or Royal Australian Navy (RAN). RAN service records are held by the National Archives, telephone 1300 886 881, or go to the National Archives website.

No comprehensive list of colonial naval personnel for the New South Wales government appears to have survived. Some individuals may appear in Colonial/Chief Secretary indexes.

Related records

  • Mutinies - Details of mutiny on board vessels may be found in criminal court and prison records and in Police Gazettes, as well as in the various indexes and correspondence series of the Colonial Secretary.
  • Nautical training - The New South Wales government administered the nautical school ships and training ships Vernon and Sobraon from 1867. There are surviving records for many of the boys who passed through these schools for the period to 1911. For a listing of the records consult the Archives Investigator under Education. For a listing of the records consult the Archives Investigator under Agency No. 411.
  • Surgeon Superintendent's journals - The Surgeon Superintendent's journals for some convict and immigrant vessels give details of crew who needed medical attention during the voyage. Surviving surgeons' journals that are part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) are listed in the Guide to Convict Records. Microfilms are available in the reading room and at the State Library of NSW.

Printed sources

  • Ian Nicholson. Log of Logs — a catalogue of logs, journals, shipboard diaries, letters and all forms of voyage narratives, 1788-1988 for Australia and New Zealand and surrounding oceans, Aranda, ACT, Roebuck, 1990.
  • Ian Nicholson. Log of Logs Volume 2 — a catalogue of logs, journals, shipboard diaries, letters and all forms of voyage narratives, 1788-1988 for Australia and New Zealand and surrounding oceans, QLD, I. Nicholson, 1993.
  • Ian Nicholson. Log of Logs — a catalogue of logs, journals, shipboard diaries, letters and all forms of voyage narratives, 1788-1998 for Australia and New Zealand and surrounding oceans, QLD, I. Nicholson, 1998.

Other records

Other records may be identified in Archives Investigator, as well as the Guide to Shipping and Free Passenger Records (Shipping Guide), which is available for use in the reading room, and also as part of the Archives Resources Kit.

Researchers should consult the Register of Access Directions to confirm the public availability of records. State Records' staff can advise you on the availability of records if they are not listed on the register.

*ARK signifies that a copy of the record or guide is part of the Archives Resources Kit and is held by the community access points.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
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