Discover your seafaring ancestor with the National Archives of Ireland’s Merchant Navy Crew Lists. These indexed records hold the names of thousands of men and women from Galway, Belfast, Dublin, and lands farther away such as Philadelphia, Norway and many more. Crew lists also recorded marriages, engagements, births and deaths at sea.
Each record includes an image of the original record from the National Archives of Ireland and a transcript listing information that can be found on the document. There are various types of records, thus the detail in each transcript can vary. In the transcript you may find the following information:
Event type – crew list, birth, death
Official number – of the ship
Ship’s registry port
Piece and item
The documents consist of multiple pages. The image link will take you to the first page of the document. By using the arrow on the right you can move through the images to read the full document and discover your ancestor.
Each year, a vessel’s master submitted an account of voyages to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen (RGSS). The account recorded the many ports visited, the crew, and any births or deaths. They also submitted an agreement and account of the crew. Below are some of the details you may find in various parts of the documents.
Account of voyages and crew of home trade ship
An account to be delivered biannual to the shipping master at the listed port, which includes
An account of voyages including dates and ports
A crew list including birth places, previous ships and reasons for leaving the ship
Records of deaths, which included the person’s name, sex, age, date and cause of death, profession or occupation, and parent’s name (if known)
Any Certificate of Discharge, which recorded the individual’s birth year and place, capacity, entry date, and discharge date and place
Agreement and account of the crew
Name and birth place
Last serving ship with dates of service and place of discharge.
Date and place of joining current ship
Capacity or occupation
Date, place and reason for leaving current ship – causes can include discharge, injury or death
These are the records of the Irish merchant navy held by the National Archives of Ireland. Every year, each ship registered in Ireland had to submit a report to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen (RGSS), which was responsible for keeping the records for the Merchant Navy. The records are extensive and provided detailed information regarding each crew member. Crew members were not only from Ireland but also from around the world. You will find natives of Norway, Russia, Sweden, America and Germany, to name a few. The records are fully indexed and can be searched easily by name. Prior to this indexing, you would have needed to know the name of the ship your ancestor worked on and the port of registration in order to find your ancestor’s name.
The Ireland Merchant Navy Crew Lists includes thousands of records for female crew members. For family historians, it can be difficult to find early employment records for female ancestors since traditionally women worked in the home. Ships began to employ women as stewardesses in the later part of the nineteenth century. As services on board ships expanded, women were employed as laundresses, matrons, hairdressers, catering personnel and shop assistants. Maritime career opportunities were restricted because women did not receive additional maritime training beyond their assigned roles. Today, women still only make up a small percentage of the maritime work force.
The collection holds numerous records of the Denbighshire Lass, a schooner famous for being both the first ship to fly the Irish tricolour at sea and to have a female captain, Kate Tyrell. The Denbighshire Lass was purchased in 1885 by Edward Tyrell, the owner of a small shipping company in Arklow. From a young age, Edward taught his daughter Kate the family business as well as how to sail and manage the family’s ships. When Kate was 19, her mother Katherine became ill and Kate stepped into the role as the company’s bookkeeper. She knew all parts of the business and it was inevitable that she would succeed her father as the owner of the shipping company. Edward Tyrell died of a heart attack at sea in 1886. Kate stepped into her destined role as the owner of the shipping company, then subsequently sold all the ships except for their best schooner the Denbighshire Lass. The new manager, Kate, was disciplined and did not tolerate any drinking on board her ships. When the ship returned from sea, Kate was there to complete a full inspection of the vessel.
Even though Kate was the owner of the business and the ship, the maritime authorities would not allow a female to be named as the ship’s owner or master. Therefore, the official records show Laurence Brennan, a trustworthy employee, as the owner of the Denbighshire Lass. Later records list John Fitzpatrick, Kate’s husband. When Kate married John she broke tradition again by retaining her family name and refusing to change her surname to Fitzpatrick. At the time, this was a scandalous action that caused outrage. The Denbighshire Lass sailed through heavily mined waters during the First World War unharmed and uninsured. After Irish independence, it became the first ship to fly the Irish tricolour at sea. Kate’s career as a successful mariner ended with her death in 1921.