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Instructions for locating copies of Crew Agreements to find your ancestors.

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Where can I obtain copies of Crew Agreements?

There are a number of places where copies of Crew Agreements can be obtained. It can mean a few hours searching, and a lot of photocopying, and if you don't do it yourself, it can become rather expensive. If you are searching for a particular person or ship, make sure you're armed with the name of the ship and person, and the year the voyage ended in, not when it started. You can approximate the year if you're not sure. Some of the information listed on the agreements is written in the original handwriting of the crew, and you should at least be able to see the original signature from your ancestor. The agreements are very informative and well worth the money for the invaluable data contained within. If you have an ancestor who was a merchant seamen, copies of Crew Agreements are a must. At the following addresses you should be able to find most of the information you are looking for regarding British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian shipping. If not, try checking the local record office or library where the ship was registered.

  • The Archivist, Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, A1C 5S7. Phone: 709-737-8428, Fax: 709-737-3123, E-mail:, Web Site: . Their research fee is CAD$35.00 per hour (This is also the minimum fee), photocopies are CAD$0.50 per page. They hold 70% of the Crew Agreements from 1863-1938, and 80% of the Agreements from 1951-1976. But they hold no agreements for 1875, 1885, 1895, or 1905. I can highly recommend their friendly service, especially that of Paula Marshall, the Senior Clerk, who I have found to be extremely helpful. Check them out, they have some great information!
  • National Information Centre, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, England, SE10 9NF. Phone: 0181-858-4422, Fax: 0181-312-6632, you'll find their Web Site at: . Their research fee is GBP£18.00 per hour, and postage is extra for overseas requests. They hold 90% of the Crew Agreements for the years 1861-1862, 90% of the Crew Agreements for the years ending in '5' from 1865-1935, and 90% of the years ending in '5' from 1955-1975, as well as many Mates and Masters Certificates of Competency and their applications.
  • Reader Services Dept., Public Record Office (PRO), Ruskin Ave., Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, TW9 4DU. Phone: 0181-876-3444, Fax: 0181-878-8905, Web Site: . They hold all the surviving documents from 1747-1860, a 10% sample of each year from 1861-1938, all official logs from 1902-1919, all papers from 1939-1950, a 10% sample of each year from 1951-1976, and all records pertaining to famous ships (e.g. the Titanic) from 1861-1938. The PRO will not conduct searches for you but rather will tell you to come and look yourself or use an official researcher from a list of many which they recommend. It's not cheap, but if you can't go yourself, it's still cheaper than an airticket ! Try Tim Hughes who lives in Kew, and whom I use; he's on-line and you can e-mail him at . He has a good knowledge of what records are available, not only of those available at Kew.

In Australia, some records are held at:

  • N.S.W. State Records, Western Sydney Research Room, 43 O’Connell Street, Kingswood, N.S.W., Australia. Tel: 02-9673-1788, Fax: 02-9833-4518, E-mail:, Website: I have had some luck locating several original agreements here which are not held in the above archives. They are worth a try if you know a ship visited or terminated a voyage in Sydney. State Records also holds the Sydney and Newcastle pilotage records. Located approximately 1 hour's driving time west of Sydney city, with free parking and friendly, helpful archivists.

Contributed by:
Steve Brew
Sydney, Australia

Ships and Seafarers




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