Britain has a long and proud naval heritage, and the merchant fleet had a big role in that heritage. In turn as a major port Southampton played a huge part in merchant shipping.
Lists of crew serving on individual ships together with information about their service, pay and conduct began in the 18th century.
These early lists are held at the National Archives. Southampton Archives has about 80% of Southampton crew lists 1863-1913 – they are arranged by ship and it is very hard to search for an individual.
On the eve of the First World War central government was beginning to realise that a lack of a centralised list would be a major hindrance in the forthcoming war.
A centralised list of those serving on British and Commonweath registered ships began in 1914,and was arranged in alphabetical order and a further series in discharge number order. The series from 1918-1941 is now held in Southampton archives and has about 1.25 million index cards like the one on the website.
Although originally Southampton was interested in just Southampton merchant seamen it soon became evident splitting the series was impossible and so the service agreed to take the whole series.
There are a number of Seamen's record cards for surviving crew of the Titanic amongst the Central Index Register held at Southampton Archives.
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