Summary of records held at The National Archives UK which are Ship’s Musters, or crew lists, of seamen on ships arriving at the port of Liverpool between the years 1772 – 1850. Indexes created by J. Fawcett for the Musters follow below this post.
© J. Fawcett
From 1747, masters of merchant ships (or their owners) were required to file a Muster that recorded their vessel’s voyage and provided details about the crew and the length of time each served aboard ship. These Musters were created to meet a governmental obligation resulting from the Act of 1747 which provided for the relief of sick or disabled seamen and their dependants. A mandatory levy of 6d per month (pro rata) per seaman per voyage was subtracted from their wages (based upon their individual time served) and the total was deposited with the Seamen’s Fund Receivers at the port of arrival (until about 1851, when the Merchant Seamen’s Fund act made new arrangements for seamen’s pensions).
Musters were filed with the Collector of Customs and those surviving for UK ports from 1747-1857 are at The National Archives (UK) in series BT 98. They are each assigned a “piece” number (1-139) and are arranged by year and port of filing and commonly provide only a tally of the number of crew and their time served, along with the names of the Master, Mate and Owner. ‘BT’ is the collection of ‘RECORDS OF THE BOARD OF TRADE’ within which is a division within ‘Records of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and successor’.
‘98’ is the first of five series of ‘Registries of Shipping and Seamen’ which loosely covers Agreements and Crew Lists but each with differing administrative processes.
Liverpool Musters TNA 1772 – 1850
Liverpool Musters 1772 – 1850 are held at TNA in 70 “piece” files (98/33 -98/104), are filed in successive year sequence excepting the years 1810-1811 (missing), 1837-1847 (alternative series) and BT 98/90 which is for the port of Bristol.
- 1772-1831 (BT98/33 – BT98/89 except 1810 and 1811)
- 1832-1837 (BT 98/91 –BT 98/100)
- 1847-1850 ( 98/101 – 98/104)
Each piece file contains hundreds of Musters, (1812 alone contained 466), each is individually numbered (some erroneously share the same assigned number) and they are commonly bound in a register, in ascending numerical and chronological order.
The date of the Muster is not indicative of the vessel’s journey dates. It is date the muster was formally compiled, often months or years after a particular voyage was completed. From 1835 the filing requirements for vessels in the ‘Foreign Trade’ were that the Muster & Crew lists was to be filed with 24 hours return of a UK port and. ‘Home Trade’ musters were to be filed within 30 days after the end of each half year (30 June and 31 December). The 1812 Musters do not follow the same format, though similarities can be seen. There are Musters for vessels that first sailed for their destination as early as 1809. Some of the Musters are for journeys covering only months in 1812 but many of them are for vessels that returned to Liverpool in 1810 and 1811, and their Musters were not filed until 1812.
Musters were usually signed off by the master, or the vessel’s owner or agent, and later years are accompanied by a formal oath (printed form) which provides basic voyage details and usually signed by the master.
Not all vessels had to make a Muster.