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Carrying out research

Carrying out Research

Here are some examples of how to go about research using the sources in the registers and records section of this site.

`The Californian was nearby when the Titanic sank in 1912. How can I find out about Californian `s history?`

Looking up Californian in Lloyd`s Register of Ships for 1912 shows she was built in 1902. If you have access to theStarke/Schell Registers, the edition for 1902 gives details of her career. If not, it is a matter of looking her up in subsequent (preferably posted) editions of Lloyd`s Register of Ships. She was deleted as a war loss in 1915. If you want to know more about what happened to her, find out how to go about it in the wrecks and accidents section of this website.

`I believe my grandfather was part owner of a small ketch called Tryfan in the 1900s. How can I check this?`

The first step is to try to find the Tryfan in the Mercantile Navy List: at only 64 tons she is too small for Lloyd`s Register of Ships. She appears in the Mercantile Navy List from 1875 to 1927, but this gives the names of her major shareholders. You can guess from her disappearance from the Mercantile Navy List between 1927 and 1928 that her registry was closed in 1927. This helps locate her registration documents in the Public Record Office [address]. Consulting the catalogue you find the papers are in box BT110/642. This contains all the registration documents for Tryfan from around 1890 to 1927, when she was broken up and her register closed. All the shareholders are recorded with the dates they bought or sold shares.

Finding such information before 1890 is more tricky. The Mercantile Navy List shows Tryfan was built in 1875 and registered at Liverpool. Looking up the registration papers for that port in 1875 in class BT108 at the Public Record Office gives the first owner. For subsequent changes in share ownership, you need to look at the many transactions, filed in BT109. However, Liverpool customs registers are kept in the Merseyside Maritime Museum [address], and Tryfan `s history can be traced more easily through these, as ownership changes were recorded on a single form.

`The steam yacht Conqueror was sunk on naval service during the First World War. How can I trace her previous history?`

Lloyd`s Register of Yachts is the main source for information on yachts, although British registered vessels also appear in the Mercantile Navy List. Checking the 1914 edition of Lloyd`s Register of Yachts shows that Conqueror was owned by the Duke of Manchester. Checking back through these registers until the year of her build in 1889 shows she was previously owned by a member of the Vanderbilt family in New York and had been built for an owner in Hull.

`I think Eagle was an early steamer built on the Thames, but I can`t find it in Lloyd`s Register of Shipping. `

If you think the ship is British, try the Mercantile Navy List, which listed all British registered ships. The details given for Eagle in the 1860s and 1870s show she was built in 1853 and registered in London. If you want to know more, go to her registration documents in the Public Record Office [address]. Here, transcripts and transactions are filed in classes BT108 and BT109. However, as Eagle was registered in London, it is easier to look in class CUST 130, where her history is found, giving changes of owner and an indication of her fate. It shows she was built by the celebrated Thames shipbuilder Scott Russell, whose yard built Brunel`s Great Eastern.

For foreign ships not found in  Lloyd`s Register of Ships, the Liverpool Underwriter`s Registry of Iron Vessels is worth trying for the years before 1886. From 1886, Lloyd`s Register attempted to list all the world`s seagoing, self-propelled ships over 100 gross tons. The only chance of finding ships after this date not in Lloyd`s Register of Ships is by looking in national registers, if these can be located.


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