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How to use Customs registers

Reading a Customs register

Customs registers will give almost all the information that is available about a ship, but there are limitations. These documents are the major source of data for publications such as Mercantile Navy List [definition] and for British ships in Lloyd`s Register of Ships [definition].

Form No. 19, as used from 1890, is the first and most important page of the registration documents. Bound with these will be other sheets showing changes of name, tonnages, owner or manager and data on any mortgages taken out on the ship.

Page from a Customs register showing transactions for `Gazelle`Page from a Customs register showing transactions for `Gazelle`

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Official number: a unique identifier for a British ship.

Ship`s name, any previous names, with subsequent changes marked.

Port of registry [definition],   date of registration and port number. These numbers were allocated in sequence each year and provide another way to identify the ship.

Previous registration, with port, year and port number.

Hull details. Where, when and by whom it was built.

Rig [definition], material and build.

Hull dimensions.

Details of the machinery, including type, number of cylinders, builders of engines and boilers, dates, horsepower [definition] and speed. The earliest figures for horsepower were nominal (NHP), which were calculated using a formula based on engine dimensions. Later, horsepower was measured scientifically as brake [definition] horsepower (BHP) and indicated [definition] horsepower (IHP).

Tonnage measurements, showing calculation of the ship`s net [definition] and gross [definition] tonnage.

Master`s [definitionname.

Name, address and occupation of the owner(s) and number of sixty-fourth shares they held. Changes of ownership or mortgages taken out on the ship were recorded on separate transaction sheets which were bound to the form. Another form also gave a summary of ownership.

Place and date of registration.

Details of when and why the registry was closed are written on the form.


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