Tuesday, March 11, 2014

UK Merchant Seamen records are not plain sailing

Having found a merchant seaman record for John Lee I wanted to find out whatever I could about his service. One thing I’d like to know is: did he stay in Australia by agreement, or did he jump ship?!

From this point my plan was quite straightforward.

  1. Obtain whatever information I can readily find by myself online.
  2. Hire a researcher to make sense of it and follow up on any other records it may lead to.

It seemed that I should be able to find more on John Lee in The National Archives series BT112 (which is indexed in series BT119). According to the TNA website and to the FindMyPast website, both series are digitised and searchable on FindMyPast.

It’s possible to filter the Merchant Seamen collection by TNA series, but I couldn’t find a record from series BT112 or BT119. Not for John Lee, nor anyone else. I couldn’t find any record at all.

I contacted FindMyPast and they got back to me promptly, confirming the issue. If you haven’t been able to find your seafaring relatives from 1835 to 1844 in these records, hold tight. FindMyPast have promised to update me when the data team looks into it.

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