Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory

The Mercantile Navy List, compiled by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, was first published from 1849 to 1855, and annually thereafter from 1857 until 1976 (with supplements up to the end of 1977), but excluding 1941 to 1946, during the Second World War. Monthly supplements were issued under various titles from 1886.

As the official, comprehensive listing of all merchant vessels registered under the British flag, it is one of the most important reference tools for anyone researching the history of British merchant shipping, and includes many ships not listed in its nearest equivalent, Lloyd's Register.

It provides basic information on each ship, which can be used to trace other records and to compile an outline history of a ship and its owners. Early volumes also include useful appendices, such as lists of pilots, receivers of wreck, and obituaries, and records of awards and testimonials for services at sea.

The Mercantile Navy List provides a comprehensive index to ships' official numbers from 1849 to 1976, and an index to certificates of competency up to 1864. *

The Maritime History Archive holds bound volumes for the following years:

1868, 1875, 1876, 1879, 1880, 1882, 1891, 1892, 1896, 1899, 1904, 1907, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918, 1919, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1925-1940, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1957-1965, 1968, 1973.

Microfilm and/or microfiche copies are available for the following years:

1857-1864, 1866-1908, 1910-1914, 1916-1920, 1922.

*Extracted from Research Guide C6, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.