The Merchant Marine, also known as the Merchant Navy during wartime, consisted of individuals who served as crew members aboard merchant ships.
There are no employment files. Crew members of merchant vessels signed contracts, called articles of agreement, with the master of the vessel. To trace a seaman before the Second World War, you must know the name of the vessel on which he served so that you can locate and search relevant articles of agreements and ships' logs, which usually include crew lists. Additional registers are available for masters, mates and steam engineers.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Central Registry of Seamen, 1875-1983 (RG 12 and RG 42)
Records relating to crew lists, articles of agreement and ships' logs are described in the General Inventory database under Central Registry of Seamen.
Most of these records are not available on microfilm and some are restricted. The contents of each sub-series are listed in Finding Aids. Most of thoseFinding Aids are only available in paper format and must be consulted onsite.
If you are looking for records after 1938, please contact the offices listed below under Research in Other Institutions.
Registers of Marine Certificates, 1872-1971 (RG 12 B5)
These registers list the marine certificates issued to masters, mates and marine engineers. They include details such as:
The different series are described in the General Inventory database under Registers of Marine Certificates. Most of the volumes include an index of names. The records are not available on microfilm.
Lloyd's Captains Registers, 1851-1947 (MG 40 O3)
Prior to 1871, Canadian masters and mates were certified by British authorities. The registers list:
This material is on microfilm reels A-1838 to A-1897. Those reels must be consulted onsite; there are no copies available for loan.
Research in Other Institutions
Wartime records for the Merchant Navy, 1939-1947 and 1951-1953, are held by:
Access to Information and Privacy
Veterans Affairs Canada
PO Box 7700
Records of the Merchant Marine during peacetime, 1948 to the present, are held by:
Central Registry of Seafarers
Marine Personnel Standards and Pilotage
330 Sparks Street, Tower C, 10th Floor
The Maritime History Archive [www.mun.ca/mha/index.php] holds a large collection of records including crew lists, logbooks, an index of Newfoundland Captains, 1820-1889, Lloyd's Captains Registers, 1851-1948 and other sources. Canadians who served in the Merchant Navy during the First World War were under British registration. Copies of those British records are also available at the Maritime History Archive.
Records of British merchant seamen are held at the National Archives in England and are described in research guides on that Web site. [www.catalogue.nationalarchives.gov.uk/researchguidesindex.asp?j=1#m]
Veterans Affairs Canada's Web site provides background information on the Historic Contribution of Canada's Merchant Navy [http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=history/other/merchant/hist]. That section of their Web site also includes an online version of the publication Valourat Sea: Canada's Merchant Navy.
Canadian Merchant Navy War Dead Database
Research in Published Sources
Consult our Bibliography for further information on this topic.