Muster rolls

What are the Muster Rolls?

The 1747 Act for the Relief of Disabled Seamen required shipmasters to file a Muster Roll recording details of their ship, its current voyage, and crewmen on board. These Muster Rolls were given to ‘Receivers’ on arrival of a ship into port at the end of a voyage.

What area do the Muster Rolls cover?

Under the 1747 Act Hull Trinity House, a charitable lodge formed to provide for the welfare of seamen and their families, was granted responsibility for appointing Receivers in the Humber region. Receivers were provided at the ports of Hull, Gainsborough, Goole, Grimsby, and Bridlington.

What does a Muster Roll entry look like?

Each Muster Roll records information relating to the name and tonnage of the ship, the shipmaster’s name and place of abode, and details of voyage just completed. Entries also record details relating to individual crew members. Such details include name, age, place of birth, place of abode, details of previous ships served on, place and time of entering the ship, and number of days and months on-board. If applicable, entries also record details of discharges, deaths, desertions, and injuries. The 1747 Act also established the ‘Seamen’s Fund’, a pension scheme funded by contributions of 6d a month per seaman.

Contributions were collected by shipmasters and handed to Receivers with the Muster Rolls. The amounts received are recorded on the Muster Rolls by the Receivers.

To take a closer look at this example Muster Roll (1.2 MB, PDF) which we have annotated.

How can the Muster Rolls help me in my research?

The Muster Rolls are fantastic sources of information for anyone interested in merchant shipping in the Humber region between 1747 and 1851. They provide information for anyone researching the following:

  • Names and tonnage of merchant ships operating in the Humber region
  • Names of Shipmasters operating in the Humber region
  • Names, ages, places of birth, and service details of seamen serving onboard ships operating in the Humber region
  • Departure ports of ships arriving into the ports of Hull, Gainsborough, Goole, Grimsby, and Bridlington

What format are the Muster Rolls?

The Muster Rolls survive in two formats:

C DSTR/1-48:
From 1747-1834 entries were recorded by hand into bound ledgers. Each entry in the ledger relates to an individual ship, and each page in the ledger may contain more than one entry.

C DSTR/49-115
From 1835-1851 entries were recorded by hand on pre-printed forms, each form relating to an individual ship. These forms were then compiled into chronological files covering two to three years each, and held together by string.

Are there any indexes to the Muster Rolls?

There are three indexes to help you search the Muster Rolls.

C DSTR/1-48 [Indexes] 
The period 1747-1835 is covered by individual volume indexes included at the front of each volume. Compiled in the 19th century, each is an alphabetic list of ships and provides page references and shipmaster’s name.

C DSTR/116-117
The period 1838-1851 is covered by two bound index volumes. Compiled about 1851, the volumes are an alphabetical list of ships and provide page references and shipmaster’s name.

C SRL/T/39/1-48
The period 1747-1835 is covered by a 21st century index compiled by Professor Donald Woodward. Indexed by ship name, and providing volume and page references and shipmaster’s name, the list also records as information such as where the ship was from, what class of ship it was (i.e. sloop, keel etc), and the type of trade it was involved in.

Note: There is currently no comprehensive index of crewmen’s names or the shipmasters, but since September 2012 our volunteers have been busy creating an index of each individual muster roll entry.

We are updating the online catalogue regularly so you can search these records by individual ship names, shipmasters and crewmen. This work is ongoing so keep checking the catalogue for updates. You can also search for a specific person or ship by entering the name you're looking for in the search box.