Crew records guide

Research into crew records can often be difficult as there is no comprehensive index to the nineteenth century crew lists

Research into these records can often be difficult as there is no comprehensive index to the nineteenth century crew lists. Furthermore, some lists do not record the crew by name.

Download Part IV of the Guide to Shipping and Free Passenger Records (PDF, 70mb) for a comprehensive listing under the following headings:

  1. Crew lists: Sydney
  2. Crew lists: Newcastle
  3. Masters of vessels
  4. Mates
  5. Pilots
  6. Engineers
  7. Marine surveyors
  8. Compass adjusters
  9. Watermen
  10. Drivers and coxswains of motor boats

Surviving crew lists are listed in the Shipping Guide, p.67, 69-71, 72-86


In general there are few records relating to crew until 1854. The shipping lists from 1854-1922 include the names of the crew members, their position on board and their nationality. As with the unassisted passenger lists, they are not indexed after 1855.

We also hold material relating to the examination, licensing, certification and qualifications of various categories of seamen and related officers, including masters, mates, engineers and pilots.

No comprehensive list of colonial naval personnel for the New South Wales government appears to have survived. Some individuals may appear in Colonial/Chief Secretary indexes.


After 1922 recording the arrival of crew became the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government and the records are held by the National Archives of Australia. NAA also hold crew records (arrivals and departures) for Newcastle.

Royal Navy or Royal Australian Navy (RAN) service records are also held by the NAA.


Many families have stories of ancestors who 'jumped ship'. We hold various sources which may help in researching details of seamen who deserted their vessels in New South Wales ports. Researchers should first check the index of the publication:

  • Jim Melton, Ship's Deserters, 1852-1900. Library of Australian History, 1986.

Researchers can then proceed to check Police Gazettes, court records and gaol records for details of seamen deserters recaptured.

Select list of record series

Index to the Colonial Secretary's papers *ARK
Consult the index under the headings 'Seamen', 'Shipping' and the name of the vessel for references to crew.
(Fiche 5287-5289)
Index to ships' musters (index to NRS 1289 listed below in Departures)
An online index is available on the Society of Australian Genealogists website
(Fiche 5723-5724)
Pastkeys: Ships and masters to SydneyThis index contains some entries relating to ships masters.
Search the online index 
A CD version covering the period 1842-56 is available in our Reading Room.
Index to Registers of discharge of seamen
by Kaye Vernon & Billie Jacobsen. This index covers crew discharged at the Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle, 1859-87. Available on the stand-alone computers in the reading room.
Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters website
Transcriptions of the Shipping Master's Office Inwards Passengers Lists, each of which includes Crew names, in some cases includes their on board position and place of origin.
NRS 13278
(Reels 399-560, 2001-2122, 2751)
Shipping Master's Office: (Arriving) Crew lists *ARK [to 1900]
These lists give for the crew of each ship: name, age, nationality and station. They are being transcribed and indexed online at the Mariners website (above)
Shipping Master's Office: Articles of agreement of crewsEach agreement provides brief details of the vessel and its crew.
1878, 1880-1922
NRS 4694
(Reel 2898)
Department of Navigation, Newcastle: Salary registers
Nov 1907-Jun 1923
NRS 9811
(Reel 4041)
Department of Navigation, Newcastle: Record of persons examined for Pilotage
10 Aug 1894-26 Nov 1900
NRS 10833, NRS 9832(Reel 4042)
Department of Navigation, Newcastle: Registers of examinations held
6 Nov 1917-21 Dec 1945
NRS 4717
(Reel 4041)
Department of Navigation, Newcastle: Newcastle Lifeboat Committee - Record of payment to crews
30 Sep 1869-31 Dec 1915
NRS 13282
(Reels 3669-3680)
Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle: Registers of seamen engaged before the Shipping Master
NRS 13283
(Reel 3669)
Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle: Index of seamen engaged before the Shipping Master
NRS 13284(Reels 3667-3668)
Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle: Registers of seamen engaged on board ships
NRS 13286
(Reels 3680-3688)
Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle: Registers of seamen discharged
This series is partially indexed. The index is available on the stand-alone computers in the reading room.
Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle: Registers of discharge papers received from masters of vessels
Mercantile Marine Office, Newcastle: Articles of agreement and accounts of crews
1875, 1881-1922
NRS 10783
(Reel 3718, COD 196)
Particulars of certificates of competency and of service issued at Sydney to Masters, Mates and Engineers in the Mercantile Marine
An alphabetical list providing name, date of birth, native place, classification, and date and number of certificate issued.

Other sources

Various other sources of records may include police, court and prison records. Some crew of ships visiting New South Wales were involved in court activities as plaintiffs or defendants. Court records, court depositions and related documents provide details of seamen convicted in New South Wales. These records can provide useful details about the circumstances of seamen's offences and the ships on which they were serving. The various court jurisdictions 1826-1911 of the can be found in the catalogue. Of special note are the case papers, 1826-1911 of the Vice Admiralty Court (Agency No. 1048).

  • Agency No. 516 - Navigation Department
  • Agency No. 514 - Marine Board, and
  • Agency No. 519 - Maritime Services Board
  • Mutinies - Details of mutiny on board vessels may be found in criminal court and prison records and in Police Gazettes, as well as in the various indexes and correspondence series of the Colonial Secretary
  • Nautical training - The New South Wales government administered the nautical school ships and training ships Vernon and Sobraon from 1867. There are surviving records for many of the boys who passed through these schools for the period to 1911. For a listing of the records consult the Archives Investigator under Education. For a listing of the records consult the catalogue under Agency No. 411
  • Surgeon Superintendent's journals - The Surgeon Superintendent's journals for some convict and immigrant vessels give details of crew who needed medical attention during the voyage. Surviving surgeons' journals that are part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) are listed in the Guide to Convict Records. Microfilms are available in the reading room and at the State Library of NSW.