Liverpool Ship Registers



Taken from the Maritime Archives & Library information sheet number 50 (please see attached documents for more details and full catalogue): The ship registers record details of vessels and their ownership. Tonnage, dimensions, place and date of construction, rig, number of decks and masts, and other information, is recorded in different levels of completeness at different times. Engine room dimensions and horsepower of engines are recorded for steamships. Records of the owners of vessels can be very comprehensive, with occupation and places of residence recorded. Changes in ownership and the fate of the vessel when the registry is closed are also recorded. Scope of the collection: Liverpool's shipping was subject to a series of Acts of Parliament requiring that details of vessels be registered from the mid-18th century onwards. Although formats changed over time, the Maritime Archives & Library, Merseyside Maritime Museum, holds a near-complete run of material from 1739 to 1942. The volumes are known as Wool Act Registers (1739-1792), Plantation Registers (1743-1784) and, simply, Register Books (1786-1942). The evidence was recorded more systematically from 1786 onward, following the well-known Registry Act of that year. From 1855, there is an accompanying set of Transaction Books, which record changes in ownership of vessels over time. There is a gap in the Plantation Register series between 1773 and 1779. There are also references in the registers to a Transaction Book called the "small book", which has not been identified. There is an index, arranged alphabetically and chronologically. As well as the main set of records, there are other smaller collections, including a register of vessels visiting the port but not registered there (1788-1818), a register of fishing vessels (1921-1925), and registers for Runcorn (1862-1937). The early registers, especially the Plantation Register, contain details of vessels that were used in the Transatlantic slave trade and the associated trade in goods produced using the labour of enslaved people. Information from these registers can be found on the 'slave voyages' online searchable database,