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Merchant Marine

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.

Important Note

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:

  • name;
  • date and number of certificate;
  • grade;
  • address; and
  • date of birth and examination date.

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.

Register of Marine Certificates. Library and Archives Canada, RG 12 B5, vol. 1354, p. 17 Register of Marine Certificates. Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, RG 12 B5, vol. 1354, p. 17


Register of Marine Certificates.
Library and Archives Canada,
RG 12 B5, vol. 1354, p. 17.

Lloyd's Captains Registers, 1851-1947 (MG 40 O3)

Prior to 1871, Canadian masters and mates were certified by British authorities. The registers list:

  • name;
  • place and year of birth;
  • date, number and place of issue of certificate;
  • name of ship; and
  • dates of engagement/discharge, etc.

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
Charlottetown, PEI
C1A 8M9
Tel.: 1-877-566-8609
Fax: 902-368-0496

Records of the Merchant Marine during peacetime, 1948 to the present, are held by:

Central Registry of Seafarers
Marine Personnel Standards and Pilotage
Transport Canada
330 Sparks Street, Tower C, 10th Floor
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0N8
Fax: 1-613-990-1538

The Maritime History Archive [] 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. []

Research Online

Ship Registration Index

Veterans Affairs Canada's Web site provides background information on the Historic Contribution of Canada's Merchant Navy []. 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.

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