To p t i p !
Identify a lost ship as accurately as you can, using sources such as Lloyd’s Register of Shipping lr.org/en/research-andinnovation/historicalinformation/lloyds-registerof-ships-online. You may need more than the vessel’s name as shipwrecks were so common. At least three different ships called Minerva sank in 1829, for example. Try to get extra information to ensure you have the right vessel such as tonnage, home port, captain’s name, owner, or after 1854, its ‘official number’. Passenger lists may survive, even though a ship has gone down, so do consult them via sources such as findmypast. co.uk and ancestry.co.uk. They may reveal additional information about a passenger such as age, occupation, or travelling companions.
Ships sank in huge numbers in the past and were widely reported in the press, especially if there was significant loss of life. Remember to consult newspapers from the ship’s home port and intended destinations which may be British people who died abroad are recorded at TNA in four indexes: RG32, 33, 35 and 36, which between them span 1627 to 1969, although coverage before the mid-1800s is sparse. These series have been digitised and indexed by bmdregisters.co.uk and include details of people who died at sea. If you find someone in one of these indexes you can order a death certificate from GRO quoting the reference given, although the information you’ll get back is highly variable.
The Board of Trade conducted public inquiries when a ship was If you know the name of a lost ship then Wrecksite ( wrecksite.eu) is your best starting point. It gives basic details for ship losses all around the world. For wrecks on the British coast, the English Heritage website ( pastscape. org.uk) often provides a wealth of detail. Merchant ships lost in the First World War like the Lusitania are all listed at the Naval- History.net website found at naval-history.net/ WW1LossesaContents.htm. Finally, for early wrecks, from 1740–1837, there is an index to Lloyd’s List that may be your only hope. It’s found at cityoflondon.gov.uk/ lloydslist.