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Iden­tify a lost ship as ac­cu­rately as you can, us­ing sources such as Lloyd’s Reg­is­ter of Ship­ping­search-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. and ances­ 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 bm­dreg­is­ 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.

Of­fi­cial in­quiries

The Board of Trade con­ducted pub­lic in­quiries when a ship was If you know the name of a lost ship then Wreck­site ( wreck­ 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. of­ten pro­vides a wealth of de­tail. Mer­chant ships lost in the First World War like the Lusi­ta­nia are all listed at the Naval- His­ web­site found at naval-his­ 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 ci­ty­oflon­ lloyd­slist.

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