BEST WEBSITES: FISHERMEN AND FISHING COMMUNITIES
An important first step when researching a fisherman is to track down the name of the vessel that they worked on, writes
The best online resources to trace fishermen in your family
Among the most important potential sources for researching fishermen are crew lists and agreements (see p61). These were records of the men serving on a vessel for a certain period. If you do find a crew list, one of the more interesting pieces of information relating to a sailor on it is likely to be ‘Ship in which previously served’, which may enable you to trace their working lives back through time.
Masters of British-registered ships were required to keep these records, but according to crewlist.org.uk, such was the scale of paperwork created by the system that the material was dispersed to nearly 50 different repositories. Because of this and other factors, The National Archives’ (TNA) Discovery website ( discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk) and its maritime research guides, are likely to be useful tools in your quest.
Meanwhile, if you’re researching the wider community, then museums and local history libraries may hold useful sources. If you know the region where your ancestor worked, then checking what port and maritime records survive will naturally be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. The Hull History Centre website is a great example, with all kinds of useful content, namely more than 25,000 fishing crew lists for vessels operating out of Hull from 1884 to 1914, muster rolls providing information on merchant shipping in the Humber region between 1747 and 1851 and Skipper cards in the Hellyer Brothers ( Trawler Owners) collection. The free Lost Trawlermen PDF lists Hull-born fishermen, and those serving on Hull-registered vessels, lost at sea from the 1860s up to 2000. There are also sections on whaling and a history of Hull docks.