|Masters of Merchantmen
The Society for the Registry of Shipping was instituted in 1760, and published an annual register and supplement. The annual register consisted of an alphabetical list of ships surveyed for insurance in Britain and Ireland, together with an alphabetical supplement. The society maintained a Registry Office at which alterations and additions were notified, and members delivering their registers when called for had them updated and returned on the following or the ensuing day. Each ship was given a number within each letter of the alphabet: ships' names were not unique, so within each name a ship was identified by the name of the captain or master at the time of the last survey. Then abbreviations indicate the type of vessel (Bg, brig; Cr, cutter; Dr, dogger; G, galliott; H, hoy; K, ketch; S, ship; Sk, smack; Sp, sloop; Sr, schooner; St, schoot; Sw, snow), and whether sheathed (s) and/or doubled (d) with copper (C) and iron bolts (I B) or over boards (W & C), or copper fastened (c f) or copper bolted (c b), sometimes with a date, such as (17)88. The third column, reserved for masters' names, is not particularly wide; with short surnames, an initial will be given; but longer surnames omit the initials, and even longer surnames are abbreviated. It will be borne in mind that these are the names of the masters not (necessarily) in 1804, but at the time of the last survey. Often new masters had been appointed by the time of re-survey, and their names are added in slightly smaller type under the original master's names in the third column. In the fourth column is the tonnage: where there is a blank under the number this indicates that the ship had two decks; more often the letters S D (B) for single deck (with beams); D W for deep waist; S D W single deck with deep waist; B D W single deck with beams and deep waist. Underneath the entry may run references to recent repairs: Cl. clincher built; Drp. damages repaired; grp. good repairs; len. lengthened; lrp. large repairs; N. (new) B. bottom, D. deck, Kl. keel, Sds. sides or UW. upper-works; rb. rebuilt; rsd. raised; S. rprs. some repairs; or trp. thorough Repair. In italics, the timber of the ship is described - B. B., black birch; C., cedar; H., hazel; J., juniper; L. O., live oak; M., mahogany; P., pine; P. P., pitch pine; S., spruce; W. H., witch hazel. Where the vessel was armed, the number of guns is given, and occasionally a remark such as 'captured' will appear. The fifth column gives the place that the ship was built. For foreign ships this may be as vague as 'Dutch' or 'French'; but nothing in this record specifically indicates the nationality of ship, master or owners, except that an A. under the owner's name indicates that the vessel was United States property. The sixth column gives the year of the ship's age; some were still sailing after 30 or 40 years. The seventh column gives the owner's name, abbreviated in the same way as the master's name. Where the master was the owner, the word Capt. will appear. With vessels owned abroad, the name in this column is sometimes that of the port of origin, not the surname of the owner. Where there has been a change of owner by the time of re-survey, the new name is put underneath in smaller type. The printer sought to avoid confusion by aligning names of ports to the left and surnames to the right, but that leaves longer names doubtful. The eighth column gives the feet of the draught of water when loaded. The ninth column shows the destined voyage for which the survey took place, with the port of survey abbreviated (Be., Belfast; Br., Bristol; Co., Cork; Cs, Cowes; Da., Dartmouth; Du., Dublin; Eh, Exmouth; Ex., Exeter; Fa., Falmouth; Gr., Greenock; Hl, Hull; La., Lancaster; Lh, Leith; Li., Liverpool; Lo., London; Ly., Lynn; Po., Poole; Ph, Portsmouth; Sc., Star-Cross; Tn., Teignmouth; Tp., Topsham; Wa., Waterford; Wn, Whitehaven; Ya., Yarmouth), and the letter C where the vessel was a constant trader between the two ports. The tenth column gives the classification of the vessel (A, first; E, second; I., third - O and U for fourth and fifth are never used) and its stores (1, first; 2, second; 3, third) and the year of survey, e. g. 00 for 1800, or, if surveyed during 1803, the month, e. g. 3 for March. Where the vessel has been re-surveyed, the classification letter and number will be repeated or revised in the final column. The sample scan is from the main list. This is the index to masters in the supplement, and so to ships that had not been registered before 1804: the supplement therefore contains many more foreign ships, and the names of the masters and owners are more up to date than those in the main register.
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|Sample scan, click to enlarge|