A useful book if you take on all the above is Christopher and Michael Watts "My Ancestor was a Merchant Seaman". It explains how to read the records and suggests many other resources to fill in the details of your ancestor's Merchant Navy Service.
Back to my current favourite 'lost at sea' sailor - Thomas Mordey Hutton, b.1834 in Sunderland to Amelia (nee Mordey) and Frederick Elstob Hutton. I wrote about Amelia and Fred back in October, Fred married bigamously in Liverpool leaving her in Sunderland to bring up their children by running a lodging house. Amelia had five sons and last but not least a daughter, Amelia the younger (you can read her story here). All of the boys appear to have gone to sea (well I'm not sure about one, but he may have had a seafaring related occupation). Generally they started their apprenticeships at 13 or 14, but Thomas, the second oldest son appears in the 1851 census aged 17 and a Timber Merchant's Clerk. That's in the March of course, but by September he has also gone to sea. Did the wages of a clerk not pay enough to help support the family? Did he envy his brothers? His brother William had just started his apprenticeship in June 1851 aged only 12 (his 13th birthday wasn't until August so he was just jumping the gun a little).
|BT113/267 Register of Seamen's Tickets entry for Thomas Mordey Hutton (from Find My Past)|
There were several different Seamen's Registers - by 1853 the authorities had decided to collect less data and the format of the registers simplified.
|BT116/47 Register of Seamen (Series III) two entries for Thomas M Hutton (from Find My Past)|
|Enlargement from BT116/47 showing the entry for 1854|
|Application for Only Mate Mariner's Certificate for Thomas Mordey Hutton 1856 (from Ancestry)|
A bit of Googling found a hit for the Buchan Maid in a Dutch newspaper, she seemed to travel regularly between Sunderland and Northern Europe. Her last voyage was reported in the Daily News on 2nd October 1855.
|The Daily News Tuesday 2nd October 1855 - mention of the Buchan Maid (19th C Newspapers)|
|A=Fraserburgh, B=Ronne, Gdańsk is to the right on the Polish coast (Google Maps)|
Thomas passes his examination for his mate's certificate on 1st Jan 1856 (no holidays for Boxing Day or New Year in those days!) His application also confirmed his home address as 16 Olive Street, Sunderland, agreeing with that in the 1851 census return. It must have been nice for Amelia to have one of her sons home for Christmas that year, and she was probably very proud of him when he passed his exam, he was just a few weeks short of 22 years old.
The first fact that I ever knew for Thomas was the date of his death. It is listed on the family gravestone in Sunderland Cemetery, which is headed by Amelia's inscription; "Also Thomas Mordey, son of the above/ who was drowned nr Grisnez/ 30th January 1858, aged 23 years". I think that when Amelia died the surviving family recorded her lost sons on the same stone at that time for remembrance despite them not being buried there. This inscription gave me sufficient information to find a newspaper cutting on the 19th Century Newspapers site (the one I get free with my Newcastle Libraries card).
|The Daily News, 2nd February 1858 - note the entry for the Heron (19th C Newspapers)|
|BT153 - Registers of Wages and Effects of Deceased Seamen (from Find My Past - Maritime Deaths)|
Lloyd's Register of Ships Archive is available on line for much of the 19th century. The year before the incident the entry for the Heron can be found easily.
|1857 entry in Lloyd's Register of Ships for the Heron|
Thanks to finding the early Seamen's Ticket Register entry for Thomas with his birthdate we now know that he drowned the day after his 24th birthday. So the gravestone inscription is a year out. Poor Thomas, he survived one shipwreck, progressed in his chosen career and yet two years later when everything seemed to be going well for him he lost his life in a second shipwreck.
I have found that laying Thomas's records out in an article like this has made me look at them more logically. Thomas's brothers also have collections of Merchant Navy records to collate and interpret so I'll be busy with this project for a while yet. That'll keep me busy over the New Year!