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Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea


The Seamen's Fund Winding-up Act 1851 (section 29) required masters of British ships to hand on to a Shipping Master at the end of all voyages the wages and effects, or their proceeds, of any seaman who died during the voyage. Registers of these wages and effects were maintained by Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen (RGSS).

The Mercantile Marine Act 1850 made the deposit of official logs with RGSS compulsory. From 1854 registers were compiled from the entries in these logs of births, deaths and marriages of passengers at sea. Ships' masters were also required by the Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1874 to report all births and deaths on board ship to RGSS who then reported them periodically to the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages of England and Wales, Scotland or Ireland as appropriate.

Registers of reported births and deaths were kept by RGSS. Up to 1889 separate series of registers were kept for seamen and passengers but in 1890 a combined series was introduced; it should be noted that, although RGSS were required to report births and deaths to the appropriate Registrar General, over half of the entries are blank in the column headed "Which RG has been informed".

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