National Archives at Atlanta

Maritime Records at the National Archives at Atlanta

RG 26 - U.S. Coast Guard RG 32 - U.S. Shipping Board   RG 26 - U.S. Customs Service

RG 26 - U.S. Coast Guard

Conducts search and rescue operations in and over the high seas and navigable waters of the United States. Provides medical aid to U.S. ocean fishermen. Enforces maritime and other laws pertaining to protection of life and property at sea, suppression of smuggling and illicit drug trafficking, and protection of the marine environment. Formulates and enforces safety standards for U.S. commercial vessels and offshore structures. Enforces safety standards on foreign vessels subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Evaluates and licenses U.S. merchant marine personnel. Enforces regulations governing the safety and security of ports and the anchorage and movement of vessels in U.S. waters. Establishes and maintains aids to navigation. Regulates the construction, maintenance, and operation of bridges across the navigable waters of the United States. Operates ice-breaking ships and the International Ice Patrol. Develops and directs a national boating safety program. Operates as a wartime service in the Department of the Navy.


Lifesaving Stations

These series consist of logbooks containing daily entries for the lifesaving stations in the Cleveland, Jacksonville, Norfolk, and New Orleans Districts. The logbook pages consist of a form with space for mandatory entries such as weather and surf conditions, number and types of ships and vessels sighted, lookouts and patrols stood, crew absences and substitutions, vessels boarded and reported, shipwrecks and assistance rendered, lives saved, cases of resuscitation, and daily crew drills. Routine and mundane activities such as housekeeping tasks, mail runs, surf-boat repairs, raising and lowering the flag, acquiring fuel for the lights, and testing the Lyle gun were recorded on a separate page. Major rescues or significant events that needed additional space to record information often had pages inserted for a specific date in the logbook.


Merchant Marine Vessels Vessel Documentation Case Files

These series consist of official merchant vessel logbooks of commercial ships and other United States registered maritime carriers. Information contained in each logbook includes vessel name and official number, port of registry, master's name and certificate number, a list of crew members, dates a voyage commenced and terminated, destinations, a chronological summary of significant events on board the vessel, disciplinary actions taken against crew members, medical treatment provided to crew members, dates when required boat and fire drills took place, and a record of payments to each crew member from a slop account.


Vessel Documentation Case Files

These series consist of case files that include correspondence and copies of forms relating to the documentation and ownership of vessels and ships of varying classes, sizes, and tonnages. Files may include a Notice of Award of Official Number, Designation of Homeport, Certificate of Tonnage Admeasurement, Oath of Loss of Document, Preferred Mortgage Endorsement, Oath of Vendee, Transferee, or Mortgagee, copies of vessel licenses, bills of sale, and master carpenter certificates. Vessel case files were closed when a maritime carrier such as a steamship, sailing vessel, or yacht was lost, registered under a foreign flag, or changed its homeport. The records include those relating to the registering, enrolling, and licensing of vessels, the titles of vessels, and the sale or other conveyance of the vessel title to new owners.

RG 32 - U.S. Shipping Board

Regulated commercial maritime carriers and trade practices, marine insurance, transfers of ship registry, and the rates charged in interstate waterborne commerce. Investigated adequacy of port and water transportation facilities. Determined the necessity for steamship lines and the characteristics of vessels on those lines. Developed a naval auxiliary and merchant marine. Subsidized private ship construction. Abolished March 2, 1934, by EO 6166, June 10, 1933.


Personnel Records 

This index includes personnel records of employees at the Charleston District Office of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, which was established under the U.S. Shipping Board in response to World War I. These include personnel records for deck officers, engineers, and chief stewards.

RG 36 - U.S. Customs Service

Assesses and collects customs fees and penalties. Intercepts and seizes contraband, including narcotics and illegal drugs. Processes persons, carriers, cargo, and mail into and out of the United States. Administers navigation laws. Detects and apprehends violators of customs laws. Enforces export control laws. Cooperates with other federal agencies and foreign governments in suppressing illegal traffic in narcotics and pornography. Collects international trade statistics. Historical functions of the Customs Service included administration of navigation aids and lighthouses, transferred to Lighthouse Board by act of August 31, 1852 (10 Stat. 119); and functions relating to the protection of seamen, and to revenue cutters, transferred to Revenue Marine Division (later Revenue Cutter Service) in 1871. The Bureau of Customs assumed responsibility for vessel documentation by EO 9083, February 28, 1942, which abolished the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation.


Chinese Laborers Departing United States  

This series contains two types of documents relating to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The first, entitled “Descriptive List of Chinese Laborer in Transit Through the United States,” identifies Chinese nationals who traveled through the United States enroute to other countries. Each form includes personal, physical, and travel information: name, age, occupation, last place of residence, height, complexion, color of eyes, physical marks, date of arrival in the U.S., vessel name, and destination. There are two forms for each laborer, and some also include a photograph.

The other documents are official statements made by Chinese immigrants upon their departure from the port of Mobile to China with the ultimate purpose of returning. These documents contain similar information for each immigrant: name, age, height, weight, color of eyes, complexion, occupation, local address, photograph, and a description of debts owed. Some of the statements also include signatures of local residents verifying the identity and standing of the departing individual, as well as how many years they had known them.


Crew Lists

This series consists of crew lists which usually contain the following information: the names of the vessel and the ship's captain (listed as "master" in the series), the vessel's home port, the destination to which the vessel was bound, the names and positions (such as master, mate, seaman, cook) of the crew, their places of birth and residence, their ages, and physical descriptions including height, complexion, identifying scars, or tattoos. Sometimes included are certified notes, usually signed by a U.S. consular official or notary public, documenting the hiring of new crew members or the absence of crew members because of sickness, discharge, or desertion, in order to legally account for all sailors (also known as "seamen") during the voyage.


Master Carpenter Certificates

This series consists of certificates containing specific information about a ship provided by the carpenter who built the ship or under whose direction the ship was built. The information on the certificates includes the name of the master or principal carpenter; date of issue; name of the ship; name of shipbuilder or shipbuilding company; company or person(s) for whom the ship was built; type of rig or propulsion; where built; type of material; number of decks and masts; and length, breadth, depth, tonnage, and any other information needed to describe the ship.


Oaths of Amnesty

The oath of amnesty was required of each ex-Confederate to show that he was loyal. Shown are date, name of person taking oath, and name of notary or customs official.

RG 36 - Oaths of Amnesty - Mobile, Alabama [Download Excel Spreadsheet]


Slave Manifests

This series consists of outward slave manifests submitted to the Collector of Customs at various ports by vessels engaged in coastwise travel. Most slave manifests in this series are recorded on standard forms and include the name of the ship and its master, port of departure, port of destination, and a list of the slaves on board. For each slave, the manifests provide first name, sex, age, stature, name of shipper or owner, and shipper or owner's place of residence.