Merchant Marine Shipping Articles
Shipping articles were legal contracts, usually for one voyage, between the master of a vessel and individual members of his crew. These records can be useful sources of biographical information about seamen who served on American merchant vessels.
The National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives 1), houses sign on and paid off shipping articles for the Port of New York between 1872 and 1937.
These records are part of the series, "Records Relating to the Engagement and Discharge of Seamen, 1872–1943" (Entry UD-148, National Archives Identifier 2133229), in Record Group 41, Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation.
Shipping articles typically list crew members by name and provide the following information about them:
- Nationality (and naturalization, where appropriate)
- Physical description (height, complexion, hair color)
- Rating (job performed while onboard)
- Wage per month
- Place and date of engagement (where and when the seaman signed on to the voyage)
- Signature or mark ("X")
- Date and place of discharge*
- Address of next-of-kin*
- Names of officers' wives*
*This information is not included in all records.
The vessel's name, rig, and home port are given on the front of the articles for all foreign voyages. At the request of the master or operator, this information could also be included for coastal voyages or those to the West Indies, Mexico, Canada, or Newfoundland.
The shipping articles in Entry UD-148 are arranged in four parts:
- By year and month—ending of first run, December 1890.
- By year and shipping article number—begins 1877, ends 1917.
- By year, book number, and article number—begins 1917, ends 1937.
- By month and year (customhouse copies)—begins 1891, ends 1915.
An index to the shipping articles is available in the Consultation Room (Room G-24) at Archives 1. The index is arranged according to the name of the vessel:
- Binder 1. A.G. PEASE – ATLANTIC
- Binder 2. ATLANTIC CITY – CERRO AZUL
- Binder 3. CERRO EBANO – E.H. YARRINGTON
- Binder 4. E.I. WHITE – EMELINE G. SAWYER
- Binder 5. EMERALD ISLE – HORACE P. SHARES
- Binder 6. HORACE P. SHARES – LIZZIE GUPTILL
- Binder 7. LIZZIE HEYER – S.S. NICKEREE
- Binder 8. NICOLA – SANTA ELISA
- Binder 9. SANTA ELISA – THOMAS A. GODDARD
- Binder 10. THOMAS A. WARD – ZULIA