Births, marriages and deaths at sea

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The National Archives

The National Archives holds a number of series relating to BMDs at sea. Details can be found on the Your Archives wiki.

Records include the open-access microfilm series BT 158: Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea 1854 - 1890 British Subjects and Other Nationalities. There are many entries detailing events for men serving in various British Army regiments and the Indian Army, together with births and deaths of Regimental Wives and their causes. As an example of births in the period 1854 to 1858, the birth of twins to Joanna Wedderburn the Wife of Andrew Wedderburn of the Madras Civil Service.

TNA also holds the Colonial Office Registers of Births and Dates of Emigrants at Sea

The following records of births, deaths and marriages of passengers at sea are available online through BMDRegisters

  • BT 158 - Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages of Passengers at Sea 1854-1890
  • BT 159 - Registers of Deaths at Sea of British Nationals 1875-1888. The name of this series is misleading as it includes other nationalities
  • BT 160 - Registers of Births at Sea of British Nationals 1875-1891

The records give detailed information compiled from ships' logs by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen and its predecessor. The registers cover 1854 to 1908 and include over 150,000 individuals. It is free to search on the website but there is a charge for downloading images of original records.

The online pay website findmypast contains three datasets

  • Births At Sea, 1854-1960 which includes records from BT 158, BT 334
  • Marriages At Sea, 1854-1972 which includes records from BT 158, BT 334
  • Deaths At Sea, 1781-1968, which includes records from BT 153, BT 156, BT 157, BT 158, BT 334, CO 386
FamilySearch (free records) includes a collection in "England Indexed Historical Records", titled "United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933" which consists of index records (no images) from the findmypast database.
Update: January 2018 These three findmypast databases have been incorporated into larger databases titled British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths (3 databases).[1]

The online pay website Ancestry introduced in April 2016 a dataset called UK, Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea, 1844-1890 containing records from BT 153, BT 156, BT 157, BT 158, BT 159. BT 160, CO 386, CUST 67.

It appears from the description available on these three website, that there is much overlap of the records, but findmypast and Ancestry each contain some records not found on the other website.

The records continue to be also available on microfilm at The National Archives

General Register Office (GRO)

The Marine Registers held at the UK General Register Office record births and deaths at sea on ships registered in Great Britain and Ireland from July 1837. They, therefore, contain earlier records than the BT registers held at The National Archives – although both contain omissions, particularly in earlier years as it was only from 1874 that Ships Masters were legally obliged to report births and deaths at sea to the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen.

The Marine Registers held at the GRO do not contain entries relating to marriages at sea.

There are some records relating to events at sea in the RG series of overseas records, see General Register Office. These records are available online on pay websites.

  • The GRO marine births and deaths indexes images can be browsed without charge at, but it is not possible to search for a specific name, as the images have not been transcribed. See Chaplains Returns-External links for more details about this website.
  • The indexes have also been microfilmed by the LDS. Details of deaths are available on fiches 6137189 -6137266 and births on 6137268 -6137322

London Metropolitan Archives

Another source for records at sea, but not part of the National Archives, is the London Metropolitan Archives which contains some overseas records, including records at sea, previously held at the Guildhall Library. These records are explained in the FamilySearch Wiki article, "British Births, Marriages and Deaths Overseas", refer External links below.

Some of these records are available on LDS microfilm [2]

Note, some records from the London Metropolitan Archives are available on the pay website Ancestry, but not currently (March 2014) the overseas records which include some records at sea. It is not known whether these overseas records will be digitized in the future. Also it is not known whether any of these LDS microfilms have been transcribed.


See Newspapers.

A number of newspapers in the United Kingdom from 1824 into the 1860s contained a Monthly Military Obituary, being a list of names of officers. Includes deaths overseas or in transit (for example on board ship). Available in online newspaper collections including findmypast.[3]

See also

External links


Historical books online

  • Pages 183-184 Asiatic Annual Register for 1806. Under a heading Deaths, May 1805, "At sea. On board the David Scott, East Indiaman, off the Cape of Good Hope, Mrs Clerk, wife to Lieut. Col. Clark, of the Madras establishment. ... Her remains were preserved in spirits until the 31st December following, when they were interred at St. Helena... " The date of death of May 1805 is inaccurate, and it is believed the time difference between death and burial was much shorter, a normal ship's voyage.[4]


  1. British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Baptisms; British Armed Forces and Overseas Banns and Marriages; British Armed Forces and Overseas Deaths and Burials findmypast
  2. LDS Microfilm catalogue entry Original certificates of baptisms and marriages of British subjects abroad, solemnized or registered at diplomatic representations
  3. Clark, Noel. The "Monthly Military Obituary" Rootsweb India Mailing List 26 March 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  4. findmypast has a burial record for “Mrs Lucy Clark, Passenger, Ship Dav. Scott” for burial on 1 January 1805. It is believed there is also some correspondence on the Rootsweb India List Archive, not currently (2018/02/02) available