The Jersey Merchant Seamen's Benefit Society

visitors since August 30 1998
Contents: Introduction | Catalogue | The Ships | Future Plans | Links and Further Research | The Titanic


The Jersey Merchant Seamen's Benefit Society was created by the States of Jersey in 1835 when the English compulsory levy of sixpence per month from every Merchant Seaman's pay was abolished. The contribution was 71/2d. per month, beginning on July 1 1835. The ship's Master was authorised to collect the contributions by direct deduction from pay.

The books can be found at the Société Jersiaise Library. There is no equivalent record for Guernsey.

They detail the service of each seaman member and his contribution to the welfare fund. The names of his ships, the length of service in each, his parish of origin and age are recorded. The set (with some gaps) are now only available on microfilm. The index to these records appears in a different set of books and here you are handling the originals. Another book gives details of pensions payable to disabled members and, on their death, to their families and one final set (also with gaps) details the ships and their compliments.

This pagewas previously at Supernet until August 30 1998 - Alex Glendinning.


Alphabetical Indices to Ledgers of Seamen
Book A/B
Book C
Book D
Referring to microfilms of Ledgers of Seamen as follows (with some crossover)
1835-1849 Ledger A pages 1-614
1841-1870 Ledger B pages 1-159 and 224-610 (pages 160-223 missing)
1852-1888 Ledger C pages 1-702
1873-1897 Ledger D pages 1-442

An example from Book A page. 402. John Carré of St Martin aged 23 .

Date; Ship's Name and Length of Voyage (in Months and Days)
1837 May 20 'D.' 6m.
1838 Jany 20 'Favorite' 3m.
1843 Jany 21 'Henry' 20d.
1846 Dec 19 'Ann & Eliza' 3m.
1847 Aug 7 'Eliza' 6m. 15d.
1848 Aug 8 'Jno.' 2m.
1849 July 10 'John & Mary' 3m. 17d.
1850 June 5 'Start' 8m.
1850 July 10 'John & Mary' 3m.
1851 July 10 'Start' 8m.
1852 July 9 'Grog' 8m.
1853 July 10 'Grog' 8m.
1854 Oct 24 'Racer' 5m.
1856 May 19 'Island Queen' 1m.
1856 Sept 3 'Geo. & Elizabeth' 6m.
1857 June 4 (illegible) 4m.
1858 June 2 'Frolic' 6m.
Total time at sea 81 months 22 days - premium collected £2 11s 1d.

Once one has the names of the ships an ancestor served on, the next step is to consult ...

Books listing Ships and Their Crews
Missing: 1843-1845,1856-1860.

Each book has an index of ships at the beginning and each page contains the headings : "Date; Ships' Name; Number of Receipts; Men's Names; Men's Age; Of What Country; Parish; (Book 1 only - the later books have Place of Birth and Vessel on board of which Seaman last Served instead) Folio of Ledger; Entry into Pay; When Discharged; Months; Days; Men's Contributions; Total Amount of Ship's Receipts; Remarks."

Ships of every size were listed, from local fishing vessels of five crew members, to ships that undertook the Newfoundland run, with crews of up to fifty. The most common crew size seems to be about ten men.

From the second book (1837-1839), the 'Peggy' made a return on December 22 1837 after a voyage from May 2 (from column "Entry into Pay") to November 5 1837 (from column "When Discharged"). She carried thirty seven crew, Captained by Hugh Godfray (43) of St Martin, Jersey. Three were from Alderney, three from France, two from Guernsey and one from Truro in Cornwall - the remaining twenty eight were Jerseymen from a cross section of the Parishes of St Helier, St Lawrence, St Brelade, St Martin, Grouville and St Clement.

The return of the 'Welcome'. A representative of the smaller ships from a later book (1861-1864).

August 3 1864
Edward Mollet; (aged) 44; (from) St Martin; (previous ship) 'Wecome'.
Edward Mollet; 21; St Martin; 'Wecome'.
Clement Ahier; 42; St Martin; 'Wecome'.
John Renouf; 38; St Martin; 'Iris'.

Not all the vessels were Jersey registered, for the date May 2 1837 I came across several from Colchester, the 'Charles' of Quebec, captained by 20 year old Francis Perreé of St Mary (formerly of the 'Damon') and the 'Harriet' of Sydney, Hillary Luce (24) of St Lawrence, Captain, making his first payment. The amount of English registered vessels seems to increase in the later years of the books.

Often there are two ships in the Register with the same name so be careful that you are not following the wrong one!

Also listed in catalogue but still being assessed.

Pensions and Allowances Books dated ...
1835-1900, 1867-1895, 1874-1908, 1881-1900, 1874-1908, 1881-1900, 1885-1929, 1889-1935, 1893-1903, 1896-1897, 1896-1903, 1900-1927, 1900-1947, 1903-1942, 1904-1926, 1911-1964
Monthly Minutes
1835-1851, 1852-1872, 1872-1894, 1889-1894, 1890-1900, 1901-1918, 1900-1932, 1918-1935
A.G.M. Minute Books
1835-1898, 1933-1952
List of Jersey Vessels Sold, Lost or Broken up
Plus miscellaneous correspondence files still to be catalogued.

The Ships

Often the ships listed can be found in Jean Jean's "Jersey Sailing Ships" or A.G. Jamieson's "A People of the Sea: A Martime History of the Channel Islands". You can read about these titles at Charles Picot's Books about the Channel Islands.

The Jersey Museum are custodians of the largest collection of Maritime paintings in the Channel Islands. Many local artists were commissioned to paint these ships for their proud owners or captains. The collection is indexed on a large computer database which can be consulted by visitors. e-mail enquiries to Jersey Heritage Trust Information Centre

Future Plans

Jersey Customs records are presently being indexed by the Friends of the Maritime Museum. Four years of work have seen the Shipping Register completed from 1803 to 1907 and the work will continue up to 1918, when the last locally built ships are listed. The peak period runs from the beginning to about 1867. The information contained in the index will be the ship's name, her first registration date, who built her and where, the first owner (s) and Master, tonnage and a comments section; where losses and alterations were recorded.

By the Millenium, the Friends hope to have completed the index of members of the J.M.S.B.S. 6,000 names have been entered so far. This task is much more complicated, due to the proliferation of certain names - there are nineteen Jean Le Feuvres for instance, and several of them served on ships named 'Hope'. Further difficulties arose when they realised that there were also nine 'Hopes'! The index had to be restarted with a reference number given to each man and has been put on hold until the Ships Index is finished.

Links and Further Research

Link to The Viberts of Jersey Who Went to Sea by Trevor Vibert.

Researching Jersey Mariners and Ships by James Brannan and Bob Sanders' Merchant and Naval Mariners Research Links.

The Maritime History Archives at Memorial University of Newfoundland have many crewlists and logbooks from British merchant ships (including those registered in the Channel Islands) once held by the Public Record Office in London. Their collection includes 80% of the agreements made between 1863 and 1938 and from 1951 to 1976. For more information go to the Crewlists page. There is no surname index - the records are kept by name or official number of the vessel and are in chronological order.

13th May 1999 - Liz Mason reports on the records of the Maritime History Archives at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

You mention that Maritime History Archives do not have a surname index for crew. Their brochure indicates they do have name files called the Keith Matthews Name File Collection which includes Admiralty, Colonial Office, Customs and Apprentice records; Ship registers, Board of Trade shipping returns, Muster Rolls and crew lists. I know that captains are definitely in the name lists and that each name has a folder. A Captain's Folder gives the Lloyds dispatches sent by that captain, listing date, name and type of vessel, destination and other interesting tidbits such as captures of enemy vessels during the Napoleonic War. A request for a search of these records can be made to The Archivist, Maritime History Archive, Henrietta Harvey Building, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Canada A1B 5S7.

The Public Record Office retains agreements from 1747-1860, 1939-1950 and a 10% sample from the period 1863-1938. Their Family Fact Sheets include one for the Merchant Navy.

The National Maritime Museum also have a small sample. 1861-1862, all the years ending in 5 from 1865-1935 and from1955-1975. Thier collection of maritime pictures is unrivalled and they will undertake searches for specific ships.

James Brannan reports on the records of the National Maritime Museum.

- If you intend to look at their sample of Crew Lists you have to call them about 10 days in advance because these are kept at another location. I was unaware of this and they kindly promised to look up one name (although you need to supply a list of ships with official numbers) and inform me if they found anything.

- If you want copies of pictures, orders are placed at the library (for the time being there is no separate picture room). Once you know the reference (from their microfiche catalogue also on Internet) you can view a black and white copy on microfilm. If you want a photographic copy, the cost depends on whether a negative has already been made. If not, a colour copy size 10 x 8 will cost around fifty pounds!

- On microfilm they have the index to the Lloyds lists of "shipping intelligence", which means that if you know the name of your ancestor's ship and approximate year you can find out its movements and any incidents quite easily. You don't even need to know the official number or port of registration.

- When you know the number (from the Lloyds Captains register) of a certificate of service/competency for a master or mate, the archivist can find it for you on the spot (manuscripts are however only produced 3 times during the day). If you want a copy, however many pages there are, it will cost you ten pounds per reference and they may have to send it to you by post.

- If an applicant has already been a Master, at the time the certificates were first delivered (1850), you will only find a list of ships on which he previously sailed (in various capacities) and the certificate itself (just 2 pages, but still ten pounds!). In my case this was not very useful because the list of ships corresponded exactly to the information in the ledgers of the Jersey Merchant Seamen's Benefit Society - and the latter is more accurate with dates.

- They do not allow photocopies to be taken from the Lloyds Lists (only the microfilm indices) or the Lloyds registers (lists of ships). However, if you go to the archives at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool you can make as many copies as you like from these sources!

Stephen Foote's Channel Islands Maritime Miscellany includes a Guernsey Crew Lists Index and information on Letters of Marque. He invites contributions so the page is expanding | Al Beagan's Ships Connected to Newfoundland (mostly captained by Chevalier/Knight family members) | Various Maritime History Pages | Letters of Marque - a bibliography of the age of Sail | A Description of the Lloyd's Captains Register | Geoff Wright's Index Page will now lead you to: History of Channel Islands Shipping and Some Post War Shipping and Passengers to/from St Helier.

The Titanic

Do you have an ancestor who sailed on the Titanic? Philip Hind is collecting and publishing biographies of all those who did. We are collecting information at present on all the Channel Islanders. Names among the crew include Poingdestre, Ahier and Ingouville. See RMS Titanic: Her Passengers and Crew. Public Record Office: Titanic Sources and Titanic Sources II.

Alex Glendinning's Pages at The Société Jersiaise
or return to Research in the Channel Islands FAQs