Guest post: New Zealand Mariners #1

Ever read a really good book that gets largely overlooked by others and you wish more people knew of it? I have just such a book I want to tell you about. It deserves to be better known amongst family historians who have NZ merchant sailors in their family trees. It is called Crew culture and provides a detailed examination of the working conditions and lifestyle of NZ merchant seamen in the days of sail and steam. There are loan copies available in the Auckland Libraries collection.
And why am I particulary keen on this book? - Many of us with NZ merchant seamen ancestors struggle to piece together a picture of their working lives because so many of our maritime records have been lost. The sad truth is, that we may never be in a position to name all the vessels on which our ancestor served, or fully document their career at sea. However, with some effort and a bit of luck, it may be possible to glean information about one or two of their vessels, and at least get some idea of their experiences. This makes a book like Crew culturesuch a valuable resource - it makes a major contribution to our understanding of our sea-going ancestors' working lives, even if we don't have all of their precise details.

And on the subject of gleaning details of ships that ancestors served on - there is an excellent Australian website called Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters (though properly speaking it is based on Sydney, NSW. records). It is a growing index. Coverage is currently from 1845 up to the 1890s (with some gaps) and some years from the early 20th century. (It will eventually go to 1922). It includes a scan of each original record as well. There is some variation in the information given on crew members, but many entries include the age, rank or job, and palce (often just the country) of birth. Researching the vessel will indicate a great deal about the working and living conditions your ancestor would have experienced. But the researching of ships is a topic for another day...

This entry was posted on Friday, 19 August 2011 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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