Last updated:

September 1, 2017

What do I need to know?

PROV holds several long unindexed record series of merchant ships' crews, and one smaller sequence which has been digitised and indexed. The records range from 1852 – 1922 and cover a variety of locations and crew activities, including discharge, desertion, payment and release. This page brings together the records available in our collection.

Some of records are searchable below by subject area (for example, records about salaries or immigration statistics), but none are searchable by name, so if you're researching an individual, collect as much information as possible before you start, such as:

  • dates of travel
  • ports of departure and arrival
  • ships they served on


How do I search?

In most cases you will need to order the year period you are looking for, and on viewing the record, search by date of voyage or discharge.

Digitised and indexed records of discharged ships' crew, crew deserters and seaman prisoners are available online via - see the Tips section on this page.

About these records

Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1854 each seaman discharged was also to be issued with a Certificate of Discharge Record Series (VPRS) 558 giving particulars of the ship, period of service and the seaman's capacity, ability and conduct. No seaman could be engaged to work on a ship unless he delivered to the person engaging him a discharge from his last ship or a permit to sign articles.

Related Series

Other Sources of Information
The Police Gazettes contain information about ships’ crew who deserted. The gazettes are available at PROV in North Melbourne and do not need to be ordered.

Next Steps

Once you have found records of interest to you, order them online and then view in our Reading room.

To view these records for free within Public Record Office Victoria Reading Rooms: Reading Room Access Only


What are in these records?

The records cover a variety of activities relating to crew members, including:

  • wages
  • capability
  • conduct
  • period of employment
  • reason for leaving ship

Tip! To view a digital copy of some of these records the Registers of Deserters and Discharged and Prisoner Crew Lists, 1852-1925. Record Series Number (VPRS) 946 and (VPRS) 528 go to this link on