Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Thames Watermen records now available at

The following is from FindMyPast.


Today leading UK family history website has published online for the very first time just under 100,000 records of Thames watermen and lightermen, spanning the years 1688 to 1949. Watermen were highly skilled boatmen who carried passengers up and down and across the Thames in row boats, steam boats, sailing boats and vessels. Lightermen worked on cargo boats rather than passenger vessels.

The collection comprises the following records:

       names of competitors and those eligible to compete in the Doggett Coat & Badge Hanover prize race 1715-2010 - including details of where they were from, the date of the race and their position in the race.   This is the oldest annual sporting event in the world and first took place on 1 August 1715 between London Bridge and Chelsea. The records give the name of every known competitor, including those     who were unsuccessful in the drawing of lots at Watermen's Hall or the trials held at Putney.

       Corporation of Trinity House licences issued to ex-mariners to ply their trade as Thames Watermen between the dates 1829 and 1864 , giving the date and their age when the licence was issued;

        Company of Watermen & Lightermen of River Thames Binding records 1692-1949 (apprenticeship records);

       a register of contract licences for over aged boys 1865-1926;

       binding dates and birth proof affidavits 1898-1949;

       reassignments 1698-1908: a list of apprentices who were reassigned from one master to another, with information about both the masters and the apprentices.

The Thames is the only river in the United Kingdom that Parliament regulates for the training and apprenticeship of young men to the trade of watermen and lightermen. Originally boys were bound to a master (or mistress, who was normally the widow of a freeman) for one year. During the 19th century, however, the apprenticeship period was altered so the boy served between five and seven years, completing his apprenticeship at the age of 21.

Amy Sell of said: "We often get asked about researching Thames watermen ancestors, so it's very exciting that these records are now available for anyone to search online for the first time. There's a rumour that one of my own ancestors won the Doggett Coat & Badge race, so I can't wait to take a look.  And if you find one waterman or lighterman in your family tree, it's likely that you'll find more, as this tended to be an occupation that ran in families."

The 99,140 new records can be searched from the Education & work area at They form part of the Thames-side and Medway collection, which also contains parish baptism, marriage and burial records for the region.

Leading UK family history website (formerly was the first company to make the complete birth, marriage and death indexes for England & Wales available online in April 2003.

Following the transcription, scanning and indexing of over two million images, the company launched the first website to allow the public easy and fast access to the complete indexes, which until then had only been available on microfiche film in specialist archives and libraries. The launch was instrumental in creating the widespread and growing interest in genealogy seen in the UK today. has subsequently digitised many more family history records and now offers access to over 750 million records dating as far back as 1538. This allows family historians and novice genealogists to search for their ancestors among comprehensive collections of military records, census, migration, occupation directories, and current electoral roll data, as well as the original comprehensive birth, marriage and death records.

In November 2006 launched the microsite in association with The National Archives to publish outbound passenger lists for long-distance voyages departing all British ports between 1890 and 1960.

As well as providing access to historical records, is also developing a range of online tools to help people discover and share their family history more easily, beginning with the launch of Family Tree Explorer in July 2007.

In April 2007,'s then parent company Title Research Group received the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2007 in recognition of their achievement. was acquired in December 2007 by brightsolid, the company who were awarded The National Archives' contract to publish online the 1911 census, which it launched in January 2009.

1 comment:

Henry Mantell said...

I feel very at home in these records and have worked amongst the Bermondsey Watermen for several generations of pedigrees for various people. It is wonderful to see them now online and to see the traffic figures for Find My Past collections climbing. The years ahead in digitised record availability offer considerable assistance for all of us involved in family history.