In August 2012 the Friends of the Maritime Museum completed what turned out to be a 21 year project when the last entry of the final volume of the Jersey Merchant Seamen’s Benefit Society records were added into the Friends Data Base.
The original intention had been to record the vessels that had been built or owned in Jersey, and also to record the details of the men who had been employed in sailing them. The Friends bought their first computer in 1991 and began the process of transcribing the details from the Jersey Shipping Register covering the period 1805 until 1932. This part of the project was completed in 1999 and then work began on adding the crew lists from the twelve surviving ledgers of the Jersey Merchant Seamen’s Benefit Society.
Originally the programme used was Data-Ease but in 1999 the programme changed to Filepro-Plus. The database holds completed records of 1,912 vessels with 6,049 subsidiary records such as rig changes as well as 27,357 Crew records, with 112,179 Crew Voyages.
What the Data Base provides -
Using the database we can give a detailed description of any Jersey-owned or registered sailing vessel between 1803 and 1932, and a few earlier ones, together with alterations made during its lifetime, its principal owners (but not all shareholders), and whether it was sold out of the island or wrecked, etc.
We can trace the sea-going history of any person while employed by a Jersey firm, between the years 1835 to about 1900 (except for those whose records were in the missing volumes), and whether they were pensioned off or lost at sea.
The database does not include local inshore fishing vessels and we cannot trace Jerseymen in the Royal Navy or working on ships owned outside the Island.
The People -
The team that has been entering data since 1991, mostly at half a day per week, others doing more are -
Alec Podger 1991 - to date. +
John Higgins 1992 - 2006
Bob Asplet 1995 - 2003
Mervyn Billot 1995 - 2010
Doreen Schofeld-Fost 2005 - 2008
Ian Machin 2005 - 2012
Wendy Tipping 2005 - to date #
Martin Cardy 2009 - 2010
+ Team leader 1991 – 2011
# Team leader 2011 - to date.
Two other people assisted briefly in 1994, but regrettably their names were not noted.
The Friends wish to record their appreciation for the assistance of the Registrar of Shipping in Jersey, and the Committee of the Jersey Merchant Seamen’s Benefit Society in making their records available for recording, Mrs Val Nelson of Jersey Heritage and Gareth Syvret of the Société Jersiaise for assistance with setting up the database, James Martland of Clearsite for his guidance and support of the software and Mrs. P. Syvret, the Executive Director of the Société Jersiaise for making a desk and office space available for many years.
The database can be consulted by appointment at the Maritime Museum. Further copies will be made available at the Jersey Archive and the Lord Coutanche Library later in the year.