White Star Line Officers' Books 1868-1934
Search records of more than 1,000 commanders and officers who served as navigators on the ships of the White Star Line. The records cover the period 1868 to 1934.
Background to the records
The White Star Line was founded in England in 1845 with a fleet of sailing ships trading mainly to Australasia. In later years, the line joined forces with other shipping companies and in 1863 acquired their first steamship, the Royal Standard.
A few years later, the company fell into financial difficulties and in 1868 it was bought by Thomas H Ismay. Ismay decided to focus on Atlantic trade and started to build new steamships under the company's official name: the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. The company, however, continued to be known as White Star Line.
Competition was fierce on the North Atlantic, so White Star set out to build luxurious, comfortable ships to cross the ocean at record-breaking speeds. The Germanic and Olympic were highly regarded in their day, as was the much-anticipated Titanic until her loss in 1912. Details of the officers who served on this ill-fated ship are included in these records.
In early days, shipping lines typically kept records of their seagoing personnel in large leather bound ledgers. These records are extracted from eight ledgers. Two of the oldest ledgers are the 'Register of Officers' volumes two and three. The ledgers record the name of the officer, some personal details, the date they joined the company and the rank they held.
The whereabouts of volume one is unknown. Volume two has entries from 1871 to 1919. Captain E J Smith who was lost on the Titanic is the fifth entry in the book. Some of the later entries in volume two state an officer's record which continues in volumes three or four or five. Volume three covers entries from 1900 to 1920. The whereabouts of volumes four and five, however, are also unknown.
In the early 1900s, a new, more modernised ledger was introduced and called 'White Star Officers Book' numbers one, two, three, four and five. The names of those officers still serving were transferred into the new books. The information for each officer includes date and place of birth, name of previous employer, number and grade of certificate, rank in the Royal Naval Reserve if applicable, the names and dates of ship served upon and the date of leaving the company. Collectively, these books span the years 1871 to 1934.
The records came to a natural end in 1934, when the White Star Line merged with the Cunard Steamship Company. The two companies became the Cunard White Star Steamship Company Ltd, and many of the White Star officers continued to serve in the new organisation.
Included are records from another leather bound ledger, 'Training Ship Mersey'. The Mersey was a sailing ship that White Star Line bought in 1908 and used for training cadets. The ship made six voyages to Australia, traveling around the Cape of Good Hope outward bound and the notorious Cape Horn on the way home. In 1915, White Star sold the ship to a Norwegian company. The ledger records information about the cadets who signed on to sail between 1908 and 1914.
Begin with the basics
The name of the person you are searching for may not be recorded in the way you expect. Henry John Davies, for example, may have been recorded as Henry Davies, Henry J Davies, H Davies, or even H J Davies. We would therefore suggest that you initially search using their last name only. If you receive too many results, you can then add a first name to narrow them down.
If you don’t find the result you want first time, it is worth trying every possible variation in the first name field. If you’ve included a middle name in your search, try searching the first name only.
Your ancestor might have used a different first name in everyday life from the one that appears on official records. For example, your great-uncle Jack’s birth name might have been John. If you can’t find someone recorded under the name you expect, try variations of that name. And if you still can’t find your ancestor using their full forename, try entering their first initial instead.
We’ve added an ‘Include variants’ tickbox next to the ‘Last name’ field to allow for common differences in spelling or incorrect spelling. For example, if you search for the name ‘Foakes’ while ticking the variants option, you may also get results for ‘Folks’, ‘Fookes’, ‘Forkes’, ‘Foukes’, ‘Foulkes’ and ‘Fowkes’.