Ancestry has just released a new collection of lists of young men who were indentured to merchant navy ships between the years 1824 and 1910.
They include details such as name, age and date at registration or indenture, vessel, port of registry, and birth year and place.
The National Archives describes the legislation that brought these records about:
Under the Merchant Seamen, etc, Act 1823 (4 Geo IV c 25) Masters of British merchant ships of 80 tons and over were required to carry a given number of indentured apprentices. These had to be duly enrolled with the local Customs Officer. These provisions were extended by the Merchant Seamen Act 1835 (5 & 6 Wm IV c 19) which provided for the registration of these indentures. In London they were registered with the General Register and Record Office of Seamen and in other ports with the Customs officers who were required to submit quarterly lists to the Registrar General.
In 1844 it was provided for copies of the indentures to be sent to the Registrar General, and although compulsory apprenticeship was abolished in 1849 the system of registration was maintained. Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 (57 & 58 Vict c 60) a parallel arrangement was introduced for apprentices on fishing boats.