Guide to variables in the database
- Ship name:
All ship names have been standardized. This has involved spelling out the relatively few abbreviated names, correcting some obvious misspellings and using a common form for elements such as "St" or "Saint". Before an Act passed in 1786, the names of vessels changed quite frequently, often when acquired by new owners. The Registers provide some information on name changes. If a vessel had a previous name, it is generally noted below the current name. In 1779, this was the case for about nine per cent of all vessels, but comparison with the 1778 Register shows that not all of these name changes had taken place in the previous year. Also, when a vessel changed its name after the initial publication of the Register, the new name and captain were inserted as amendments during the year. Unfortunately, many of these entries are illegible.
- Master name and initial (master name standard)
Masters' surnames were given in almost all cases. Longer names were usually abbreviated. Whether one or more initials were inserted depended largely on the length of the surname. Standardization of masters' surnames has involved two related steps. First, abbreviated names had to be spelled out fully. In most cases this was straightforward, but there were often ambiguities concerning repeated consonants (e.g., M'Dowel, M'Dowell) and missing vowels (Fredrcksn). Second, variant spellings were collapsed to a single version. This was particularly important in dealing with "M'", "Mac" and "Mc" variants. This standardization will facilitate searching, after which the original entries can be examined for significant variants.
- Owner name and initial (standard owner name)
The Registers give the name of a vessel's principal owner. In order to spread risk, vessels were commonly owned in shares, often with many owners. The only guide to multiple ownership of an individual vessel in the Registers, and it is probably an imperfect one, is the addition of '&c' to the principal owner's name. In about a third of the cases the owner was designated as the master ("Capt", or "Capt & Co"). In the standardized names the master's name has been read in from the standardized master name.
- Location built (location built standard)
The Registers give the place at which the vessel was constructed in almost all instances. The place can be more or less specific. For vessels built in Britain the port is usually given, but some vessels are only described as 'British' or as built in 'Wales' or 'Scotland'. For vessels built abroad ports are sometimes given, but usually the place is more or less broadly designated, for example, as Maryland, New England, Sweden, Baltic or America. Since the locations were often abbreviated, these were first spelled out fully, then put in a common form. In cases where several ports had the same name or similar names, ambiguities remain (e.g., Boston, Massachusetts and Boston, Lincolnshire).
- Year built
In most cases the Registers provided either the year in which the vessel was built or its age in the current year, though in a relatively limited number of cases the ship is simply described as "old". The year of build was often not available for vessels taken as prizes.
- Port belonging (standard port belonging)
From the 1830s the Registers record the port to which the vessel belonged. For U.K. vessels this was the port at which they were registered. These ports have been standardized in the same way as the ports at which vessels were built.
- Port survey (standard port survey)
In 1779, Lloyd's Register had surveyors at twenty-four ports in England, Scotland and Ireland; in 1790, it had surveyors at a slightly different set of twenty-two ports. Some of these surveyors may have worked exclusively for Lloyd's, but most probably worked part time. The absence of several major ports from the list does not mean that vessels belonging to these ports were not surveyed. The most prominent absentees were Newcastle and Sunderland, ports that were not added in the Underwriters' Registers until the 1830s, though they figured in the competing Shipowners' Registers from 1800. Vessels based in these and other ports without surveyors were dealt with when they visited London and other surveying ports. The only standardization needed was spelling out the abbreviations for survey port names.
- Port destination (standard port destination)
The Registers give an indication of each vessel's use. In most cases, this is a destination, but some vessels were designated as 'transports' and during wars others were described as 'privateers'. Toward the middle of the nineteenth century some "colliers" were listed. The uses recorded in the Registers are clearly indicative, since vessels could be shifted from one trade to another in course of a year and from one year to the next. The standardization was done in the same way as for locations built.
- Year Lloyd's Register
This shows the volume of the Registers in which the entry appeared.
Lloyd's surveyors reported the tonnage of all but a few vessels. In 1779, ninety-seven per cent of the tonnages in the Registers were reported to the nearest ten tons. In 1790, probably under the influence of the 1786 Act of General Registry, more tonnages were reported to the nearest ton, but still fifty-four per cent of the values ended in zero.
- Ship type
The Registers generally recorded the vessel's configuration of masts and sails. From the 1830s steamships were sometimes indicated by "stm" or "scw", the latter for those with screw propulsion.
- Hull material
From the 1840s ships were increasing built with iron hulls. Initially there was a separate listing of iron-hulled vessels, but they were often also listed in the main text with "iron" indicated somewhere in the entry. By the 1850s the separate list was dispensed with.
AcknowledgementsThis database and website have been created thanks to a grant from Lloyd's Register Foundation and with the support of Vesalius College, Brussels and NUI Galway, Ireland. We acknowledge the support at NUI Galway of the Whitaker Institute, the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit, and Duanaire: a treasury of digitial data for Irish economic history.