Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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Many people today are researching their family histories and are finding that some ancestor had a connection with a river navigation or a canal. This is not an area I am expert in and unless your forebear was sufficiently well known to appear in one of the published waterways history books it is unlikely that I can help you.
If you have any expertise in this area that you could share with others I would be pleased to hear from you. I would be willing to put the advice you have on to this page or to link to another website.
At present the only site I know of that may be of some help is http://lists.rootsweb.com/index/other/Occupations/CANAL-PEOPLE.html.
Another possible source is the Waterway Index run by:-
Mr John Roberts
52 St Andrews Road
The following information was kindly supplied by John Roberts.
THE WATERWAY INDEX was started in 1979 by the late Mrs Ethel Bingham who was unable to locate the baptism of her Great Grandfather Joseph Millard born in 1841 in London, but, it appears not registered.
It now contains about 10,000 slips which have references to persons who had (or have) connections with the canals and navigable rivers in the United Kingdom ie those with occupations given in records as boatman, waterman, flatman, boatbuilder, lock-keeper, toll-collector, canal or river company clerk, canal agent, boat owner, navigator (navvies), wharf inger etc, etc
The majority of the information has and is still being sent in by fellow genealogists who have taken the time and trouble to extract details from their own family records or from census returns, parish registers etc. Items are therefore received from a wide variety of contributors and because there is an entry from a source it does not necessarily mean that all the references to that name or to the occupations have been extracted from that document or that the information has been correctly or fully copied. It must therefore be regarded very much as an aid ie as a pointer to the origional records. No fee is required (although donations are very welcome) a 9" x 4" stamped addressed envelope will suffice and if possible information for inclusion in the Index.
REGISTER OF BOATS AND BARGES - 1795 - Inland waterway craft were required to be registered by the Clerk of the Peace from 1795. Registers are usually deposited at local record offices.
PUBLIC HEALTH REGISTERS - Kept under the Canal Boat Acts 1877 to 1884 and administered by the Local or Port Authority through whose district a canal or river navigation passed. The Acts were introduced to prevent overcrowding, and to improve living standards on the cabin boats. Boats with living accomodation had to be registered and were issued with a numbered certificate. The number together with the town was usually painted on the cabin side. These registers may be deposited at the local record office but some are still with the Authority concerned.
GAUGING TABLES - Kept by each Navigation Company showing details of a boats carrying capacity. Other details vary but they usually contain the owners name and address. Registers may be at the National Waterways Museum, Llanthony Warehouse, Gloucester Docks, Gloucester GL1 2EL.
BRITISH TRANSPORT HISTORICAL RECORDS - A collection of documents, canal company minute books, maps etc, etc, - kept at the Public Record Office, Kew, London.