Discover your maritime ancestors with these lists of seamen created by New England customs officers from 1786 to1894. The lists include numerous names of seamen born outside of the United States. The lists were used to create certificates to protect seamen from British impressment.

The original Seaman Protection Certificates are held at the National Archives at Boston in Waltham, Massachusetts. The certificates were created in response to Britain’s practice of impressment, taking seamen by force into their naval force. The British Royal Navy had impressed thousands of sailors who claimed to be American citizens. They did not recognize American citizenship or claimed that these seamen were deserters. In 1796, Congress passed the ‘Act for the Relief and Protection of American Seamen’ in 1796. The Act required all customs collectors to keep a record of all US citizens serving on US ships. The seamen were given a Seaman’s Protection Certificate. Vouched for the citizenship of the person along with giving a physical description for identifying purposes.