American Maritime Documents, 1776-1860 - Stein, Douglas L.
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A printed document, varying in size and format. Contains the names and descriptions of every member of a ship's company. Across the top was printed "A List of the Company,", "List of Persons," or perhaps "Role d'Equipage," the French term. The master's name, ship's name, destination, and tonnage was often found on the upper portion of the document, where some examples displayed engraved eagles, etc. The body of the Crew List consisted of columns containing names, ages, places of birth and residence, and other descriptive information, such as complexion and crew status. The kinds of information requested varied from one document to another. Some examples also include a column for witnesses signatures. Depending upon the immediate use of the document, it could contain the signatures of the shipmaster, the customs collector, and consular official, or a combination thereof. Some examples were certified not only with authorized signatures, but by various stamps and seals as well.
The Act of 28 February 1803 contained the first legal mention and requirements for keeping a Crew List as part of the ship's papers. Before a vessel could depart on a foreign voyage, the master had to deliver a list of the crew, verified by his oath, to the customs collector at that port. The collector then supplied the master with a certified copy of the list, copied in a uniform hand, along with a Clearance Certificate, at which time the master entered into a four-hundred-dollar bond to exhibit the Crew List to the first boarding officer he encountered upon his return to a U.S. port. There he was required to produce the persons named and described in the Crew List to give account for any crew members who were not present. Notes certifying sickness, discharge or desertion, usually signed by a consular official, were often included with the original list in order to prove that individuals not present were legally accounted for. Crew Lists of various kinds are commonly found in maritime collections. In addition to the formal document described here, a list of crew members usually appears on the Articles of Agreement, and such lists are often written in ship's logbooks or journals.