Source Information

Ancestry.com. U.S., Citizenship Affidavits of US-born Seamen at Select Ports, 1792-1869 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors in partnership with the following organizations:
Original data:

  • Proofs of Citizenship Used to Apply for Seamen's Protection Certificates at the Ports of Bath, Maine, 1833, 1836, 1839–50, 1853–65, 1867–68; and at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1857–58. NARA Microfilm publication M1825, 3 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Proofs of Citizenship Used To Apply For Seamen's Protection Certificates for the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana, 1800, 1802, 1804–1812, 1814–1816, 1818–1819, 1821, 1850–1851, 1855–1857. NARA Microfilm publication M1826, 12 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Proofs of Citizenship Used to Apply for Seamen's Certificates for the Port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1792–1861. NARA Microfilm publication M1880, 61 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Quarterly Abstracts of Seamen's Protection Certificates, New York, NY, 1815–1869. Microfilm publication M2003, 2 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

About U.S., Citizenship Affidavits of US-born Seamen at Select Ports, 1792-1869

About Seamen’s Certificates of Protection

Seamen’s Certificates of Protection were issued beginning in the early 1800s in an attempt to protect U.S. sailors from being pressed into service on British ships. This database contains declarations by witnesses of a seaman’s citizenship and abstracts, registers, and indexes of applications for certificates. The number and type of records vary by port. Additional records in the database contain information about merchant seamen crew lists and shipping articles. Similar to the applications for Seamen’s Certificates, these lists and shipping articles can note the date a seaman was signed onto a crew; “paid” articles record the date and payment made when the seaman left the vessel.

During the early 1800s, after the Colonies became the United States of America, it was common for the British to force into “impressments” (navy service without notice) any English-speaking sailors. This practice was one of the contributing factors to the War of 1812 between the United States and the British Empire; it also led to the creation of Seamen’s Protection Certificates which were meant to defend sailors. Although the practice of impressment ceased after about 1815, the certificates were still used as forms of identification throughout World War I.

While the abstracts of the applications in this database do not contain all the information that was listed on the applications (which were destroyed), they still contain a great deal of worthwhile genealogical data. Besides basic vital statistics, witness names are recorded such as relatives of the individual, shipmates, or female witnesses (possibly a seaman’s “wife” in that port); young applicants’ witnesses (as youthful as 12) were most often relatives. There are few actual Seaman’s Certificates in the records as they were issued to and belonged to the seaman, but naturalization information can be included. Often the seaman would apply for his certificate right after the time of his naturalization, in which case information like the court name and naturalization date is in the records.

Some of the above information was taken from:

  • Ruth Priest Dixon, “Genealogical Fallout from the War of 1812,”Prologue Magazine. The National Archives, Washington, D.C. (1992).

Arrangement of records:

Most of the records in this collection are on printed forms, but some are hand-written declarations. They are arranged by year and then number as assigned by the Collector; however, where numbers were not assigned they have been added, for clarity, by NARA. Usually the assigned numbers began anew with each calendar year, but some carried over, and there are also gaps in the declarations. Some proofs of citizenship include an Oath of Allegiance and sometimes the oath itself serves as the declaration. Earlier declarations were signed by a notary public or justice of the peace until 1836 when they were signed by the Collector of Customs. See the browse menu for a list of ports included in this database.

Information in this database:

  • Assigned number
  • Name of seaman
  • Name of witness
  • Age
  • Place of birth
  • Residence at the time of declaration
  • Port and date of declaration
  • Physical description

The above information was taken from Proofs of Citizenship Used to Apply for Seamen's Protection Certificates at the Ports of Bath, Maine, 1833, 1836, 1839-50, 1853-65, 1867-68; and at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1857-58.NARA microfilm publication M1825, 3 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives, Washington, D.C. And Proofs of Citizenship Used To Apply For Seamen's Protection Certificates for the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana, 1800, 1802, 1804-1812, 1814-1816, 1818-1819, 1821, 1850-1851, 1855-1857. NARA microfilm publication M1826, 12 rolls. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives, Washington, D.C.. And Proofs of Citizenship Used to Apply for Seamen's Certificates for the Port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1792-1861. Microfilm, M1880, 61 rolls. Records of the U.S. Custom Service, Record Group 36. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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