My thrice great grandfather Joseph Campbell (born 1854 in Chester) is listed as a ship master on a vessel called "Bancroft" docked in Birkenhead in the 1881 census. He is the only listed crew member and I would like to get an insight into what the vessel may have been for. It doesn't seem to have been mentioned in any newspaper articles from my research so far. Was it a fishing vessel? Transport? Recreational (I doubt)?

I haven't traced much further back than this yet in this line.

  • @sempaiscuba Joseph is listed on later census records as working on a barge so that seems to be consistent. On those records though he isn't listed on a vessel during the census. Does this mean he lived on the vessel?
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 21:27
  • That was the usual arrangement. Tracing Your Canal Boat Ancestors is a good book on the subject. Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


I couldn't find a copy of the 1881 edition of the Lloyds Register of Shipping online (it's possible that your local reference library may have a copy). The nearest volume that I could find is the 1883 edition which has been scanned and made available on Archive.org.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any ship named Bancroft listed in that year.

Some points to note about the Lloyds Register. Since 1875, Lloyd's Register has included all British vessels of 100 tons and over, whether or not they had been surveyed and classed by Lloyd's. Also, until 1890, Lloyd's Register was almost exclusively confined to British registered vessels.

This suggests that the Bancroft was either a small vessel, under 100 tons, or a foreign-registered vessel.

It is quite possible that she was a barge or a small fishing vessel. This list is dedicated to "Canal People" and suggests that the Bancroft might have been a barge, however I'm not sure how reliable that is.

It is worth checking with the local archives in the area to see whether any have lists of 19th century barge registrations. As master, I believe that Joseph would have had to be registered, but I think this was a local register for a particular canal, rather than a national one.

  • I don't think it was a canal boat; to the best of my knowledge, Birkenhead doesn't have a canal
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 21:53
  • There is, however a small dock that goes into the Mersey
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 21:55
  • 1
    There's also the Weaver coming out into the Mersey so that Mersey / Weaver flats would end up in that area.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 15:51
  • 1
    Sorry - flats are river vessels though versions were also used for coastal shipping.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 15:52

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