US Seamen’s Protection Certificates

Under a US Congressional act of 1796 (the Act For The Relief and Protection of American Seamen (1 Stat. 477) signed into law on May 28, 1796), American seamen were periodically issued certificates to hopefully prevent them from being illegally impressed by ships from other nations. . These documents can appear in one of three formats:

  • registers–listing certificates that were issued–not all are extant, some are held by the National Archives and others by local historical societies
  • applications–proof and evidence–generally held by the National Archives, available on microfilm or digitally and usually arranged by port
  • certificates–usually kept by the sailor himself

The Mystic Seaport Museum has a database of entries from  the Custom Houses of Fall River, Gloucester, New Haven, New London, Newport, Marblehead, and Salem.

FamilySearch includes these databases:

Selected databases:

National Archives research guide on the “Seamen’s Protection Certificates.” (PDF file)