Q. My New England ancestor was a seaman. Would he be listed in ship records?
A. To help avoid impressment by foreign ships, sailors applied for certificates of citizenship from the local custom district. The applications include information of genealogical interest, and according to the Rhode Island Genealogical Society, they’re a particularly good source for men of color, who are often missing from town vital records. Consult the Register of Seamen’s Protection Certificates from the Providence, Rhode Island Custom District 1796-1870 compiled by Family Tree Magazine contributor Maureen A. Taylor (Clearfield). The book is digitized on Ancestry.com.
Taylor’s index gives a seaman’s name, date of certification, age or date of birth, complexion, and place of birth. If you find your ancestor, check the microfilmed original records at the Rhode Island Historical Society (film No. MSS 28 SG 1) for more details, including supporting oaths, crew lists, shipping manifests and hospital reports.
From the January/February 2015 Family Tree Magazine