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Canal Boat Registers

Tracing Family History: NarrowBoat, Spring 2007

Christopher M Jones

Christopher M Jones takes a closer look at a valuable source of family history information about boats and the people that operated them

In the Winter 2006 issue of NarrowBoat, Lorna York referred to canal boat registers as a vital research tool for the study of family history on canal craft on English and Welsh inland waterways. This article looks more deeply at this fascinating historical source as well as warning of pitfalls that researchers may encounter. Registration and Inspection The Canal Boats Act 1877 was passed to prevent overcrowding on family boats, and to ensure cleanliness. To comply with the Act (and subsequent revisions), all rural and urban district councils through which canals and navigable rivers passed were required to appoint a canal boat inspector to see if vessels complied with the Acts. However, only a limited number of those councils had the additional authority to actually register canal boats, and keep records for that purpose. The position of canal boat inspector was usually in addition to other duties. The job often fell upon a sanitary inspector, alongside work inspecting milking parlo…

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