Port records

This guide was last updated in 2009

You are now in a position to check for any specific records of your ancestor’s employment in the docks – but don’t expect too much.

Unfortunately, the majority of dock workers were employed on a casual day-by-day basis by private companies according to how much work there was available (there are stories of men being allowed to fight each other, the winner taking the work for the day).

You are unlikely to find records for these people. You have a better chance after 1909 when the Port of London Authority took over the running of the docks, although the records are still not complete. But it was in these post-1909 records that Barbara Windsor struck gold, finding her grandfather’s Port of London Authority record card. This document contained his date of birth and the details of his employment, including the date and reason for leaving PLA employment.

You will only find such records for salaried staff of the PLA, and not for temporary workers. You may also find a stamp on such cards to indicate that your ancestor participated in the General Strike.

Note that there are no staff records available for the years after 1950. These records are held at the archive of the Museum in Docklands in London. Have a look at the website and list of frequently asked questions at the Museum in Docklands website.

Warning: Those records that remain are in poor condition, and researchers are not allowed to look through them themselves.

The best approach is to e-mail the archive with details of your inquiry and arrange for the search to be done on your behalf, and for copies to be made.


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