In my reference work, I have what I like to refer to as my “Greatest Hits” these are books I constantly refer to, almost every day. They are the work horses of the library (Greatest Work Horse Hits?). One of these is our collection of Lloyd’s Registers. Lloyd’s Registers are a serial publication which began in the 1760’s in a coffee house of London. Two things you should know about Lloyd’s Registers: 1) They are not affiliated with that other Lloyd’s which also started in the same coffee house and insures things like Betty Grable’s legs and Marlene Dietrich’s voice (although I am going to make a huge tangential leap further down and combine Lloyd’s of London, Lloyd’s Register and Marlene Dietrich in a roundabout sort of way) 2) Lloyd’s Register does not register vessels, despite the name. They classify vessels. But I guess “Lloyd’s Classifieds” didn’t sound as snazzy to those coffee drinking blokes as Lloyd’s Registers. More specifically, Lloyd’s Register was/is a way for merchants and underwriters to get to know the vessels they were insuring, buying or doing business with. Lloyd’s would rate a ship based on a variety of factors giving ones that rated the highest an “A1” rating. As a result, there’s thousands and thousands pages of data about the nitty gritty of thousands and thousands of vessels, which is a very welcome side benefit to researchers, genealogists, model makers and general enthusiasts alike. And now… they’re online! Not all, but from 1764-1874 and some volumes in the 1880’s available here, which also links to additional registers from 1930 to 1945.
Lloyd’s Registers is for vessels classified in Great Britain. For good ol’ USA vessels, you’ll want to use American Lloyd’s and the Record of American and Foreign Shipping (which we refer to as ABS as it’s produced by the American Board of Shipping). 1859-1900 are available from the Mystic Seaport library.
Now, here’s where I tie Marlene Dietrich, Lloyd’s of London and Lloyd’s Register together. Let’s say you’re a Marlene Dietrich fan (and if you’re not, you should be). As I mentioned above, it’s been rumored that Lloyd’s of London insured her legs for a million dollars. In 1938, when Marlene Dietrich came back to the United States to become a US Citizen, she was on the SS Normandie. And voila! Here is the Lloyd’s entry for the SS Normandie.
Now you can write the most complete biography of Marlene Dietrich that is so detailed, it mentions what kind of engines the SS Normandie had (Steam turbines connected to electric motors).
Here’s our record in Keys for Lloyd’s Registers.
Have fun searching!