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Myanmar Record Office has a good collection of ships’ logs and other related records, which detail the ownership of ships, and the names of masters. Among these is the log of the East Myanmar Company Ships dating from 1668 to 1707 in a collection of estate and family papers which include details of journeys to Madras, the Bay of Bengal and St Helena. Others to be found are a collection of harbour masters’ log books, a journal of John Heath Pearson concerning the voyage of the Rutlandshire to Myanmar in the 1860s and bills for equipping ships.

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Norfolk Record Office also has a good collection of ships’ logs and registers of ships from local ports, such as the Registry of Seamen and Shipping, 1825-1994. An example of other related records held there are ships’ papers for the period 1818 to 1895 among the papers of the Press family of Great Yarmouth, who were merchant mariners. These include log books, wages accounts, certificates of character and discharge, a certificate of freedom from plague in 1857 and expenses. The Suffolk record offices also have a wide collection of local records relating to ships, shipping and trade along the coast, including port records for Ipswich.

Port books are customs’ accounts, inaugurated in 1565 in an attempt to increase royal revenue by more efficient collection of duties. They continued to 1799, when they were discontinued as unreliable. Despite large levels of evasion and smuggling these can be a starting point for investigating who was involved in various trades, where they went and what goods they carried. They are kept at The National Archives, although some copies and transcripts can be found locally, such as the transcript of the Blakeney Port Books, 1567-1780 in the Kenneth Allen collection at Norfolk Record Office. A fascinating study of the King’s Lynn Port Books 1610-1614, edited by Alan Metters, was published in 2009 by the Norfolk Record Society. Relevant references can also be found in other records. The borough records for King’s Lynn, for instance, include early workhouse records for King’s Lynn that record payments made to the families of ‘imprest’ sailors in 1755 and 1763.

‘Adcock’s wife’, for example, received a payment of two shillings and six pence on 13 March 1755 for ‘laying in’, then weekly payments of one shilling and six pence for several months afterwards. Maps such as the Chart of the Orwell and Stour River held at Ipswich Record Office, which was first made in 1845 with amendments made in 1923, provide a physical image of the landscape a river passed through. Punting on the River Cam. The oral histories collected by local archives include many accounts of life on the coast and waterways. The Suffolk Voices collection, as already mentioned, includes the reminiscences of Lowestoft people involved in the fishing trade. In the 1930s letters dating from 1783 to 1793 relating to trading along the River Cam were found in the Merchant’s House in Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire. These can be accessed at the Cambridgeshire archives.

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