United States Customs Service Records, 1864-1959
The United States Customs Service, created by an act of July 31, 1789, became part of the Department of the Treasury when that Department was established in September of 1789. The service has been responsible for the enforcement of numerous laws and regulations pertaining to the import and export of merchandise, collection of tonnage taxes, control of the entrance and clearance of coastwise and fishing trades, and the protection of passengers. A Bureau of Customs was established March 3, 1927, to supervise these activities and in 1942 it assumed the responsibilities of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation relating to the registering, enrolling, licensing, and admeasurement of merchant vessels. This responsibility was assigned to the Coast Guard in 1967.
The act that established the Customs Service in 1789 also provided for the creation of collection districts in various coastal, river, Great Lakes, and inland ports. A Collector of Customs in each district was responsible for the enforcement of all rules and regulations including the protection of American seamen and passengers and the forwarding of basic data on immigration, imports, and exports. A Naval officer in each district, coordinate in rank with the Collector, was required to keep separate accounts and copies of all manifests and entries and to countersign certain of the daily record of all vessel arrivals and clearances, and was assisted by inspectors, weighers, and gaugers in the collection and payment of bounty allowances and fees and the admeasurement of foreign vessels for tonnage duties.
Records are present from Cleveland, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio; Ludington, Michigan; Muskegon, Michigan; and Port Huron, Michigan.
Documents you may encounter in the records may include:
Master carpenter's certificates: Contains district place, and date of issuance, name of master carpenter, place and year of build, vessel name and rig, owner, dimensions, tonnage, number of decks, number of masts, and building material.
Enrollments: Contains enrollment number, date, and district of issuance, owners, master, when and where built, most recent prior enrollment data and reason for surrender, vessel name, rig, dimensions, tonnage, number of decks, number of masts, and type of head and stern.
Certificates of Registry: Contains registry number, date, and district of issuance, owners, master, when and where vessel was built, most recent prior registry/enrollment data and reason for surrender, vessel name, rig, dimensions, tonnage, number of decks, number of masts, and type of head and stern. The document was issued to vessels engaged in foreign trade.
Licenses: Contains vessel rig, name, tonnage, license number and date of issuance, and where, when, and why surrendered.
Certificate of Record: Contains document number and issuance date, vessel builder, place and year of build, master, owner, number of decks, number of masts, type of head and stern dimensions, rig, and tonnage. Record was designed for ships built for foreign-flag interests.
Certificate of Ownership of Vessel: Contains date of document issuance, vessel rig, name, tonnage, type of documents issued and document numbers, owner, and mortgage/lien data.
Bills of Sale: Contains participants, amount of consideration, date, latest enrollment data, and the following vessel data: official number, rig, name, year and place of build, tonnage, dimensions, number of decks, number of masts, and type of head and stern.
Mortgages: Contain name, rig, and tonnage of vessel, name of owners, place of residence, mortgage amount and conditions, relevant dates involved in completing transactions.