Source Information Washington, U.S., Masters and Owners of Vessels Oaths, 1916-1967 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2022.
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About Washington, U.S., Masters and Owners of Vessels Oaths, 1916-1967

About the Washington, U.S., Masters and Owners of Vessels Oaths, 1916-1967

General collection information

This series of collections contains oaths and licenses filed by shipmasters and ship owners with the Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Customs, in the state of Washington between 1916 and 1967. The content and time spans of the collections vary, but records typically include the names of shipmasters and owners, and identification information about their vessels, such as dates and places where ships were built, ship names, home ports, and cargo capacity.

Shipmasters also had to verify that they were natural-born or naturalized citizens of the United States. The name of the court and the shipmaster's naturalization date may also be in these records.

Using this collection

These records may contain details about a vessel including:

  • Names and residences of shipmasters and owners
  • Home port of the vessel
  • Vessel name
  • Birth dates and places of shipmasters and owners
  • Naturalization dates and places of shipmasters
  • Dates that the oaths and licenses were produced
  • You can use these collections to search for information about ancestors who worked in the Washington shipping industry from the early to mid-20th century. Knowing when your ancestor was born and when they became a naturalized citizen can lead to birth certificates and citizenship documents. Port names and residence information will geographically focus your search.

    Collection in context

    These records were created by the Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Customs, at various ports in Washington. They are primary sources digitally reproduced in their original form. The original documents are stored at the National Archives in Seattle, Washington.

    Shipmasters and owners signed many types of oaths to comply with customs regulations. When they entered a port, they had to verify that their cargo manifests accurately recorded the ship's cargo. Oaths also confirmed that the vessels were owned by U.S. citizens. If a ship owner lost a vessel and its cargo in a shipwreck, they signed an oath that could be used to file an insurance claim.


    National Archives and Records Administration. "Masters' and Owners' Oaths on Registry, Licenses or Enrollment 1916-1966." Accessed April 1, 2022.

    ---. "Oaths of New Masters, 1930 - 1967." Accessed April 1, 2022.

    Stein, Douglas L. "Oaths and Affirmations: American Maritime Documents 1776-1860." Mystic Seaport Museum. Accessed April 1, 2022.

    University of Southern California. "Research Guides: Evaluating Primary Sources." Accessed April 1, 2022.