The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, 16 - 18 St-Mary-at-Hill, London, EC3R 8EF
Telephone: (+44) 020 7283 2373 Fax: (+44) 020 7283 0477 E-mail:

Tracing Waterman or Lighterman ancestors

For research enquiries about your Waterman or Lighterman ancestors, please make your initial enquiry by email to  

Watermen’s Hall does not have the facilities to accommodate individual research.  A small charge is made for our research service, currently £20 for a straightforward genealogy enquiry, one surname.  This charge benefits the Company’s charities.

Please supply as much detail as you can, full name/s and at least approximate year/s of birth is a good starting point.  If you know where on the River Thames they were from, this will help, especially in the case of a common surname.

The information the Company recorded was the apprentice’s name, date bound (as an apprentice to the Company), place, master’s name and the date if/when he gained his Freedom of the Company.  

Further information is unlikely, unless the individual was involved in a significant event, in which case you would need to provide an approximate date as the Court Minute Books are not indexed.  An additional charge may be made for searching these, depending on the amount of time taken.

The Company did not keep employment records or family trees, although it is often possible to trace additional generations if apprentices were mastered by a family member.

Our earlier records, prior to c. 1890, are held at the Guildhall Library in the City of London.  The Guildhall Library offers free access to these and various other records of interest to genealogists, plus internet and wi-fi access.

The Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH

Tel: 020 7332 1868 / 1870

The Society of Genealogists has published a booklet entitled My Ancestors were Watermen - A Guide to Tracing Your Watermen & Lightermen Ancestors' by James W Legon, currently out of print but second hand copies might be found on the internet.

The website also contains information on tracing Docklands, East End and Thames Watermen and Lightermen ancestors.

A  Waterman or Lighterman in your family?