The National Archives and Records Administration preserves the log books of the vessels and stations of several Federal agencies (see list), capturing different levels of information and time spans.
- U.S. Navy
- Armed Guard
- U.S. Army Transports (USAT)
- U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
- U.S. Revenue Cutter Service
- U.S. Merchant Marines
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USCGS)
Researching Log Books
Original log books in NARA holdings are almost always open for research. To view them in person, please consult our website and choose the NARA location you wish to visit. Reference archivists can also perform reviews of log books you are interested in ahead of your visit to verify specific events or dates of interest. Please email the location’s reference team ahead of time, or use the Contact Us online form, to request this service. To order copies of records online, visit our website.
U.S. Navy Logbooks
Navy logbooks are our most popular and well-known logbooks. Logbooks, also referred to as Captain's Logs or Deck Logs, consist of chronological entries documenting the daily activities of a Navy ship or unit. Individual logbooks are arranged chronologically by date, with entries in each day's log arranged chronologically by the time of day. The level of information contained in these volumes ranges from simple entries documenting daily routines to detailed meteorological and operational accounts. Information also can include:
- Documentation of disciplinary hearings
- Sick lists
- Occasional injuries
- Use of daily rations, etc.
Information available differs widely based on when the logbook was created.Logbooks/Deck Logs are not detailed journals describing a ship's mission and all events transpiring in and around the ship, although they do sometimes provide information about a ship's operations. The entries can be repetitive and dry. They list officers until 1957 but do not list all the personnel on board. Look for those listings in the ship’s Muster Rolls or Personnel Diaries. Please keep in mind that references to individuals in a Deck Log are incidental and most service members are not referenced in a Deck Log. But a Deck Log can provide background information relating to the service of an individual service member such as identifying the service member’s location by identifying the ship’s location.
Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships, ca. 1801-1940 are available to view at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1983 are available to view at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
Logbooks of U.S. Navy ships after 1983 are available to view at the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Some of the Navy deck logs in NARA custody have been digitized and are available online through the National Archives Catalog. Please check the listing to see if a ship in which you are interested is available.
During wartime or by Presidential order, logs of U.S. Revenue Cutters and U.S. Coast Guard vessels & facilities will be filed along with the Navy Logbooks.*
Logs of Armed Guard Vessels
During WWII, the Naval Transportation Service Division (established on January 26, 1942) determined the current and prospective shipping requirements for the Navy exclusive of those of the operating forces of the fleets and made long-range plans for the allocation of merchant type ships by the War Shipping Administration to the navy. It procured merchant-type vessels over 1,000 tons gross by charter or purchase from the U.S. Maritime Commission on the War Shipping Administration, for use by the Navy as auxiliaries.
The logs are part of the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 - 2007 (Record Group 24) and the files are part of the Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1875 - 2006 (Record Group 38). Both are located at the National Archives in College Park, MD:
- Armed Guard Logs, 1943 - 1945 -- These logs were prepared under the direction of the Armed Guard commander aboard each ship, and comprise a brief daily account of events of the armed guard crew including mustering, disciplinary actions, and security matters.
Armed Guard Files, 1934 - 1946 -- The files often include more information about the activities of the Merchant vessel and Armed Guard crew that contained in the logs.
On October 1, 1949, the Naval Transportation Service Division was absorbed into the Military Seas Transportation Service (MSTS) (see below)..
At various times in the U.S. Army's history, the Quartermaster General directed the operations of Army-owned and -contracted vessels for the movement and supplying of soldiers. The Continental Army utilized vessels during the Revolutionary War as early as 1775, and the U.S. Army directed vessels for logistical support during operations on the frontier as early as 1792. However, NARA has received few logs of these U.S. Army vessels. NARA’s holdings of U.S. Army vessel logs mostly reflect the movement of supplies and personnel during the time of the the Mexican War (1846-1848), the American Civil War (1861-1864), the Spanish-American War (1898), the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), and World War I (1917-1919). Information provided in these series varies widely, but often includes name and location, date, name of commander, meteorological data, operations conducted and fuel/coal expended. A few Engineer Logs for and Port Logs about transports are also available.
According to NARA records, in 1951 the Department of the Army destroyed all manifests, logs of vessels, and troop movement files of United States Army Transports for World War II and most of the passenger lists.
All series of logbooks and related records listed below are part of the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92): Located at the National Archives in Washington, DC
- Logs of U.S. Vessels, 1860-1870
- Log of Arrival and Departure Dates of U.S. Vessels at Pier 22, June 1899-Jan. 1900
- Logbook of Activity of at Pier 22, Brooklyn, NY, Nov. 1898-Mar. 1902
- Logs of US Army Transports 1899-1901
- Abstracts of Logs of US Army Vessels 1899-1916
Located at the National Archives in Seattle, WA
Located at the National Archives in College Park, MD
Deck Logs of the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) and the Military Sealift Command (MSC), 1946-81
The Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) was established in 1949 to consolidate shipment of military supplies from the four separate services used during World War II into a unified command. Many of the ships that formed MSTS in the early years were reassigned from the Army Transportation Service (ATS) [See U.S. Army Vessels]. During the Vietnam War, MSTS became the Military Sealift Command (MSC). These logs, which evolved over time and have varying degrees of consistently recorded information, date from as early as 1946 and reach to 1981.
- Information captured in these logbooks includes:
- Ship name
- location or port of departure and planned destination
- ship's course
- total distance traveled
- meteorological information
- brief entries giving a running account of the principal activities aboard the ship.
Entries typically mention the ship departing or entering a port, mustering the crew, drills and inspections, passing navigational buoys, setting lookouts, bringing a harbor pilot aboard, and sea conditions. If a crewman took ill or was injured and sent to sick bay, this also may be noted.
All series of logbooks listed below are part of the Records of the Naval Operating Forces (Record Group 313) and located at the National Archives in College Park, MD:
The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and U.S. Coast Guard both created logbooks housed at the National Archives. The types of logs created include logbooks of depots, bases, lifesaving stations, and air stations; Coast Guard vessels, merchant vessels, and revenue cutters; lighthouses, light stations, tenders, and light vessels; and Port Security units.
The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) is the nation's oldest continuous armed maritime service and merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service (USLSS) in 1915 to form today's U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). The U.S. Lighthouse Service became part of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. Most of the logs in NARA custody date from 1822 to the 1980s, but the earliest log book is that of the USRC Massachusetts for 1791-1795.
These logs vary greatly in the amount of detail they contain, depending on when they were created, who created them, and their intended purpose. They mostly contain chronological entries documenting the daily activities of a Revenue Cutter or Coast Guard vessels or units fulfilling the multiple missions of this military service, including:
- enforcing the collection of revenue customs
- smuggling and slave trade interdiction
- search and rescue operations
- environmental and shipping law enforcement
The logs can also include:
- summaries of disciplinary hearings
- sick lists
- occasional reports of injuries
- use of daily rations
- ship inventories
All series of logbooks listed below are part of the Records of the United States Coast Guard (Record Group 26) and located at the National Archives in Washington, DC:
- USCG Logbooks, 1942 - 1947
Other type of log books available:
- Logbooks of Lighthouse Tenders, 1873 - 1941
For U.S. Coast Guard logs from 1972 to the 1980s see our Regional Archives depending on the vessel's home port and location of station. Logs beyond the time span of NARA holdings remain in the legal custody of the U.S. Coast Guard.
*During wartime or by Presidential order, logs of U.S. Revenue Cutters and U.S. Coast Guard vessels & facilities will be filed along with the Navy Logbooks.
Logbooks of U.S. Merchant Marine Vessels
The Merchant Marines created two types of logbooks:
- Official Logbooks
- Merchant Logbooks.
Official Logbooks were required for all foreign voyages mandated by legislation enacted in 1872, and were occasionally filed for coastal voyages when a birth or death occurred during the voyage. All of these logbooks are part of the Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (Record Group 41):
- Official Logbooks, 1872-1943 (records located at the National Archives in Washington, DC)
Official Logbooks of Merchant Vessels, 1890 - 1911 (for Port of Seattle - records located at the National Archives in Seattle)
Official Logbooks of Merchant Vessels, 1911 - 1936 (for Port of Pensacola, Florida - records located at the National Archives in Atlanta)
Official Logbooks of Merchant Vessels, 1921 - 1923 (for Gulfport, Mississippi - records located at the National Archives in Atlanta)
Official Logbooks of Merchant Vessels, 1936 - 1939 (for Port of Tampa, Florida - records located at the National Archives in Atlanta)
Most Official Logbooks from 1939 to the 1980s are part of the Records of the U.S. Coast Guard (RG 26) (see above) and are located in the regions based on port in which log was turned in.
Merchant logbooks were maintained by various U.S. flag merchant vessels operating around the world. Included are logs for:
- Chief officers'
- Deck departments'
- Engine room logs
Logbook entries also include:
- hourly reports on operating systems
- personnel on duty
- any problems or unusual situations
- weather conditions
All of these records are part of the Records of the U.S. Maritime Commission, 1917 - 1950(Record Group 178) and located at the National Archives in College Park, MD:
- Merchant Marine Ships' Logs, 1918 - 1941 -- About half of these logs contain lists relating to officers and crew. These logs are numbered from 1 to 122,684 and indexed by vessel name.
- Central Correspondence Files, 1936 - 1950 -- In addition to the logs, there is a section at the end of this series containing individual files for each vessel owned or operationally controlled by the Commission (files beginning with 901).
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USCGS)
NOAA and the USCGS conduct hydrographic and oceanographic surveys and studies. The logbooks, with some variance, include daily entries of the ship's position, weather conditions, remarks on the status of each department of the ship, notations of any mechanical problems or unusual weather conditions, and descriptions of the day's hydrographic and oceanographic surveying activities.
There are two USCGS series that contain logbooks and are part of the Records of US Coast and Geodetic Survey (Record Group 23):
These two series are located at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
The NOAA logbooks are part of the Records of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Record Group 370):
This series is located at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
This series is located at the National Archives in Seattle.