Information sheet

Tracing your ancestors who worked in HM Customs and Excise

Sheet number 44

About the museum

The former HM Customs & Excise National Museum was established in 1995 and can be found in the basement of Merseyside Maritime Museum.  It is now the Border Force National Museum, known as Seized! The Border & Customs Uncovered.

The museum covers -

  1. historical work of HM Customs & Excise starting around 1640; and
  2. the contemporary work of the UK Border Force and HM Revenue and Customs. 

Key themes -

  1. battle against smugglers and protecting our borders; and
  2. the role of the department in collecting revenue. 

A visit to the museum may help with your research.

Records on individual officers

The Border Force National Museum does not hold any records on individual officers.  All surviving records are held by -

National Archives (PRO)
Ruskin Avenue
Surrey TW9 4DU
Tel: 020 8876 3444   Minicom 0208 392 9198

The following sources may also be useful. 

Directories for the area in which the person is thought to have worked, either their residential address or listed under the staff establishment of HM Customs & Excise.
For Liverpool you could look at the Gore’s Directories which are held on microfilm and a reader should be booked in advance.  They are held at the following address -

Liverpool Record Office & Local History Library
Liverpool Records Office
Central Library
William Brown Street
L3 8EW
Tel: 0151 233 5817
Fax 0151 233 5886

Useful downloadable information sheets

For general background reading related to the role of HM Customs and Excise, there is a book list on the section ‘Useful publications for researchers’. Some of the books are now out of print, but may be obtained through interlibrary loans. You may find “Useful websites for researchers” of use. Alternatively there are a series of down load able information sheets -

  • History of smuggling (Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 24)
  • Tracing your ancestors (Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 44)
  • Book list (Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 72)
  • History of rummage (Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 73)
  • Useful publications for researchers (Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 74)
  • Useful websites for researchers (Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 75)

Ham’s Year Books

These yearbooks are another source of information about HM Customs & Excise.  They were published between 1876 to 1931 and list all staff, collections, districts and stations. They were divided into 3 formats – Customs, Excise and Inland Revenue.

A full set is available at the National Archives.

Changes in departmental structure

Please note that the department has gone through several changes over the last century.

  • Before 1909 Customs and Excise were separate departments. Excise was under the control of the Board of Inland Revenue.
  • Between 1909 – 2005 HM Customs & Excise existed. Inland Revenue and Immigration were separate.
  • In 2005 HM Customs & Excise merged with Inland Revenue to establish HM Revenue and Customs.
  • In 2009 the border protection role of HM Revenue and Customs was merged with Immigration to form UK Border Force. The tax collecting activities remain with HM Revenue and Customs.

We hope this information is helpful.  Please write to the following address if you have any further queries -

Border Force National Museum
Merseyside Maritime Museum
Albert Dock
Liverpool waterfront
L3 4AQ

Tel: 0151 478 4507  
Send an email using this contact form

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