If your ancestor was part of a crew on board ship arriving at a South African port in the 19th c there is little chance of finding him mentioned in shipping registers. In the 20th c, with the large liners making regular calls in South Africa, records were kept of crew members usually at the port of embarkation. The crew list of Waratah, for example, is available. All of the latter went down with the ship.
|Crew of Waratah|
I have sometimes received queries from family historians who say their ancestor 'jumped ship' in South Africa. This wouldn't be a good place to start a search. Better to go to NAAIRS and see if there is a deceased estate file held for him at archives. If the man was divorced or was involved in a court case of any kind during his sojourn in South Africa there may well be evidence of that among the references. It helps if the ancestor had an unusual name: Joe Smith would bring up an avalanche of hits.
If the ancestor travelled to South Africa by ship but for some reason leapt overboard and was lost at sea, the only hope is the Deaths at Sea records.
These include names of passengers and crew of the Titanic and Lusitania, incidentally.
Records at sea are online at www.bmdregisters.co.uk/
These cover over 150, 000 individuals (previously only searchable on microfilm) who were born, married or died on ships between 1854-1908. They are definitely not all-inclusive.
|Union Castle Ship crew|