Naval Records For Family History Part 2. I promised when I wrote about naval records a few week ago that I would follow up with a 2nd part, so here it is! This time we will be looking at the records that FindMyPast offers to it’s subscribers. Firstly I need to make sure you know the difference between the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy – the Royal Navy is part of the UK military force and is owned/run by the government and the Merchant Navy is a collective term given to all the ships and seamen who are involved in the trade of moving people and goods around by sea.
A quick search shows me that there are some Merchant Navy records available online so I think I shall write about those to complete the subject in a few weeks time.
So let’s get started looking at the records offered by FindMyPast for those researching Royal Navy seaman. When undertaking these focused searches I click through the following sequence which I think some of you might find helpful to know.
- Go to FindMyPast Home Page
- Click “Search” then click on “A-Z of Records Sets” from the drop down menu
- Chose country/region from the left hand side menu
- Write in a search term into the search box at the top
- Work through list until you find the data-set you are looking for
Top Tip – Often when you are working through a number of data-sets it is easy to lose track of which records you have looked for and which names you have searched for. I suggest you print off a Project Planner worksheet from the MadAboutGenealogy Resource Library to keep track of which data-set you have searched and the results. Then if you can’t look at the range of records on offer in one session you can pick up where you left off later.
Naval Records For Family History Part 2 – the records
FindMyPast has nine data-sets regarding Royal Navy Records, most of these are housed at The National Archives (TNA), Kew, London. I’ll work through them giving you a brief overview of the records and what you can expect to find in them.
British India Office Army & Navy Pensions
This collection is made up of a number of different records, but all have details of the person the money was paid out to and often details of their service and information regarding their wives/widows and children. There are digitized images of original records as well as transcripts. A great set of records.
British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service and Pension Records, 1704-1919
Once you click through to this record set do take a look at what it is comprised of – below the search form is a number of links, click on Series Included and a drop down box will give you the list of exactly which records are in the collection. Of particular interest, I think, are the Royal Greenwich Hospital records. You can expect to find in these records at the minimum name, age, service, death date and next of kin.
British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service and Pension Records Browse, 1704-1919
If you wish to Browse through the records mentioned above then you need to click on this separate dataset. Browse is always handy if you know someone should feature in a record, but you can’t find them via the index. Browsing may pick up people missed out or mis-indexed in the index and transcript.
British Royal Navy & Royal Marines, Battle Of Jutland 1916 Servicemen
If you think or know that an ancestor was present at the Battle of Jutland then I suggest you research at least a little about the background to this important WW1 battle. There is plenty online, but I recommend the Imperial War Museum website page CLICK HERE to access the page. This data-set comprises name, date & place of birth, occupation and a record of ships served on and times in service. Original records have been digitized and indexed.
British Royal Navy Allotment Declarations 1795-1852
Petty officers, seamen and non-commissioned officers were allowed to have part of their wages sent home to their mothers or wives so that their families onshore could be maintained. This database is comprised of the forms the individual completed and the payments sent are marked off. Several documents per application are to be found so there may well be several entries for one person. Quite a lot of information was required for both the seaman and his family before payment was set up so these records are rich in information about seaman’s families.
British Royal Navy Personnel 1831
This data-set is a type of census of the Royal Navy. Taken in April 1831 the information mainly comes from ship’s muster rolls, other records such as naval dockyard musters and hospital registers were also used. Kevin Asplin made transcripts of the material and created this data-set. As these are transcripts every effort should be made to locate the original records and view it yourself as there may be more information available or errors in the transcript.
British Royal Navy Seamen 1899-1924
A valuable data-set, these service records cover the period of the Boer War and WW1 so are important when tracing ancestors who fought in those conflicts. You can expect to find name, date, place, country of birth, navy service number, physical description, occupation prior to enlistment, ships served in, character whilst in service and if died during service then details of death. Very comprehensive. The men who fought at the Battle of Jutland will appear in these records – see separate data-set above. If your ancestor was an officer see the separate data-set below.
Royal Navy Officers 1899-1919
As the data-set above, but this is data-set comprises officers. Complete service records and both these sets of records should be your starting point for Royal Navy research. Original images as well as transcripts and all indexed.
British Royal Navy, Ships’ Musters
This data-set is for you if you are researching an ancestor in the Royal Navy prior to 1853. At that time seaman joined the navy for a much shorter period and many worked their time and then left only to return a short while later. Therefore there are no continuous service records for an individual instead expect to find separate records for each short period of employment in the navy. In pre-internet days these records were ones that most researchers suggested to their clients not to search as it was very time consuming (and expensive for the client) to trawl through them trying to find all the records appertaining to one person. These days thanks to companies like FindMyPast the records have been digitized and indexed – hooray!!
London, Watermen In Royal Navy, 1803-1809
I must write a post on London Watermen and Lightermen, there are fascinating records to be found about the men who plied their trade on the river Thames. Anyway here are some transcripts of records for the Watermen who were impressed into the Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. The records concentrate on Watermen who died, were missing or invalided out whilst on service.
Naval Records For Family History Part 2 – Guides & Books
If you have navy ancestors then you will want to learn more about their lives and the records. The National Archives website has a number of guides which you are sure to find helpful, their guides are always very informative and written by experts in the records. CLICK HERE to access a list of the 29 guides available online.
I can recommend two books for learning more about working with Royal Navy Records
“My Ancestor Was in the Royal Navy” from the My Ancestor ….. series. Ian Waller is a very well respected genealogist and author. CLICK HERE to purchase.
“Tracing Your Naval Ancestors” by Simon Fowler is in the Tracing Your ….. series. Simon was an archivist at the National Archives, London for 20 years and then editor of a genealogy magazine. CLICK HERE to purchase.
Both of these authors have written excellent books on the subject. Both of these series are made up of very readable, well researched books and are very affordable. Personally I have bought many over the years and can recommend them both.
Naval Records For Family History Part 2 – Summary
Naval genealogy is so much easier than it used to be and it is a joy to see so many records from the National Archives coming online. Whilst visiting the National Archives in person is a wonderful experience it is time consuming and expensive and you never got as many records searched in a day as you think you will!! So having these records available in our own homes is amazing. I hope this has inspired you to tackle some in-depth research into your ancestors that joined the Royal Navy, there is so much family history information to be found in these data-sets. Have fun finding your naval genealogy and adding those who lived a life on the wide, blue ocean to your family tree.
If you didn’t catch my recent blog post on naval records then CLICK HERE to access it.
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