Last month we explored how to conduct family history research when one’s relative is currently in the Merchant Navy. Today let us investigate the very same query but this time about an individual still serving in the Royal Navy.
Caird Library staff have written several research guides on various maritime related topics. The guide entitled ‘Research guide B3: The Royal Navy: Sources for enquiries’ may help you learn how to seek information on a person who is serving in the Royal Navy. The research guide can be found on our website at http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/research-guides/the-royal-navy/research-guide-b3-the-royal-navy-sources-for-enquiries.
We have extensive collections of books, photographs, paintings, prints, drawings and manuscripts dealing with most aspects of the Royal Navy, thus it is always worth searching the Library Catalogue or the Archive Catalogue. However, it is important to stress that the service records of the Royal Navy for approximately the last 90 years are still deposited with the Ministry of Defence. These records should be transferred to The National Archives from the Ministry of Defence when they are 75 years old. So if your relative was in the Royal Navy, you might visit the Veterans UK website for information about how to request a summary of their service record from the Ministry of Defence. Bear in mind that these records are not available to members of the general public so you have to be the subject of the record or next of kin. It is also worth pointing out that before 1972 all Royal Navy personnel were given their records when they left the service. The surviving records until that date only contain basic service details and lists of postings.
The Royal Navy publishes an annual list of active and reserve officers, and a biennial list of retired officers. Editions of the Navy List date from 1814 to the present day. Although the amount of information shown in these lists changes with time, they record officers (retired and active) and ships, where ships were stationed, pay scales, uniform regulations, etc. Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) officers, including the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), were also included in the Navy List from 1862, so this is a ‘must check’ if one’s relative is a Royal Naval Officer of the 20th century. As The National Archives holds most Admiralty records – including official logs of warships, muster rolls, pay books and all personnel and service records of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, up to at least 1920 – you might be able to find information there too.
The National Archives
Surrey TW9 4DU
Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444
The Ministry of Defence, Directorate of Personnel Support (Navy) office controls all service records for the years approximately 1920 to at least 1955 which have not yet been passed to The National Archives (excluding Royal Marines). Please note as it was mentioned earlier that information can only be given to next of kin.
Ministry of Defence
Directorate of Personnel Support (Navy)
TNT Archive Services
William Nadin Way
Tel: (+44) 01283 227913
Fax: (+44) 01283 227942
The Ministry of Defence, NPP (Acs) AFPAA office controls service records for the period after approximately 1955. Please note that as always information can only be supplied to next of kin and unfortunately they can only be reached by mail.
Ministry of Defence
AFPAA (C) NPP (ACS) 1E
Hampshire PO13 9XA
Gregory (Assistant Librarian)
Are you doing family history research related to the Merchant Navy? Are you stuck with finding the Official Number of a British-registered vessel? Perhaps you have a list of Official Numbers but do not know the ship names?
Knowing a ship’s Official Number is crucial when you do family history research, because the large repositories holding crew agreements and logbooks, including the National Maritime Museum, the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland and the National Archives at Kew, use Official Numbers as a reference point, rather than names. From 1855, merchant vessels were given an unique number when they first registered with the Board of Trade, and this number stayed with the vessel throughout her life, even if she was re-registered or re-named.
There is a very useful free online database called the Crew List Index Project (CLIP) which was set up to improve access to the records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th century and has gathered the largest database providing details of the locations of surviving crew lists. This site currently contains over 450,000 records of vessels’ names and Official Numbers with a complete coverage of British-registered vessels with numbers from 1 to 200,000 and covering the period 1855 to the 1950s.
Searching by names: (This is an index of vessels by name; it shows matching names and their Official Numbers, sorted first by name, then by number.)
Searching by Official Numbers: (This is an index of vessels by Official Number. You must bear in your mind that ships were often re-named so there may be several different names for one vessel.)
Once you know the relevant name and Official Number, the next step is to track down the crew lists for that ship. The National Maritime Museum’s research guide C1: The Merchant Navy: Tracing people: Crew lists, agreements and official logs may help you how to do so. For more information, please follow the link: http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/research-guides/the-merchant-navy/tracing-people-crewlists-agreements-logs
Most of our enquiries start off with a sentence well known to us: “my great-grand father was a seaman”. A recent query received by the Library made me think how we can assist those who are researching current activities in the Merchant Navy.
As always crew agreements for British-registered merchant ships should be the best to start with. These are of particular interest to genealogists and people tracing family history, and to anyone researching specific ships or seafaring generally. Of the more recent records, a 10% specimen group of all crew agreements from 1951 onwards is in The National Archives; the remaining 90% for years ending in ’5′, until 1995, have been deposited with the National Maritime Museum. All remaining papers up to 1976 have been transferred to the Maritime History Archive in Canada, but sadly from 1977 to 1994 all crew agreements not deposited in the National Archives or in the National Maritime Museum (i.e. 90% of all years not ending in ’5) have been destroyed. Log Books and Crew Agreements from 2001 to 2006 are held at the Registry of Shipping and Seamen in their entirety. A certificate of sea service for individual seaman who sailed on ships from this period may be obtained from these records. Also important to note is that no official logbooks and crew agreements have been retained covering the years 1996 to 2000. Any enquiries about the deposit of recent crew lists should be addressed to the Registry of Shipping and Seamen.
The majority of records relating to merchant seamen for the years 1941–1972 are also with The National Archives, and for the years 2000–2009 are with the Registry of Shipping and Seamen. Records for individual seamen were not kept between the years 1973–1999 as after 1973 the Registrar General was not required by legislation to keep these records.
The second avenue of research should be Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, an annual list of merchant ships providing an excellent aid to research. The Caird Library has copies up to, and including, the most recent edition. The 2011-2012 issue is in four volumes, consisting of almost 7000 pages. The Library also holds volumes up to the last issue of the Mercantile Navy List (or Official List of Registered Ships as it was called by 1985), the Board of Trade official list of all British-registered vessels.
Some recent shipping company records are held by the National Maritime Museum. The National Register of Archives, maintained by The National Archives, can often be useful in locating records of shipping companies. Published histories exist for many companies and the National Maritime Museum has bibliographies for the most famous shipping lines. Book lists for a number of other companies can be compiled from the online Library catalogue. An example from our recent acquisitions is a book on the tragically wrecked Costa Concordia:
Costa concordia : architettura sospesa nel blue = architecture suspended in the blue by Tiziana Lorenzelli (Milano : Electa ; [Genova] : Costa, 2006) 629.123.3COSTA CONCORDIA – PBH4693
Maritime History Archive
Memorial University of Newfoundland
The National Archives
Surrey TW9 4DU
Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444
Registry of Shipping and Seamen
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Cardiff CF24 5JW
Tel: +44 (0)29 20448800
Gregory (Assistant Librarian)
We thought that Caird Library readers would be interested in an event at Gosport Discovery Centre on 9 June. The Navy Day will include a workshop on interpreting naval photographs and a video presentation of the Royal Navy in films. Staff will also be on-hand to demonstrate some navy family history websites, and there will be an evening talk, Britannia to Beira and Beyond, by Mike Critchley. It looks like a great day out, and would interest anyone interested in researching various aspects of the Royal Navy.
Eleanor (Head of Archive and Library)
The last Saturday in September saw a small gathering at The National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Dockyard for the Naval Ancestors: Who Do You Think They Were? workshop. Researchers gathered to broaden their knowledge of Service Records, gain advice on navigating the maze of Admiralty record keeping and the chance to quiz a specialist for help filling in the mysterious blanks about their naval ancestors. On hand were specialist staff from The National Archives, The MOD’s Naval Historical Branch and the Royal Marines Museum.
Three very helpful talks brought to life the breadth of documents online and the family history wonders to be found on the National Archives catalogue. Also addressed were the almost arcane vocabulary and abbreviations featuring in a sailor’s service certificates. Knowing that ‘D&D’ doesn’t refer to role playing games or ‘drunk and disorderly’ but actually means ‘discharged with disgrace’ casts quite a different light on one’s ancestors… The historically distinct and often changing role of the Royal Marines was also well illustrated. What stood out most for me was realising that Marines were all volunteers- and there in lies the reason they were considered more reliable. This made them best suited to being the ultimate instrument by which a captain enforced his authority and naval regulations.
Questions were taken after each presentation and there was no shying away from the nitty gritty of where else to try after the more obvious avenues had yielded only dead ends and frustration: many people had submitted their questions in advance!
It was an interesting day for a NMM Manuscripts Cataloguer too. We don’t deal in many of these official naval records but researchers often arrive with the service records, wanting to flesh out the details of a career at sea or find a picture of a particular ship. I got stuck in and asked about some records which had eluded me in the 4 years I have worked in the Caird Library: Ships requisitioned by the Admiralty, Naval Training ships and the records of dockyard workers. I came away with all 3 answered!
Far from being lost in the gloom of the past, I came away thinking that if one’s ancestors weren’t in the Royal Navy, the past could perhaps be a good deal less clear!
Martin (Manuscripts Cataloguer)
Over 25,000 people visited Portsmouth Dockyard for the Navy Days event last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Attractions included 12 ships from the Victory of 1765 to HMS Daring of 2005, not to mention roving bands of eighteenth century sailors and other costumed re-enactors. Whilst the modern Navy and its ships received boarders of all ages, many people left their ice creams outside to turn to the serious matter of enquiring about their own naval and maritime ancestry at the Naval Historical Branch of the Admiralty Library.
Brought together under the banner of the Naval and Maritime Libraries and Archives Group, staff from several national libraries and archives specialising in maritime records combined to help the public with tracing their naval ancestors, interpreting photos and service records and advising on how to unearth the next tantalising piece of family history.
Represented were the Imperial War Museum, Gosport Discovery Centre, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Admiralty Library and the Medals Office of the Ministry of Defence, together with staff from the Archive and Library at the NMM.
The day was a great success and produced some fascinating and wide ranging enquiries. Topics included Trafalgar veterans, medals from the Siege of Ladysmith and tales of struggling to Jamaica by life boat after being torpedoed mid Atlantic- and then not wanting to be repatriated!
Martin (Manuscripts cataloguer)
We are pleased to be joining Jenny Wraight, the Admiralty Librarian at Naval Historical Branch, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, together with colleagues from the Imperial War Museum and Hampshire Libraries, at the forthcoming Meet Your Navy event, being held from Friday 30 July to Sunday 1 August.
We’ll all be offering information and advice on tracing naval and maritime ancestry. We’ll also help visitors interpret documents that the NMM holds relating to merchant seamen, like crew lists and masters certificates, and will be publicising other parts of the NMM collections like ship plans and historic photographs. If you’re planning to come to the Navy event, please drop in to the Naval Historical Branch to say hello.
A more formal workshop on researching naval ancestors is being held at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth on Saturday 25 September – for this event booking is essential, so please hurry to ensure you have a place.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
The NMM Archive and Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of copies of the Registers of births, deaths and marriages at sea, 1854-1890, from the General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen [microform version].
This resource consists of microfilm copies of registers compiled from ships’ official logs of births, deaths and marriages of passengers at sea. These records are also available in digital format from the National Archives (Catalogue reference BT 158) for a fee but these copies allow browsing and can be a good starting point for compiling a genealogy, adding considerable detail about the seafaring life of an individual.
Gregory (Information Assistant, Library)
We are pleased to announce that six of our most popular Research guides have been revised and are available on our website, see http://www.nmm.ac.uk/researchers/library/. Researched and written by the highly respected merchant naval historian and genealogist, Dr Christopher Watts, they have been updated to include new online resources such as those in DocumentsOnline at the National Archives and commercial websites. They also contain detailed information, including the NMM’s records of the deaths of seamen (C9 & C10). The six guides are:
Research guide A3: Tracing family history from maritime records
Research guide C4: The Merchant Navy: Sources for enquiries
Research guide C5: The Merchant Navy: Sources for ship histories
Research guide C9: The Merchant Navy: World War One
Research guide C10: The Merchant Navy: World War Two
Research guide H5: Lloyd’s: Registers held by the National Maritime Museum
We hope you find the new guides useful.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
March saw Find My Past add 44,000 new baptisms for London’s Docklands to their Parish Records collection.
The new records have been released in partnership with Dockland’s Ancestors and are a must for any researcher trying to trace their east London roots. Spanning the time frame 1770 through to 1880, the parishes and the years that are covered by the records are:
- St Dunstan, Stepney 1770-1798
- St Mary, Whitechapel 1758-1774
- St Anne, Limehouse 1854-1877
- Christ Church, Stepney 1842-1860
- All Saints, Mile End 1840-1880
A typical record will show the precise date of birth and baptism and record the church that the baptism took place in. It also gives details of the parents including where they lived and their occupations. This can provide invaluable information when trying to build a picture of how a typical working week was spent. Knowing the occupation of a parent can help the researcher bond with their ancestors on a more personal level.
As the records centre on the Docklands area you will find that occupations covered include watermen and lightermen, stevedores and dock labourers, clerks, carmen, customs officials and crane drivers.
It is free to search the records online so why not start your search today? As with most records online if you wish to view the full record you will have to pay a fee.
Mary (Information Assistant)