The information gathered together in order to produce the story of my great-grandfather's career in the Royal Navy came from a variety of sources. I have listed these below and also indicated the type of information one can glean from each item.
Documents consulted at The National Archives, Kew
Continuous Service Record
The CS Records in ADM139 cover the years 1853 and 1872, and were added to as a man's Service progressed. The final document is a complete Service History, and also gives a physical description, ranks held etc. In addition it includes the man's original agreement, and parental consent to join the Navy if under 18. ADM 188 is a simplified version started in 1872.
An alphabetical Index to CS numbers is on open shelf at Kew, and it is essential to refer to this first.
HMS St George
HMS Duke of Wellington
The Ship's Log was a day-to-day record of the ship's activities, and gives Latitude and Longitude, and usually place name, and other routine entries. Individual seamen are rarely mentioned unless involved in an accident or disciplinary proceedings. The Log is, of course, vital for tracing the ship's (and seaman's) movements. At the front of the Log is a physical description of the Ship, and the Captain's name.
Ship's Musters were taken monthly and record the service of every man on board. The Victualling Lists contain similar information, particularly showing how much consumables the man used. The Navy used the information from the two sources to calculate pay and deductions.
Quarterly Ledgers were made up from the Musters, and so contain the same information, although both documents have not always survived.
Description Books were rarely preserved. Their purpose was to keep a physical description of every sailor on board in case of desertion, and so for Family Historians are fascinating when they do turn up.
Most Medal Rolls at Kew are now on microfilm, and so easily accessible. They are arranged initially in chronological order by campaign, and then in the case of the Navy by ship's name. Not worth searching unless it is fairly certain that the man received a medal.
The National Archives Research Guides
A valuable source of help!
Tracing your Naval Ancestors by Bruno Pappalardo.
The essential book for anyone researching the pre-1900 Navy at Kew.
Naval Records for Genealogists by N A M Rodger
Now superseded by the previous publication.
Making Sense of the Census by Edward Higgs
Of general interest, but does explain how Naval Ships were enumerated, and so where to look for them in the Census Returns.
Information on Ships
Lloyds Shipping Lists
Navy List July/October 1867
(On open shelves at The National Archives, Kew)
Contain a brief description of each ship afloat at the time of publication.
Ships of the Royal Navy (Vol 1) by J J Colledge
Contains a brief history of almost every vessel the Navy has owned.
Ships of the Victorian Navy by Conrad Dixon
Contains a number of excellent drawings, but only of a limited number of ships, although several types are included.
Dhow Chasing in Zanzibar Waters by Captain G L Sullivan
Excellent account of HMS Daphne's actions against the slave traders.
British Battles and Medals by Major L L Gordon (5th Edition revised by Edward C Joslin)
As well as a description and picture of each medal, also gives a brief history of the Campaign for which it was awarded.
A Pictorial History of the Royal Navy (Part 1) by Anthony J Watts
Good background reading.
Portland by Stuart Morris
Contains a history of the building of the breakwater and mentions some of the ships which used the dockyard.
Dorset County Chronicle & Somersetshire Gazette:
Contain items about ship movements in and out of Portland, and also reports of Inquests into seamen's deaths.
1895, 1900 Registers of Electors - Southern Dorset
These are held at the Dorset County Record Office, and fill in gaps between Census years.
Greenwich Maritime Museum Photographic Collection
The Maritime Museum has a large number of photographs of Naval Vessels, available for purchase at a reasonable price.
All content © Alan J Brown
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