Tuesday 26 July 2016

Royal Navy records reveal place of birth for thousands of mid-C19th Irish sailors

Ancestry has added another of its 'Web Search' collections, meaning it has uploaded a searchable index to a record-set held on a third party website.

In this particular case, the record set is the Royal Navy Ratings’ Service Records, Series ADM 139; some 90,000 records strong in total, it holds the details of many thousand Irish sailors*.

Ancestry has called the index the Royal Naval Seamen Index, 1853–1872.

Importantly, in all but a tiny number of cases, the town where the man was born is recorded in these service records (see image, right, of some search results). With most of the sailors born in the 1810–1845 period, this collection may be the only surviving documentation providing this vital piece of information.

I found two records of interest for my Santry One-Name Study, and one that was especially revealing. It related to a 14-year-old William Santry who signed up as a Boy 2nd Class in 1862. Not only was his date and place of birth recorded as 6 October 1848 in Baltimore, County Cork, and a personal description provided (4ft 9inches, fair skin, light hair, grey eyes), his father had to provide name (John Santry) and signature on account of his son's young age.

From that information, I was able to nip over to IrishGenealogy.ie (my preferred site for my Cork ancestors)  to find William's baptism record in Skibbereen parish, his mother's name and the name of his siblings, as well as his parents' marriage record. Not bad for 15 minutes' research, even if I did have to pay TNA £3.45 for images of the service records!

*I can't be certain exactly how many Irishmen are indexed because when I search using Ireland as the place of birth, I get 5,300 results, all of them in the south. When I search using Northern Ireland as the birth place, another 1,000-odd results are returned. I'd have expected a higher proportion of the 90,000 records (as per the catalogue entry) to be Irish.