Tuesday 14 November 2017

More than 8,000 Irish seamen recorded in the registers of the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital in Greenwich

I found the time over the weekend to rummage around in the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital Admissions and Discharges, 1826-1930, collection, released online last week by Ancestry. 

The Dreadnought was originally a hulk moored in the Thames at Greenwich as a hospital for seamen. It was run by the Seamen's Hospital Society, and  I wanted to look through the register collection because this was where one of my grandmother's sisters, Hester, trained as a nurse and died of cardiac arrest in 1926, just 26 years old, during an operation to remove her appendix.

Sure enough I found Hester in the registers. There were three entries over an 18-month period. The details tallied with information gleaned from a newspaper report of the inquest into her death, so didn't really tell me anything new except that the first time she sought medical help for the lower abdominal pain she was experiencing, she was diagnosed with dyspepsia. This was 18 months prior to her death.

In addition to the medical details, her home address in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow was noted only in that first entry, but all three entries recorded her religion, occupation, age, and the name of her doctor.

Where there was a surprise, however, was the number of Irishmen in the registers. Of the 221,114 entries in the collection, more than 8,400 relate to Irish-born seamen. The level of identifying personal information varies over the 100+ years that the registers cover, but if you have seafaring ancestors, you may be lucky enough to place an ancestor in these records.

The image above provides a sample of the information in the index; the registers themselves fill in the colour: how long the seaman had been at sea either in the navy or the merchant service, rank, height, name of the last ship they served on and the port it sailed from, the nature of their medical complaint, and how and when they were treated.

Update, 15 November: The Ancestry Blog carries useful background into the Seafarers' Hospital and its records, here.