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Naval Research

Searching For Your Naval Rating Prior to 1853

Searching for a naval rating is so much harder than searching for a naval officer. There are numerous printed sources that will help you locate your naval officer and so lead you to the records. There is no such luxury afforded to your naval rating, instead you must first find a record that provides the name of a ship in which he  served at a particular time. He may have written a will or was named in a parish register 'the son of John Smith, seaman of HMS LIVERPOOL' for example, or is listed in an index of marriage allegations. Once you have discovered a date when the man served on a particular ship you can turn to the Admiralty Records (ADM) held at the National archives. 

A ship's muster book (ADM 36-39,40) and pay book (ADM 31-35) record the names of all men serving onboard that ship. Upon joining, the man would be allocated a ship's book (SB) number which he would normally retain for the duration of his service onboard. Men were entered into the book in SB number order, making a search relatively simple once the number was known. The records provide the name of the ship and date that a person joined from and the name of the ship and date that the man was discharged to. So it is possible to follow a man as he transfers from ship to ship and so create a record of his naval career as long as the sequence is not broken by a period ashore or employment in the Merchant Navy. Some muster books are classed as description books and they provide a wealth of personal informaton - such as physical description, place of birth and ships on which he has served. Records range from 1667 to 1878. My case study is Richard Howard, a local man born in Fareham, Hampshire. I shall trace his career over a period of twenty years until his tragic death in 1852.

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