gratuities, to have ‘run’ (deserted) removed from their service record (when in fact they may have just missed joining their ship), and applications for the admission of children into Greenwich Hospital School. Many of the applications for admission to the school relate to orphaned children, so the series contains details of service for officers and ratings who would have been deceased at the time their record was applied for.
Furthermore, because these are applications for copies of a service record received after 1802 by the Navy Pay Office, the record itself may detail service long before the start of this series in 1802. There are also several entries for some men as they would have made applications for different things at various times during their service. If a single application was made by a man during his service and he went on to serve from then, the certificate will only list part of his service up to the point of application.
The applications are particularly useful for ratings for the period up to 1853, as on 14 June 1853 the Admiralty introduced continuous service engagements, which ended the casual employment of ratings on a voyage-by-voyage basis and instead introduced a seven-year contract for those who were already serving and 10 years for those who joined after that date. This necessitated the keeping of records for ratings and the series for ‘continuous service’ (CS) was created in ADM 139.
After 1853, many of the records in ADM 29 merely state ‘see CS record’ and these can be viewed in record series ADM 139 and later ADM 188 for ratings via www.nationalarchives.gov. uk/records/royal-navalseamen.htm.
The next eight ledgers in the series are indexes to the previous 96 and have not been digitised as these records are now all namesearchable on Ancestry.
In short, if you do not find your ancestor in this series it is probably because neither he, his widow nor any orphaned child ever applied for a copy of his service record in support of any application.
The second part of the
series contains a total of 27 files that are completely unrelated to the first part of this series and do contain service records of Warrant Officers, assistant engineers, signal boatswains, boatswains, engineers, carpenters and engineer boys.
These are not complete and some ledgers cover only a short amount of time – ie the Engineer Officers ledger covers 1871-1873. Therefore, if you do not find a service record in a series such as ADM 196 where you would expect it to be, it may well be among the miscellaneous registers in ADM 29.
If you have not been able to find your ancestor at all in ADM 29, there are further record series that contain certificates of service. Most of these will be original documents held by TNA. ADM 6/121 contains certificates for boatswains, midshipmen, master’s mates, clerks, and schoolmasters for 1803-1804, ADM 6/182 contains certificates for master’s mates and midshipmen for 1814.
ADM 11/88 contains certificates for masters, mates, sub-lieutenants and pursers from 1847 to 1854. ADM 107/71-75 all have certificates for mates and sub-lieutenants from 1802 to 1848.
In conclusion, although the ADM 29 are not strictly records of service and do not cover everyone who served, they are an invaluable resource that predate service records for ratings and therefore an absolute must to enable further research into your ancestors’ naval career. Janet Dempsey is a Records Specialist at The National Archives concentrating on maritime and transport records
Sailors let their hair down in The Ship Tavern, Greenwich
Sailors accompany the arrival of Queen Victoria in Treport, France, 1844