Was your ancestor a British mariner who fell on hard times? Search petitions for aid and other documents covering the period 1787 to 1854, submitted by seamen or their widows to Trinity House, which, as well as administering charitable funds for disabled sailors and their families, was responsible for the supervision of lighthouses and buoys around the British coast. The Petitions contain a wealth of family information about the seamen and his dependents. Other papers include Apprenticeship Indentures of seamen, and a collection of Miscellaneous Papers, consisting mainly of marriage and baptismal certificates. The papers cover families from all over the United Kingdom.
Each record contains an image and a transcription. The records are split into three main areas, which each give rather different information. However, they usually include the following:
Name of petitioner
Relationship to seaman, if not the seaman himself
Age of petitioner
Location of petitioner
Year of petition
Circumstances of petitioner
There are three main types of document included in these records – all in the form of calendars.
Calendar of Petitions
About 8,000 petitions are calendared, by petitioner. This is usually the wife or widow, but is often the seaman himself. The year of the petition, the petitioner's age, in most cases the spouse's name, and the place they are living is shown.
Calendar of Apprentice Indentures
186 Apprenticeship Indentures of seamen from the periods 1780 and 1818-1845 are calendared. Most of the indentures have endorsements as to their enrolment and the completion of the terms. Many are also endorsed with notes of money advanced and paid.
Calendar of Miscellaneous Papers
The 'Miscellaneous Almshouse and Pension Papers', which consist mainly of baptismal and marriage certificates, seem to have been removed from files relating to pension and almshouse applications made to Trinity House between about 1790 and 1890. The great majority relate to applications made in the period 1830-1880. In some cases the petitions and supporting documents have survived and are attached; in others it is clear that only a fraction of the formerly existing records has been retained. It is not known why this particular selection of the records has survived.
The dates of extraction of the certificates have been included as giving clues to the dates of the pension applications. About 400 sets of papers are calendared.
Trinity House was responsible for the supervision of lighthouses and buoys around the English coast, and also distributed charitable funds to disabled seamen and their families.
Before the passing of the Mercantile Marine Act of 1854, the Corporation had at its disposal for charitable purposes not only the revenue from their trust properties, but also the annual surplus from light dues. When necessary, the Corporation did not hesitate to augment its charities by large donations from its private or corporate income. The Corporation was thus able to relieve an enormous number of distressed mariners. In consequence of the abolition in 1854 of its right to administer the surplus money received from light dues, its charities were greatly curtailed. Great care was always taken by Trinity House to see that its charitable funds were carefully disbursed and every mariner or his dependent applying for help was required to give full particulars of his or her circumstances. These forms of application were known as 'Petitions'.
How to order copies of the original documents
You can order copies of the original documents from the Society of Genealogists for £15, including postage.
Upon receipt of your payment, the Society of Genealogists will locate, copy and send you a copy of the record you are interested in within 14 days.
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