Trinity House Records 1787-1854

Trinity House was responsible for the supervision of lighthouses round the English coast and also distributed charitable funds to disabled seamen and their families.

The Trinity House Papers cover the whole of the United Kingdom and are a very rich source of genealogical information. Covering the period 1787 to 1854, most of the papers are Petitions for aid, submitted by the seaman or, often, his widow. The Petitions contain a wealth of family information about the seaman and his dependents. Other papers include Apprenticeship Indentures of seamen, and a collection of Miscellaneous papers, consisting mainly of marriage and baptismal certificates.

The ancient Corporation of Trinity House was responsible for the supervision of lighthouses and buoys around England. Under the terms of its Charter of Incorporation granted in 1514, it was concerned also with the distribution of charitable funds which had been entrusted to it by many benefactors, for the benefit of poor disabled seamen and their widows and orphans.

Great care was always taken by Trinity House to ensure that it’s charitable funds were carefully disbursed. 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’. It is impossible to say when they were first in use but some sort of petition must have existed from the earliest days of the Corporation. Even before the Charter of 1514, it possessed almshouses at Deptford, Kent, for the benefit of distressed mariners and subsequently it acquired further almshouses at Mile End, London.

The records of Trinity House suffered severely by fire in both 1666 and 1714 and what was left was almost totally destroyed by bombing in 1940. The Society of Genealogists have all of the surviving Petitions covering 1787 to 1854.

The great majority of the Trinity House papers are Petitions with relating documents but there are two other separate collections of papers: Apprentice Indentures and Miscellaneous Papers. All three collections are searchable by the individual’s surname and any other surname that appears in the papers.

In nearly every case, the Petitions follow a stereotyped formula as the forms contain a printed set of questions which are to be answered by the applicant. The following example Petition is of Ann Bell in January 1848:

To the Honourable Master, Wardens and Assistants, of the Corporation of Trinity-House of Deptford-Strond. The humble Petition of Ann Bell, aged forty six years, residing at Queen Street, Whitehaven, Widow of John Bell,
That your Petitioner’s Husband went to Sea at the Age of 15 in the Year 1820 and was employed in the Merchant Sea Service for 27 Years, in the following Ships, and others, and in the annexed Stations:

Ship or
Vessel’s Name

Register Tonnage
Station on board
From what Place,
to what Place

of 158 tons
From Whitehaven
to Dublin



up to death

150 tons

That your Petitioner’s Husband on the 16th day of January, 1848, went on board the last named vessel early in the morning to get her into a proper Berth in the Whitehaven Harbour and the Hatches having been left off he fell into [the] Hold and was killed on the place, and she has 5 Children, viz. 2 Boys under 12 Years of Age, and 3 Girls under 14 Years of Age, viz.


born 25th February 1835

born 12 November 1837

born 10 May 1840

born 3 August 1842

Mary Ann
born 2 July 1846

That your Petitioner has no Annual Income from Real or Personal Property. That your Petitioner’s Means of Support are from her Friends, she being in a delicate state of health which not being sufficient to support herself and Family, she most humbly prays that she or her Children may be admitted to the Pension of this Corporation.

Your Petitioner will ever pray, &c.,
Ann Bell X her mark
Dated 25th January 1848.

On the other side of this Petition are certificates, one signed by the owner of the ship in which John Bell last served, another by a Medical Practitioner saying that Ann Bell is "incapable of gaining her livelihood", and the third by "two respectable Persons" (in this case six Whitehaven ship-owners sign) vouching for the truth of the Petition. Then follow five certificates of baptism of the children signed by the Curate of St James, Whitehaven, a certificate of the marriage of John Bell and Ann (formerly Dobson), at the same church, and five birth certificates of the children, on one of which the informant is "John Bell of Whitehaven, Master of the House of Correction, in attendance and grandfather of the infant". The Petition is endorsed "4s.6d." and dated 14th February, 1848. This means that the Petitioner was granted that amount monthly from the date stated.

Naturally, every Petition varies in the amount of information given and the number of documents enclosed in support of the Petitioner’s claims. As the period covered by petitions includes the whole of the Napoleonic Wars, there is a tremendous amount of valuable genealogical information about many seamen who either fought or were taken prisoner during those times.

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Boyd’s Marriage Index

Boyd’s Marriage Index is an index to English marriages taken from copies of parish marriage registers, Bishop’s transcripts and marriage licences, from the period 1538 to 1840 (when statutory registration began). It was principally the work of Percival Boyd, MA, FSA, FSG (1866-1955) and his staff.

All English counties are covered, though none completely, and the periods indexed vary according to the copies of records which were readily available. Registers from over 4,300 parishes have been indexed, a total of over 7 million names. Well over a million of these names relate to the London and Middlesex areas.

Index entries contain the last and first name of the bride and groom, the year, county and parish where the marriage took place, and the source of the record.

The Main Series contains records for the following counties: Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devon, Durham, Essex, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Middlesex (includes Cities of London and Westminster), Norfolk, Northumberland, Shropshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Yorkshire.

The County of London was not formed until 1888. London parishes formerly in Surrey and Kent, south of the River Thames, are included in the two Miscellaneous Series.

The First Miscellaneous Series dates 1538-1775 includes over 1.4 million names that are not included in any of the separate county lists. The records in the First Series include the following counties: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Dorset, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Staffordshire, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire.

The Second Miscellaneous Series dates 1538-1837 and contains marriages from all the English counties, including gaps left by the First Miscellaneous Series.

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Civil Service Evidence of Age records unravel family history scandal

The Civil Service Evidence of Age for established civil servants and civil service examination candidates were collected by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) from 1855 in order to establish accurate birth dates for the purpose of either ensuring that an examination candidate was of the required age, or granting a pension.

By the 1980s, the CSC still held original documents for approximately 60,000 individuals, consisting largely of items that it would be impractical to replace, such as personal testimonials or documents from overseas. This important genealogical collection provides unique and often irreplaceable evidence of birth for which other sources are unlikely to be available.

In general, papers were not kept if the information could easily be obtained again from another source (such as through the Registrar General’s birth index). The collection consists mainly of employees who were born in a place or at a time where no state registration of births existed.

This was particularly the case for Scottish and Irish candidates and also for those born in foreign countries, on board ship (over 80 births) and in the British colonies. There are also many cases of candidates born in England after the start of civil registration whose births had not been registered: non-registration was not uncommon until fines were instituted in the 1870s.

A set of correspondence proving the age of civil servant ‘Patrick Moloney’ born 1857 in the county of Wexford, Ireland was recently unearthed and immediately flagged up as unusual.

The correspondences include a declaration from his mother ‘Johanna Maloney’ along with a forged ‘certified copy’ of the baptism entry, the REAL certified copy of the baptism entry, a certified copy of the entry from the Catholic Chaplin Wexford Workhouse records and letters from his suspicious employers requesting more information from the church and workhouse.

The employers who simply wanted to confirm the date of birth of Patrick Maloney had contacted his mother for a signed declaration and certified copy of his baptism..

The CSC was not convinced by the ‘certified copy’ of the baptism that Johanna had provided so decided to dig a little deeper. After months of corresponding, the CSC finally discovered the real circumstances behind the birth of Patrick Maloney which he himself was unaware.

According to both the workhouse and real baptism record, a ‘Mary’ Murphy gave birth to a illegitimate son Patrick Murphy on the 5th of January 1857. His father is named as Patrick Tully.

Having an illegitimate child at this time would have brought great shame on a girl and her family, this is possibly the reason why Johanna lied about her first name.

Johanna then decides to change her and her son’s surname to that of her mother’s maiden name ‘Maloney’. She then refers to herself as a widow in order to avoid the stigma of having an illegitimate child.

She convinces her priest to provide the CSC with a ‘certified’ copy of the baptism of her son under the name of Patrick ‘Malony’. The priest also lists her as a ‘Malony’ but as Mary rather than Johanna for which she is known by her son and the CSC. This is what arouses suspicion from the CSC.

Corresponding letters from a Mr. Doyle at the CSC are sympathetic towards Patrick Murphy’s mother’s blight and decide that the conflicting information regarding Patrick’s real birth details ‘”makes no difference, as long as the date is correct”. The letters suggest that Patrick Murphy is left unaware of his illegitimacy and his mother’s cover up story.

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Teachers Registrations 1870-1948

The Society of Genealogists has many useful, informative and unique original records, like the Teachers’ Registrations which give details of nearly 100,000 people who taught in England and Wales between 1870 and 1948; more than half of those are women.

Although the registration only started in 1914, people who were already teaching registered. The records cover teachers who started their careers from the 1870s on.

The original registers comprise one main alphabetical series and a second, smaller, series of registrations of deceased registered teachers (often stamped with the date of "notification of death").

The records include the teacher’s name, maiden name if applicable, date of registration, register number, professional or home address, attainments (i.e. certificates, degrees etc), training in teaching and experience details.

The Origins Network has now scanned and indexed these records to making them available online the first time.

1919 example below for Mary Banks from South Shields.

aboutboteachersex1 thumb Teachers Registrations 1870 1948

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