Royal Navy : Deaths on board 1893-1950 - Online and free
Was your ancestor in the Royal Navy any time between the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century? If yes, was he killed in action or die unexpectedly while serving on one of Her Majesty's ships? The UK National Archives has digitized the Royal Navy's indexes to registers of reports of deaths on ships from 1893-1950 as well as the registers themselves.
HMS Belfast, a 1930s war ship, now a museum on the Thames River in London.
The indexes are in their ADM 104/102–108 collection. The registers themselves are in two collections:
What will I find in these digital collections?
Given the date range of these records, they cover the Boer War, the First World War and World War 2. However, these are not just war records. They also cover deaths on British naval ships during peace time.
The registers include:
the ship on which they served at the time of their death;
date and place of death;
cause of death.
And of course once you have the name of your ancestor's ship, it opens a whole new line of research into other records for them. For me, this is one of the most important benefits of this record collection. It is often difficult to find on what ship or ships they served.
How do I find the records?
There are a couple of steps to work through. First you need to find your ancestor in the Index then you can find his record in the Register.
I've provided an illustrated example below.
Step 1 - locate your ancestor in the Index
Click here to go to straight to the correct landing page for the ADM 104/102-108 indexes at the UK National Archives.
There will be eight indexes to choose from. To the right of each option you will see a time period.
Click on Details for the relevant time period. (I chose 1893-1909 to illustrate.)
The following screen will appear. Click on Preview an image of this record.
The index document will open on the screen. Scroll through the images until you find the person you are looking for.
Tip: Navigating the preview screen: Use the arrows to move one image at a time or jump ahead by typing an image number into the small box at the bottom of the screen.
The following image shows all the names starting with A for the years 1893 and 1895. I chose Ah Sing who the index tells me was an AB (i.e. Able Seaman) who died in 1893. Note the ship name and page reference number. You will need this information in the next step. In this case, Ah Chow's details were on the Victor Emmanuel, page 592.
Step 2 - download the relevant Register
To download the relevant register, Click the back button at the top of your web browser and scroll down to the Registers of Reports of Deaths : Ships. (Alternatively click here to go direct to the correct landing page.)
The following screen will appear. Find the relevant time period. In this case for Able Seaman Ah Sing it was 1893-1909.
For the Registers of Reports of Deaths: Ships 1893-1909, Click on Details.
Click on Preview an image of this record.
Go to page number you noted in the Index. The ship's name will be at the top of the page. Look under the relevant year where you will find your ancestor.
Following is an image of Page 592 in the 1893-1909 Register showing deaths on the Victor Emanuel. As expected, Ah Chow's death details are recorded in 1893.
I can see from the register that Ah Sing:
was an Able Seaman;
was posted to HMS Victor Emanuel;
was 40 when he died in Hong Kong on 30 July 1893;
died from "Multiple injuries; drowned when hauling boats, by falling from main chains, striking his head against accommodation ladder".
To view online or download the records?
You can actually download the entire Index and relevant Register if you choose to. There is currently no charge to do so. However, they are very large files and I found it quicker and easier to just preview an image of the records.
If you do prefer to download the Indexes and Registers, you will need to sign in to your account with the UK National Archives, add each record to your basket, then check out to download each of the records.
With the images accompanying the step by step instructions, it looks a little complicated. But trust me, it is easy and took all of about five minutes (if that) to find the details of Ah Sing's death. It's also worth remembering that the Royal Navy had sailors from many different nationalities.
How did you go?
Let me know in the Comments box at the bottom of this screen if you have any success with these very worthwhile records. I love to hear from my readers. If you have any questions about researching your Royal Navy ancestors, I'm here to help.
For more Royal Navy records, check out Findmypast.com.au which has 30 data sets relating to this arm of the British military alone.
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Until next time, happy ancestor hunting.
Your Family Genealogist