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  1. #1
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    Default John Monk, searching naval records 1803-5

    Hello, this is my first post, and one of many I hope.

    I am researching a relative called John Monk, born in Neston/Parkgate in 1790 (d. 1880). I have done a lot of work based on family documents and National Archive records but I am stuck on several areas, one in particular. I would be grateful for any advice on how to go about it...

    John was in the Royal Navy from 1806 to 1816, rising to Lieutenant (eventually Commander, Retired later in life). He then captained merchant vessels between Liverpool, Dublin and the Mediterranean (mostly Leghorn) between 1824 and 1837, when he seems to have retired.

    Personal and official records show he joined the Royal Navy in 1806 (aged about 15) as Able Seaman (AB) in 1806 for 3 months on HMS Dictator. He was promoted to Midshipman later that year. ABs were supposed to be experienced, and midshipmen were meant to have several years at sea already. This all suggests to me that he had previous experience at sea but I have no record of it. I want to find out whether he was at sea before 1806, possibly on a merchant ship.

    One source said he went to sea in 1803 aged 10, but that was from an unreliable speech at a memorial service.

    I am London-based with access to the National Archives at Kew but with this one I just don't know where to start. I would welcome all thoughts on how to go about this!

    Best wishes, Simsam

  2. #2
    Loves to help with queries barbara lee's Avatar
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    I have a feeling that to be a midshipman, a lad had to be (a) from the middle classes and (b) have a relative or friend who would get them the position. There are stories that such naval connections could put a lad's name on a ship's books, even if he wasn't actually aboard the ship. That would have advantages for him in "length of service" later. Have you identified the relative or friend who got him into the navy? An officer of the first ship you know about? Would it be worth looking at the previous voyages for that officer, to see if your lad appeared on the crew list?
    B

  3. #3
    Brick wall demolition expert!
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    As your in London have you thought about visiting the National Maritime museum at Greenwich and in particular the Caird library to see if they have anything which might help?

    https://www.rmg.co.uk/research-colle...esearch-guides

  4. #4
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    Hi Barbara and Megan, thanks for your replies.

    Barbara – you are right about the path to midshipman in some cases as I understand it. Generally though, they were required to have three years’ experience at sea. And the path from complete novice “landsman” to “able seaman” required them to have experience also. Joining as an AB in 1806 and then promotion to Midshipman just 3-6 months later seems odd to me. Was that common?

    I like your suggestion of looking back at ships captained by his first known captain, who was James Macnamara. He was fairly loyal to him and sailed with him on a couple of ships. Macnamara had captained the ship for several years by that point, so I’ll look at earlier crew logs and see if I can find him. I also want to go through letters from Captain Macnamara to the Admiralty from this time (at the National Archives). There may be a record of promotions etc.

    In letters and official documents though, Monk talks consistently about joining the Royal Navy in 1806, so my guess is that any previous experience came elsewhere. Monk’s family were middle class but not upper middle. They were a strong seafaring family though and it would have been easy enough for his father or another relative to get him onto a merchant ship.

    I don’t know how to investigate merchant ship crews at this time. In the National Archives the crew logs (I’ve forgotten the proper name) are organised by vessel, not by name. My guess is that he probably worked on a ship sailing from Parkgate to Dublin. His grandfather John Matthews had captained the Dublin-Parkgate packet for years (retired before John’s birth), John’s father was the customs officer at Parkgate, and John had a lifelong affection for Dublin.

    Megan, I’ve been to the Caird Library a couple of times, and not found that they have much by way of the detailed crew logs. Most of those are either in Kew at the National Archives or the ones I need may perhaps be in Liverpool or Dublin.

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