How to look for records of... Wills of Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel 1786-1882
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
What are these records?
These records are the original wills of warrant officers and ratings as well as Royal Marines other ranks. You can search and download the wills in series ADM 48 of around 20,000 men who joined the Royal Navy between 1786 and 1882.
Accident, disease and war were risks for seamen and many of them made wills to provide for their families in the event of death. As far back as 1698 the Admiralty had to deal with people impersonating deceased seamen or their executors, creditors or next of kin.
These forms were accepted as valid by the Admiralty and they were deposited in the Navy Office, with orders to issue cheques to the executors.
What information do the records contain?
As a rule each man’s will begins with the printed words ‘In the Name of God, Amen’.
The wills usually provide the following information:
- the man’s name
- the date the will was made
- the man’s rank
- the last ship he served on
- details of his effects
- the name (and sometimes the address) of the person who was to receive the effects in the event of his death (usually his next of kin)
As well as being signed and dated by the testator, wills were usually signed by the master and captain of the ship that the seaman or warrant officer was serving on when the will was made.
These wills also hold details such as the name, address and occupation of the executor.
How do I search the records?
You can search the records in our catalogue (£), by using the search box below.
This is a keyword search so your results will show all instances of the term(s) you searched for within our catalogue descriptions for these records.
- Use AND to find more than one term in a description
- Use “double quotation marks” to find exact phrases
What do the records look like?
The wills are usually a printed form with details filled in by hand, although some have been written out in full. There might also be correspondence, such as the ‘Application of the Executor/Executrix’ and notes.
Why can’t I find what I’m looking for?
Some of the information you are looking for may be recorded in other places. For example: