Discover whether your ancestor was a former seaman who had fallen on hard times by searching for them in these records of charitable petitions made from all areas of the United Kingdom. Learn more about their personal details and the circumstances that they and / or their families faced, as well as information about their time at sea.
These records detail petitions made by seamen, or their families, who had fallen on hard times to Trinity House, who were responsible for the supervision of lighthouses and buoys around the English coast, but who also distributed charitable funds to those of the seafaring community in greatest need.
You can order copies of the original documents from the Society of Genealogists for £10 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. See Useful Links & Resources.
The records are split into three main areas, which each differ in the information that they provide. They are as follows:
Petitions calendared This is usually the wife or widow, but is often the seaman himself, and the records usually contain the following:
Calendar of apprentice indentures Where apprenticeships and indentures are recorded the details usually include the following:
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.
The number of records available to search, including a breakdown of the three main types, are detailed below and cover the years 1787-1854:
Petitions calendared – 8,000 records
Calendar of Apprentice Indentures – 186 records
Calendar of Miscellaneous Papers – 400 records
About Trinity House 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'.
The text published here concerning the Trinity House Paper and Calendars is an edited version of the introduction prepared by Anthony J. Camp for the printed version of the booklet on Trinity House Petitions published by the Society of Genealogists in 1987. The Calendar of Petitions was made by Mr A.D. D'Ews in 1987, subsequently corrected by Mrs I. Charlton, and retyped for publication by Mr Charles V. Porter. Anthony Camp generated the calendars of Apprentice Indentures and of the Miscellaneous Papers, and also compiled the composite index of surnames for the Society of Genealogists.