I’ve been browsing the Merchant Navy records on Findmypast and came across a definite ancestor and one or two possibles this afternoon.
Findmypast have released another batch of Merchant Navy data on their website and I believe that they now boast 350,000 records of merchant seaman stretching from 1835 up to 1857. For the first time we are now able to view this important 19th century set thanks to a partnership that they have with the National Archives.
What I noticed, from my searches, was that the details contained in them can vary somewhat. In some you will get a name, an age, a place of birth, physical descriptions of your man, the ship names and the dates of voyages.
In one image that I was looking at I was intrigued to find the description of one John Thorn as being a Distressed Seaman! What on earth did this mean, I wondered? I had images of someone who was standing on the deck and showing certain signs of emotion. Then I thought of ships in distress and wondered if he was a survivor of some disaster.
A quick detour over to the National Archives website (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk) found me a guide that explained abbreviations. It would seem that a Distressed British Seaman is one who is left without a berth, ill or without funds in a foreign port!
The ancestor that I have definitely identified as belonging to my family tree is one John Malser from Portsmouth. His daughter, Ellen married into the Thorne family and so he is my 3x great grandfather. As luck would have it, however, his record is one of the more sparse ones and only furnishes me with his name, his age of 35 and the fact that he sailed in 1845 and part of 1846 the other codes I have yet to understand in spite of looking at further guides on the National Archives website.