Some Admiralty Records.

Some Admiralty Records.

Taking a look at some admiralty records. As a break from walking.

Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books circa 1750- 1940

These volumes summarise alphabetically in book form the information given in attestation forms. The dates noted in the list against each volume give an approximate indication of the enlistment years covered. These description books generally consist of several different though related types of register. They give age at the time of enlistment, parish of birth, and a simple description of height and complexion. Recruit books record similar information and give the signature of the medical officer passing a recruit as fit for service. Discharge books add particulars of discharge. None of the description books lists the ships or battalions in which a man served.[1]

I thought I would search out some Swansea people and where with a cursory look I can add some more biography to one of interest because of his place of birth.

Royal Marines parade in the streets of Chania in Crete following the occupation of the island by the Great Powers (Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia) in spring 1897. History of the Royal Marines – Wikipedia

Here are a few record transcriptions by me:

On 18th August 1855, John Lewis of the parish of Swansea in the town of Swansea enlisted aged 21, he was 5ft 6 ¼ inches tall, he was enlisted by Captain Goode at Kidderminster, John was a Puddler, very likely at an Iron works, which is interesting given Swansea’s importance as a centre of copper smelting. John was described as having brown eyes and a dark complexion, his hair colour was not noted, he was Presbyterian, discharged 13th August 1867, invalided in Infantry.[2]

25th November 1876, William James enlisted, he was from Swansea, Brown hair, grey eyes, fair complexion, he had been enlisted by Captain Carlyon at Gloucester, William was a Blacksmith aged 19 years 10 months, 5ft 6 ¾ inches tall, he joined Artillery on 14th June 1877, he was set off the rolls on 22nd April 1881, discharged objectionable (! ).[3]

16th March 1818, John Hoskens aged 18, 5ft 7in., from Swansea, enlisted in the navy, dark brown hair, hazel eyes, fair complexion, attested by Major Jones at Bradford, John was a Blacksmith, he drowned whilst bathing (swimming) he was set off the rolls on 20th August 1822.[4]

4th June 1859, William Chappell, aged 19, 5ft 7in, born Tredagow (I wonder if this is Tirdeunaw), Swansea, brown hair, hazel eyes, fresh complexion, attested by Sergeant James Heal at Barnstable, he was assigned to Lt. David at Barnstable, William was a labourer, a protestant, set off the rolls on 4th June 1860, discharged with a Hernia.[5]

24th March 1806, Benjamin Browning, aged 16, 5ft 2in tall, born Swansea, brown hair grey eyes, dark complexion, enlisted by Lieutenant hand at Shepton Mallet, he was a labourer, set off the rolls 2nd august 1814, deceased.[6]

27th September 1823, William Hague, aged 18, 5ft. 6in. born Swansea, (no hair colour listed) hazel eyes, dark complexion, enlisted by Major ones at Bath, a Shearman [A Shearman had to combine a steady hand with strength and concentration. First the large cloths would be laid over a table with a curved top. Then the shearman would use huge shears to cut the nap. These shears looked like over-sized scissors and had razor-sharp edges. Shears could weigh up to 14kg (31 pounds) – about the same as a two year old child. Shearing a single cloth could take several hours to complete. Each cloth was sheared, then had its nap raised again before being sheared once more. The process only ended when an even finish was obtained. The shearman’s trade was highly skilled and much valued. In 1677 a good shearman could earn as much as six shillings a week – a very good wage for the time.][7] Notes indicate he served on HMS Dartmouth at Naverino. He was set off the rolls on 20th October 1822, killed in action.[8]

14th September 1835, Charles Luce, born Swansea, hair brown, eyes hazel, complexion sallow, enlisted by Lt. Strangways at Bath, Charles was a labourer, set off the rolls 15 November 1842 Invalided.[9]

5th April 1859, Thomas Goddard, aged 20, 5ft 6 ¾ in., born Swansea, hair light brown, eyes grey, complexion fair, enlisted by Head Quarters, at Gosport, Protestant religion a labourer.[10] Another record with the previous detail plus: Transferred from Royal Wilts Militia, re-engaged to Navy 6th April 1880, set off the rolls Length of service.[11]

1st June 1801, John Jenkins, aged 18, 5ft 4in. born Swansea, hair red, eyes brown, complexion ruddy, enlisted by Lt. Col. Williams, John was a Collier, set off rolls 14th July 1815 invalided.[12]

Two Royal Marines (left) and two U.S. Marines (right) in Alexandria during the occupation. W.Q. after E. Kremer –

So lastly for now, transferred from Deal Depot to 48 company, enlisted 25th attested 27th September 1876 was Joseph Austin aged 20, 5ft 8 ¾ in., born Blackpill, Swansea, eyes brown, complexion freckled. He was enlisted by a Sergeant Hoare, at Swansea. Joseph was a labourer, stationed at Bristol under Brigade Major Hunt. Joseph was of the Church of England, he was transferred to Plymouth Depot on 26 April 1877. No discharge date given.[13]

Given there was slightly more detail here and living in Blackpill, I’ve looked a bit further. Searching on his name and a likely birth year of 1856, bearing in mind he was born Blackpill, the 1911 census gives: Joseph Austin aged 53, Head of household, Married, born Swansea, Glamorgan, a Navy Pensioner, Cellar Man at a brewer, a Labourer, speaks English, the navy pensioner is the stand out detail with some of his children born in Plymouth. He was married to Maud Austin aged 49, they had been married for 22 years, had had 5 children 4 still living, she had been born St Martin’s, Cornwall. Their sons Richard Austin aged 20, Single, born Plymouth, Devon a Coach Smith, Sidney Austin aged 14, born Plymouth, Devon, Bootshop Errand Boy, and daughter Edith Austin aged 12, born Swansea, Glamorgan at School. They lived at 152, Oxford St Swansea. [14]

His daughter was born in Swansea about 1899, so here Joseph is in 1901. Joseph Austin Head Married aged 43, a General labourer born Oystermouth, Glamorganshire, Wales. Blackpill was in Oystermouth parish. Maud M. Austin Wife aged 41, born Cornwall, England. Thomas R. Austin, Son, 10, born Devon, England. Frederick P. Austin, Son aged 6, born Devon, England. Sidney G. Austin, Son aged 4, born Devon, England and Edith M. Austin Daughter aged 2, born Swansea, Glamorganshire, Wales. They were living at 118, Lower Oxford Street, Swansea.[15]

All consistent so far. Edith is recorded as being born Swansea about 1899, so it is worth looking in the Birth Marriage Death index for her, that could give her mother’s maiden name.

Edith Margaret Austin is there, born Swansea District, about April 1899, her mother’s maiden name was Harlop as transcribed (beware transcription).[16]

That’s enough for a wedding, 1911 says there were married 22 years, that is about 1889, given the eldest child’s birthplace of Plymouth that is the place to start. As the pieces fall into place the correct record is obvious.

At St. Matthew’s Church, Stonehouse, Plymouth, on 11th November 1888, Joseph Austin a bachelor aged 32 a private in the Royal Marines married Maud Mary Hartop (compare the GRO index, beware of transcription) a spinster aged 29, both living in Stonehouse. Respective fathers were Thomas Austin and Roger Hartop both deceased, both labourers. Witnesses to the wedding Stephen Stratton and Sarah Berry.[17]

Concentrating on Joseph, now with his father’s name, 1861 seems a good year to find him in Swansea environs: Thomas Austin 44, Head, born Park Mill, Glamorganshire, Labourer. Elizabeth Austin 43, Wife born Burry, Glamorganshire Labourer’s Wife. William Austin 17, Son, born Reynoldston, Glamorganshire Labourer. Charles Austin 15, Son, born Penmaen, Glamorganshire, Labourer. Elizabeth Austin 12, Daughter, born Oystermouth, Glamorganshire, Scholar. David Austin 10 Son, born Oystermouth, Glamorganshire, Scholar. Philip Austin 8, Son, born Oystermouth, Glamorganshire, Scholar. Richard Austin   6, Son, born Oystermouth, Glamorganshire, Scholar. Joseph Austin 4, Son, born Oystermouth, Glamorganshire, Scholar. Mary Austin 11 months, Daughter, born Oystermouth, Glamorganshire and Mary Austin 20, Visitor, born Gower, a Labourer’s Wife. The address was Blackpill.[18]

Back to the GRO index, there were a couple of Joseph Austin’s in Swansea but with several siblings to cross reference this is him:

Joseph Austin’s birth was registered about January 1858, in Swansea (this also means he could have been born in late 1857 the birth was registered in the 1st quarter of the year), mother’s maiden name was Clement.[19]

So now we know Thomas Austin married Elizabeth Clement probably in the 1840’s in Gower. The next record shows the pitfalls of relying on transcription of records by all the commercial sites, and reinforces how important it is to look closely at a record.

The transcript states:  Name: Thomas Austin, Bachelor, Marriage Age: Full Age. Marriage Date: 24 Oct 1837. Marriage Place: Llanddewi, Glamorganshire, Wales. Residence Place: Henllys. Occupation: Labourer. Father: Thomas Austin. Spouse: Elizabeth Clement. First Witness: John Clement.

My transcription from the image online: married 24 October 1839 at Parish Church of Llandewi, Glamorgan, (Llandewi is in Gower, the church is St. David). Groom Thomas Austin bachelor of full age (over 21) of Old Henllys (this is in Llandewi) a labourer. Father: Thomas Austin a labourer. Bride Elizabeth Clement spinster age not recorded of Burry, (compare census above). Father: John Clement a Victualler. A John Clement witnessed. None of the parties signed (was able to sign).[20] A few differences, and it might not be obvious the record was for Gower.

Now, back to Joseph, a fairly wide search in the 1881 census gives the ship he was on at that time. Seamen on board all ships in port or docked in rivers were recorded and returns submitted to the Officer of Customs. From 1871 – 1891 returns were filed, following the ordinary census records for the port at which the ship was docked on census night, or to which it returned following its voyage. In the list of Seaman on board HMS Emerald on the night of Sunday 3rd April 1881 was Joseph Austin, Private aged 24, single, born Swansea, Glamorgan, the Captain of the ship was William H. Maxwell a married man aged 40 born Malta, a British subject.[21]

The best fit death record discovered is for 1936, Joseph Austin registered death Swansea aged 79.[22] However the certificate would be needed to check this.

Thus a few hours looking online in the various sources takes us from Joseph Austin in the Admiralty records at the National Archive to a reasonable biography.

Born Blackpill, into poverty, one of the youngest children of a manual labourer, at least one child born to his mother when she was in her 40’s having had 8 or more children up to then. Joseph was a manual labourer in his teens, he then joined the armed forces at Swansea at 20, he served in Deal, Bristol and eventually Plymouth and on board the HMS Emerald as a Marine Private. HMS Emerald was an Emerald-class corvette, of the Royal Navy, built at the Pembroke Dockyard and launched on 18 August 1876. She commenced service on the Australia Station in September 1878. She escorted Sir Hercules Robinson, the Governor of New Zealand from Sydney to Auckland in May 1879. Emerald was sent on a punitive mission in the Solomon Islands in 1879 after the captain and three crew of HMS Sandfly were killed by indigenous people. Emerald, under Captain Maxwell, visited the Ellice Islands in 1881. She left the Australia Station in October 1881 and returned to England. Emerald was refitted and rearmed in 1882 in England and placed into reserve. She commissioned for the North America and West Indies Station in 1886, before returning to England in 1892 and again being placed into reserve.[23] So Joseph had served in most if not all the places listed here. He married At Plymouth in 1888 aged 32 to Maud Mary Hartop 29, from Cornwall she had moved to Plymouth at some stage, (that can be followed up) they had children in Plymouth, he had left the Marines some time after 1888. The family moved back to Swansea where his daughter was born, he worked as a labourer in a Brewery and lived near the town centre in Oxford St., he probably died in 1936 just before his 80th birthday in Swansea, having seen more of life than these few paragraphs can do justice to.

Emerald Class Corvette. Joseph Austin would have served on a such a ship. Unknown author – Ballard, G. A. (1937). “British Corvettes of 1875: The Six Composite Corvettes”. Mariner’s Mirror 23 (April): 176–89. Cambridge, UK: Society for Nautical Research.

So get in touch if you would like some research into your ancestors.

[1] The National Archives. ADM. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[2] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. LEWIS, John. ADM 158/55/11 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[3] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. JAMES, William. ADM 158/87/4 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[4] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. HOSKENS, John. ADM 158/132/19 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[5] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. CHAPPELL, William. ADM 158/216/16 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[6] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. BROWNING, Benjamin. ADM 158/36/9 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[7]Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers & Shearmen. Shearmen

[8] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. HAGUE, William. ADM 158/132/4 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[9] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. LUCE, Charles. ADM 158/55/5 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[10] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. GODDARD, Thomas. ADM-158/130/19 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[11] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. GODDARD, Thomas. ADM-158/130/20 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[12] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. JENKINS, John. ADM 158/50/4 : accessed 02 October 2021.

[13] The National Archives. ADM 158 – Admiralty: Royal Marines: Description Books. AUSTIN, Joseph. ADM 158/210/16. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[14] Census records. Wales. Swansea, Glamorganshire. 02 April 1911. AUSTIN, James (head). RG14 PN:32759 RD:594 SD:3 ED:2 SN:67 Page:133. Collection: Census Transcript Search, 1841-1911. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[15] Census records. Wales. Swansea, Glamorganshire. 31 March 1901. AUSTIN, Joseph (head). RG13. Piece number 5074. Folio 46. Page 29. Schedule 207. Collection: 1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census. ; accessed 02 October 2021.

[16] Births index (CR) Wales. RD Swansea [Glamorgan]. 2nd. Q., 1899. AUSTIN, Edith Margaret. Volume 11A. Page 973. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[17] Marriages (PR) England. St. Matthew, Stonehouse, Devon. 11 November 1888. AUSTIN, Joseph and HARTOP, Maud. P 150. Entry 300. Collection: Devon Marriages And Banns. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[18] Census records. Wales. Blackpill, Swansea, Glamorganshire. 07 April 1861.  AUSTIN, Thomas (head). RG9 PN:4108 Page:16. Collection: Census Transcript Search, 1841-1911. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[19] Births index (CR) Wales. RD Swansea [Glamorgan]. AUSTIN, Joseph. Volume 11A. Page 522. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[20] Marriages (PR) Wales. St. David, Llandewi, Gower, Swansea. 24 October 1839. Austin, Thomas and CLEMENT, Elizabeth. P. 2. Entry 3. Collection: Glamorganshire, Wales, Anglican Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1570-1994. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[21] Census records. Wales HMS Emerald. 03 April 1881. Austin, Joseph. Piece: 5638. Folio: 63. Page Number: 10. Collection: 1881 England Census. ; accessed 0 October 2021.

[22] Deaths index (CR) Wales. RD Swansea [Glamorgan]. AUSTIN, Joseph. Volume 11A. Page 1192. Collection: England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007. : accessed 02 October 2021.

[23] Wikipedia. HMS Emerald. : accessed 02 October 2021.

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