The Navy List

Index to Extracts from Various Navy Lists 1844-1879

See below for some comments regarding the transcription and errors etc.

Where not clear all dates are 19th century apart from a few from the 18th Century.

  • Legend for miscellaneous codes.
  • Executive Officers
  • Staff and Navigating Officers and Masters
  • Engineers
  • Surgeons etc
  • Paymasters and Clerks
  • Chaplains
  • Instructors
  • Gunners|
  • Boatswains|
  • Carpenters
  • Royal Naval Reserve 1870
  • Coastguards
  • Ratings authorised to wear decorations etc
  • Revenue Service - Skippers
  • Civilians - Training Establishments
  • Naval Knight of Windsor
  • Notes: A number of points:

    the information given in these extracts should give readers an idea of the sort of information that can be found in the Navy List - which improves through the 19th the range of people covered increases decade by decade from the 1840s onward.

    The Index is by no means complete as can be seen from the sources used - see below. Officers who served between the dates of the sources will therefore have escaped mention. The indexing process will continue though and further additions will be made in due course, especially for 1843 and 1849

    Royal Marines are included in the Navy List, but for the purposes of this exercise have not been included, except for RN personnel serving with the Marines. The same types of information given for RN officers can be found in the Navy List for RM officers.

    I hope, over the next few months, to expand on some of the information provided eg dates of appointment to vessels and the vessel's name along with any subsidiary information, such as attachment for Survey duties etc. will hopefully be included, as and when time permits - for the present I've just done this for Gunners, Carpenters and Boatswains. In some cases (see below) this might well bring to light errors and changes may therefore be necessary ie it may change what I've already published, but I won't know until I look closely at the data and can compare it with what I have already !

    NB.- The listings are not a transcription of any particular Navy List ie they represent the information from various Navy Lists and from various sections of the Navy List, pulled together in an attempt to provide more coherent information about a single person.

    First let it be said that the Navy List itself is not without errors and omissions, and, without doubt, I will have made my own and possibly have compounded those within the Navy List, although where possible I've double and treble checked much of the information.

    Errors and anomalies within the Navy List include: wrong christian names applied to the wrong surname and in some cases it is not possible to work out who the intended officer was ; other errors include:

    officers in the alphabetical listing are shown as being appointed to certain ships, but are not included under the listing for that vessel, similarly some officers listed as a part of a ship's complement do not have this reflected in the alphabetical listing, and some officers are shown as serving on the wrong vessel - with a few listed under 2 different vessels - much of this appears to be problems with one column, or part, in the tabulation "slippng" up or down, or with pages simply not being updated when changes took place ie much of the information appears in 3 different places within the Navy List and it would appear that in some cases human error has crept in.

    officers' names missing from the Alphabetical Section or simply not in Alphabetical Order.

    printing errors (wrong letters used or inverted eg the letter "u" used for the letter "n", or type face used for too long and unreadable) and poor print quality - numbers 3 and 8, and sometimes 5, in some cases are almost indistinguishable, possibly due to old print, an excess of ink and absorbent paper ; the letters "a" and "o" are similarly affected - where possible I've used alternative sources, such as subsequent Navy Lists etc., but in some instances, perhaps where the officer has left the service, I've had to make a "best guess".

    The 1844 Navy List includes a few Masters in the List of ships who do not appear to be shown in the alphabetical or seniority lists. Whether these are RN Masters or perhaps even Merchant Navy Masters, I don't known !

    The 1870 Navy List appears to be littered with spelling errors, especially surnames and second initials - either the sources used were badly written or in some cases I suspect that names were read out to the person setting-up the print eg in one case "Harrison" is shown as "Hawison," possibly 19th century speech ?

    Although one can use the Navy Lists on a day to day basis without finding errors ; maybe just the odd anomaly, it isn't until one creates a database of this nature that they really come to light. Although most of the records are fine, especially for Lieutenants and above in Military Branch, it is a slightly different story where Midshipmen and Cadets and the Civil Branches are concerned. One can only say that the 19th Century Navy Lists should carry a "research" warning to the effect that they are not a primary source and whilst most of the records are correct, there are errors, and you should attempt to find the officer's "Certificates of Service" or similar to be sure where a person served during his career.

    Researchers should be aware of the following changes that took place during the period covered here:

    The introduction of the Navigating Branch during the middle part of the 1860s with Masters being phased out - the following article printed in The Times, of 8 July, 1865 refers:

    The memorandum submitted to the Admiralty by the Duke of Somerset proposes with regard to officers hereafter entering the service that the separate class of officers employed on navigating duties be gradually abolished.

    With this view all further entries of second-class cadets [ie Second Class Masters] have been stopped, and this will allow the master class by degrees to die out of the service.

    As this effect takes place, executive officers who have passed the examination which will be required (under the direction of the Hydrographer) will be eligible for appointment as "navigating officers" with special rates of pay.

    The superintendence of the warrant-officers' duties with regard to stores and the care of the rigging, now devolving upon the master, will pass to the senior executive officer. The accounts of the expenditure of stores will be examined and checked by the officers appointed for gunnery and navigation duties. The superintendence of holds will be performed by officers selected by the officer in command under the general direction of the senior executive officer.

    During the mid-1870s the Navigating Branch appears to have then been abandoned, and left to die out, along with Masters, as the Specialization of Navigation, along with Gunnery and Torpedoes, was introduced to the Executive Branch.

    Master's assistants and second-class cadets to have the option of qualifying and passing for the rank of lieutenant, when they would be placed on the sub lieutenants' list - [effective from 1867].

    Hence I have combined the listing for Masters and Navigating Officers.

    The Engineering Branch appears to have gone through a number of changes, with ranks being introduced and then abandoned eg Engineers for Special Charge, 1st and 2nd Class Assistant Engineers and acting ranks for both, for which you will have to find your own sources for the change.

    Similarly the Warrant Officers : Carpenters, Gunners and Boatswains branches also go through a period when the ranks of Carpenters, Gunners and Boatswains, etc are abandoned in favour of 1st and 2nd Class ranks, with the situation being reversed some time later, so former gunners can become 1st and 2nd class and similarly former 1st and 2nd class gunners can then become Gunners, which can get a little confusing !

    Meanwhile, in the Medical Branch, the rank of Surgeon was changed to Staff Surgeon in 1855 and Assistant Surgeons became Surgeons ; and the rank of Staff Surgeon 1st Class was introduced briefly circa 1873 for former Staff Surgeons and shortly after, in 1875, replaced by Fleet Surgeons - confused yet !

    And not to be out-done the ranks within the Paymaster Branch were also changed, with the introduction of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class Paymasters, to replace the rank of Paymaster circa 1855, but, at some stage appear to revert back, according to the Navy List, to Paymaster ; the introduction of two grades of Paymaster-in-Chief, one for retired Paymasters (which appears to be what we have for 1879) and another for those on the Active List. The rank of Assistant Paymaster was introduced for the Clerk passed for paymaster (formerly Qualified Clerk) in about 1855

    Regret I don't have the sources for the dates of most of the changes, but at least if you find anomamlies you may be able to work out what has taken place. Further changes were also in the pipe-line for many of the branches eg for Paymasters, despite what I said above I understand that the former 2nd Class Paymasters became Staff Paymasters and 1st Class became Fleet Paymasters. A Paymaster was roughly equivalent, but junior to a Lieutenant, but see comparison of ranks under Navy List for 1879.

    I understand that Prof. N.A.M. Rodger provides charts, which attempt demonstrate graphically some of the changes, in his book "Naval Records for Genealogists," ISBN 1 873 162 588, which should clarify some of what I've attempted to give a flavour of above !

    For the present I've only included details of Foreign Orders for those officers serving in 1879 - earlier years "may" be included at a later date - time and inclination permitting !!

    Major sources include: The Navy Lists for:

    Late 1843 - 1844 ;
    Late 1848 - 1949 ;
    June, 1870 ;
    June 1879 ;

    Whilst the Navy List is the list of officers serving in the RN at any one time, it also includes, during the 19th Century, the names of retired officers, some civilians working with the RN, such as schoolmasters at RNC Britannia and RNH Greenwich, the names of Ratings permitted to wear Medals (including the VC and Albert Medal) and Foreign Orders, Coastguard officers, and personnel in command of Revenue Service Vessels....some of which I've included and Civil Servants working at the Admiralty, which I've not included, for the present at least.

    Final note: This database, containing more than 18,000 names, was set up for my own personal use and in its present form remains in my copyright, although I should be happy for other readers to use and publish extracts for their own personal use, but please note that its always nice if the source is acknowledged ;-)

    Other sources include newspapers etc.

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