Friday, 16 May 2014

Merchant Navy Ancestors

As I blogged a few days ago, FindMyPast (FMP) had an offer of a month subscription for £1 so I had to take advantage of such a great offer, but what have I found with my subscription?

The main target of my FMP research was the Merchant Navy collection which has been on their site for a little while now. When it was first put on I was really interested in researching the collection as I was aware that my Redwood ancestors were in the Merchant Navy. What was the Merchant Navy?

The merchant navy was a register of all the ships and seamen employed in shipping goods. In times of conflict the merchant navy would be called upon to assist as necessary, the most famous event in which this occurred was in the evacuation of Dunkirk in May & June 1940.

My ancestors who were merchant seamen were the Redwood's, who lived on the Kent coast in Herne. My 3x great grandmother, Jane Redwood moved to London and married John Davidson (see The Davidson Family for more information about their story). The Merchant Seamen whom I have discovered records for are Jane's 5 brothers: Stephen, William, George, Alfred & Jesse.

Some of the records are a bit sparse of information but a few of them give descriptions of her brother's appearances...

George Redwood

Stephen Redwood

William Redwood

...I find descriptions help you imagine what your ancestors may have looked like, fair and auburn with blue/grey eyes. I am blonde with blue eyes so I wonder if it was this side of the family I got these genes from? They were also all quite short, but perhaps that is a generational thing, I wonder what the average height of a man in 1850 was?

What records or collections have you discovered recently?


  1. I don't think the height of your men can be generalised from this data. Check the ages when these descriptions were taken, one is only 16, boys have a growing spurt in their later teens, and one is 5'7", not a bad height for the 19th century.

    1. Hi, Thanks for the comment, I had not noted the age of the lad who was only 4ft10.