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Navy Pension Records

The Royal Navy was slow to introduce pension entitlements to the men in its service.

Automatic pensions for ratings were not introduced until 1853, when they became entitled to a pension after twenty years' service. Unfortunately few records of these pensions survive. Before 1853 there was a range of pensions and other forms of relief available both to the seamen themselves and to their families, but only a few of the most needy received them. Some pensions were specifically for those who were wounded or achieved honour in battle, or medals. The records of these pensions are as numerous and varied as the pensions were themselves, but they remain the best source available for tracing the families of men in the Royal Navy. If you do find your ancestors you should gain some solid information about them since proof of births, marriages and deaths in the form of certificates was generally required as part of an application for assistance. You will also find out a great deal about the precarious existence of a naval family.

Pension provision for officers was sometimes separate and sometimes in common with provision for ordinary seamen, depending on the level of need. Pensions were available for fixed numbers of the most senior officers - from 1672 for warrant officers. 1737 for lieutenants, and 1747 for admirals. Half pay was also used as a pension provision. More universal pensions for officers were introduced from the mid-1830s. From 1862 those officers who wished their wives to be eligible for widows' pensions were required to place copies of their marriage certificates on file. Details from the certificates were entered in service registers and a small collection of the actual certificates together with a name index is held at the PRO.

The next sections describe a selection of the most acces¬sible pension records available. For a full list see Rodger, Naval Records for Genealogists.

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