I have found a National Archives record that may be useful to me but, before outlaying what could be considerable cost to get it copied, I would like to try and assess what it might contain.

Reference: ADM 51/3834
Description: Captains' logs, including:
FIRM (1759 Feb 15-1763 May 13).
FIRM (1763 Nov 15-1766 Oct 30)
Date: 1759-1766
Held by: The National Archives, Kew

From his 13 Jul 1764 marriage record I know that John Smyth was the Captain's Clerk aboard HMS Firm. I also suspect that the John Smyth who was baptised 7 May 1741 and attended Greenwich Hospital School may have been him and, if so, his graduation from there would be expected around the same time as the HMS Firm launched on 15 Jan 1759. The above record would appear to cover the period during which he served on HMS Firm.

Does anyone have experience of examining Captain's Logs from this era to advise whether they would be likely to record things like:

  • the name of the Captain's Clerk,
  • when a Captain's Clerk joined and left the ship, and
  • whether the Captain's Clerk assisted the Captain to write his log?

Alternatively, maybe the Master's log:

Reference: ADM 52/853
Description: Firm
Date: 1759 Feb 24 - 1763 May 21
Held by: The National Archives, Kew

Related to my questions:

  • Don't have time to write up an answer now but you can view some examples of log books here, click on the red "Get Data" button: catalogue.ceda.ac.uk/uuid/c0001a8c47724dd514e64dcaf358fc60
    – Harry V.
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 5:23
  • @vervet thanks for that. From browse.ceda.ac.uk/browse/badc/corral/images/adm51/p3054-1/… (as an example) they do seem to mention people some times but by position rather than name. I suspect that it will be a longshot but maybe when a ship first launches (like the Firm in 1759) they are all enthusiastic and write more details to get their names there for posterity:-)
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 5:38
  • There should have been a log for the ship listing the crew by name, at least to note when they joined and left the ship (or were killed in wartime). I would expect the master's log in a RN ship to record matters having to do with sailing the ship -- but crew members might be in it if they were up for punishment. nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/…
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


The Captains' Log Books in series ADM 51 have the following catalogue description:

These logs were maintained by the captain of each ship in commission, and kept in manuscript form on a continuous daily basis. They cover details of the employment and position of the ship and ship's company, details of weather encountered, and provide a full picture of the daily routine of a naval vessel under sail. Some occasionally provide a list of the crew.

You can view several examples of logs in this series on the British Atmospheric Data Centre's website. This does suggest that the logs are of greater value for ship and weather information rather than information about individuals onboard.

I suspect that a record set that may more likely contain the information you seek are Muster rolls. Muster rolls record the presence of every person on board a ship. For your ship these are found in series ADM 36. The muster for HMS Firm for 1759 is in piece ADM 36/5627.

As far as I am aware, these muster books are not available online. As an example of the type of information contained, you can view a somewhat later muster book for HMS Victory (1805). Below is a snippet of what this muster book list of crew looks like: enter image description here

For background reading you may find these guides on the National Maritime Museum website of interest:

  • The muster roll/book certainly sounds much more like what I am after. Many thanks for all the very useful information that you have provided in your answer.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:17
  • @PolyGeo I suspect it is just a matter of time until the muster rolls are digitised and indexed on Ancestry/FMP...but you could also be waiting a very long time...
    – Harry V.
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:36

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