Strong candidates for my 6th great grandparents are Jeremiah and Mary Smyth who baptised four children at Oxwich, Glamorgan, Wales:

  • 16 Jan 1737, Jeremiah, s. of Jeremiah & Mary Smith
  • 25 Feb 1739, Matthew, s. of Jeremiah & Mary Smith
  • 26 Apr 1741, John, s. of Jeremiah & Mary Smith
  • 9 Aug 1743, Elizabeth, d. of Jeremiah & Mary Smith

The three sons all appear to have been admitted to the Greenwich Hospital School in the early 1750s:

  • Matthew on 21 Apr 1750 (aged 11)

Reference: ADM 73/345/104 Description: Matthew Smith. When admitted to Greenwich Hospital School: 21 April 1750. Parents' names: Jeremiah Smith. Mother's name not listed. Bond for boy. No date of birth or baptism listed. Date: 1728-1870 Held by: The National Archives, Kew Legal status: Public Record(s) Physical description: 1 document(s)

  • Jeremiah on 14 Jul 1750 (aged 13):

Reference: ADM 73/345/32 Description: Jeremiah Smith. When admitted to Greenwich Hospital School: 14 July 1750. Parents' names: Jeremiah Smith. Bond dated 14 July 1750. No further details. Date: 1728-1870 Held by: The National Archives, Kew Legal status: Public Record(s) Physical description: 1 document(s)

  • John on or soon after 3 Feb 1753 (aged 11)

Reference: ADM 73/347/31 Description: John Smyth. When admitted to Greenwich Hospital School: Not stated. Parents' names: Jeremiah and Mary Smyth. Applicant baptised 7 May 1741 in Oxwich, County Glamorgan. Date: 1728-1870 Held by: The National Archives, Kew Legal status: Public Record(s) Physical description: 6 document(s)

From the documents for John I learned that Jeremiah was a Steward of the ship Cumberland from 7 Mar 1748 to 22 Aug 1750 so his eldest two sons were admitted before he was discharged and the youngest 2.5 years later.

In this book (via Google Books):

British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Rif Winfield. Seaforth Publishing, 12 Dec 2007.

I found an entry for the Cumberland:

Cumberland, 1748-1760, 3rd Rate, 66 gun (razeed from 80)

and Wikipedia says that:

HMS Cumberland (1745) was an 8-gun fire ship in service in 1745.

I thought sending your sons to Greenwich Hospital School might be something that happened after naval service, but this would only apply to the third son.

Was service on a fireship considered particularly dangerous, and perhaps something that mariners might need to be incentivized to do?

  • 2
    It's not clear those two are the same ship though as Wikipedia has a separate entry for HMS Cumberland (1710) which appears to the 80/66 gun 3rd rate. It also has HMS Cumberland (1739) as another fireship which all seems very odd, to have multiple ships with the same name at the same time.
    – TomH
    Oct 30 '19 at 12:43
  • As @TomH says there are some oddities in the list of HMS Cumberlands. Wikipedia's list references a book by Patrick Boniface, which Google Books has here. It says that the 1710 ship was sold and broken up in 1831, but the next paragraph states that it was rebuilt and sank in 1760. I think there's something amiss in Boniface's history. I'm not sure you can reliably conclude which Cumberland Jeremiah was on from that information.
    – AndyW
    Oct 30 '19 at 13:33
  • 1
    If you search threedecks.org for ships named Cumberland from Great Britain, you get more information (from more sources, by the looks of it). Still a bit unclear but it looks like the 1710 HMS Cumberland was the one that persisted (through rebuild and later reduction to 66 guns) to 1760-1. The rebuild took at least 5 years which deals with one oddity in Boniface's records. Still doesn't explain multiple concurrent Cumberlands though.
    – AndyW
    Oct 30 '19 at 13:57
  • Incidentally, childrenshomes.org.uk/RoyalHospital/… suggests that the primary purpose of the school was originally to cater for orphans. However, the equivalent Army institution would also accept children with only one parent - presumably a widower father still in the Army was the usual case.
    – AdrianB38
    Oct 30 '19 at 19:01
  • I am a very amateur student of the RN but having just been looking at my big book about Nelson's Navy, it appears that fireships, when not required for their final voyage, were just used as ordinary sloops. So no inherent difference from the rest of the fleet. Only on their final voyage would they be filled with flammable stuff and set alight - at which point they would only have a skeleton crew on board anyway to point the thing in the right direction, light the fires, get the heck out and hope it sailed on in the right direction.
    – AdrianB38
    Oct 30 '19 at 19:20

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