My 4th great grandfather John Smyth was a Captain's Clerk on the HMS Firm when he married Sarah Osment on 13 Jul 1764 at Stoke Damerel, Devon, England.

When he was buried at Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (London, England) on 23 Jan 1806, his age was given as 66 which suggests that he was born about 1740.

In the National Archives I have found a record that I suspect may belong to him:

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

Physical description: 6 document(s)

The same page states:

This record has not been digitised and cannot be downloaded. Request a quotation for a copy to be digitised or printed and sent to you.

I am holding off on asking for that quotation while I try to be more sure that it is the correct John Smyth but if it is then the above documents could be something of a "treasure trove" for me because I found a Greenwich Hospital School admission documents set described at SOG-UK-L Archives as being:

Later my 3x gt grandfather applied for 4 of his children to enter the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, as it was called by then. These application records were in ADM64 (1830s).

Both sets of records included a lot of information including in my 3 x gt grandfather's application a baptismal certificate for him as well as his parent's marriage certficate (remember this was 1808).

All records included details of the father's service up to the time of application including all ships they served on with beginning and end dates. In the case of the ones from the 1830s it also had the names of all other children in the family.

From memory they were in alphabetical order, folded likes wills and piled into boxes.

After serving on the HMS Firm I have been able to find records that John worked in three inter-related government offices (Sick and Hurt Office, Transport Office and Prisoners of War Department) from at least 1775 until his death in 1806 - see Finding records of Transport-office that John Smyth worked for in London prior to 1806? These all seem to be related to the Navy.

I think my next step is to get a quotation for the contents of ADM 73/347/31 to be digitised but I am wondering if I have missed taking any obvious steps to establish the identity of my ancestor with this John Smyth first?

I am very confident of my line to John Smyth who left an 1806 Will naming my 3rd great grandparents John Stacy and Sarah Osment Smyth.

  • 1
    Once again I ask: do any of the people in these records have siblings?
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 21:14
  • 1
    Thanks to @vervet finding the baptism record that I could not, there are three siblings also at FreeREG.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:22

2 Answers 2


As I understand, you have no other specific record that would link John Smyth to Wales. With this in mind I first think you should not get too caught up in the spelling of the name - John Smyth, John Smith, John Smythe. While the Smyth spelling may be less common, the spellings may have been phonetically identical. You should be prepared to see variability in the way the names are spelled, particularly in the eighteenth century and earlier.

Parish Registers

My first source to explore before ordering the record would be the relevant parish registers. Fortunately in the school document abstract you are given a lot of detail about the person contained in the record - that he was a son of "Jeremiah and Mary Smyth" and "baptised 7 May 1741 in Oxwich, County Glamorgan".

The parish registers for Oxwich are indexed on FreeREG for this period. I note the following baptisms in Oxwich Parish Church:

  • 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

It is impossible to say without seeing the original PR and school record why the baptism date does match perfectly with the school record abstract. However, I think there can be little doubt the two records are for the same John.

I cannot see any marriages or burials in Oxwich for this family, which suggests they may have moved to a different parish. I do note a John Smith having children there in the late 1750s and 1760s who you should keep in mind as a possible relative, and a couple of burials for John Smiths in 1786 and 1799.

Whether or not John son of Jeremiah & Mary is your John is difficult to say without further information. John Smyth/Smith is a very common name. You could explore further parish records and wills for Jeremiah and Mary Smith, and the siblings of John in the hope that there is something that might definitively link him to your family. Did the rest of this family move to England? If so then it could be promising. Did the name Jeremiah show up in your Smyth family? If so, that could be a useful clue since it is a relatively uncommon name, although the absence of any Jeremiahs does not (of course) rule out a link.

TNA Record

It is difficult to proceed with this without seeing the school record. It may or may not include information that links him to your family, but without looking you can't know. If you do have a strong suspicion this is your John, and want to order a copy, you can get a quote through the National Archives. However keep in mind that the cost for them to copy the records for you, especially if they consist of many pages, can be prohibitively expensive.

It may be more cost effective to hire a professional researcher to look at the record, copy or photograph the relevant/important pages - and they may also be able to look at other records of interest to you as well. There is a list of independent researchers available on the TNA website organized by research area, or if you're lucky you might be able to find someone willing to do a lookup for you on a site like RAOGK (although at a quick glance there aren't many England volunteers anymore).

  • There was a Mary amongst John and Sarah's children but no Jeremiah. However, they named their last child, a daughter, Jemima (female form of Jeremiah?): genealogy.stackexchange.com/q/5252/19
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:22
  • @PolyGeo Shame there's not a Jeremiah in the family, that does make me a bit more skeptical that this is the same John Smith/Smyth. I don't think there is any relationship between the names Jeremiah and Jemima other than look somewhat similar.
    – Harry V.
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:45
  • I suspect the most likely clincher that I could find is if his admission record has more than just admission info like perhaps ending with something like "assigned to HMS Firm" (as per his marriage record). Other than this admission record there is no suggestion of a link to Wales: married in Devon, first child born in Kent, rest in London/Middlesex.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 20:52

I have now seen the six documents mentioned in the question and transcribed them:


THESE are to Certify, That John Smyth Son of Jeremiah Smyth Mariner, by Mary his Wife, of the Parish of St Botolph Aldgate in the County of Middlesex is a real Object of Charity. In Witness whereof we the under-written Minister and Church-Wardens of the said Parish have hereunto set our Hands, this Third Day of February Anno 1753.

  1. Royal-Hospital, Greenwich, 2d February 1753 THESE are to Certify, That I have examined *John Smith a Boy" according to the 4th Article of the Establishment for the Charity - Children of the said Hospital, and that I have not found any cause of Objection to his being admitted to the Benefit of the said Establishment.

    Witness my Hand

  1. Similar but different wording to 2., with same date, and includes:

    … found him able to Read, and to be without any Impediment of Speech.

  1. Same wording as 2., with same date, by a third examiner

  1. This is to certify that John son of Jeremia Smyth and Mary his Wife was baptised May the 7th 1741 as appears by the Register belonging to the Parish Church of Oxwich in the County of Glamorgan.

    Extracted by me

    Morgan Thomas Rector of the said Church

    Oxwich Jan : 11th 1753


Contains a table with:

Ship's Name: Cumberland

Entry: 7th Mar 1748

Quality: Stewd

Discharge: 22d Augt 1750

Time: Yrs: 1 Ms: 6 Ws:0 Ds: 1

and a note:

Navy Office 19th Janry 1753

These are to Certify that Jeremiah Smith is borne on the Books of His Majesty's Ship abovemd the Time & in the Quality there exprest.

I think this document supports my hypothesis that my 5th great grandfather John Smyth (1741-1806) was baptised at Oxwich, Glamorgan, Wales on 7 May 1741 by his parents Jeremiah and Mary Smyth. I link that John Smyth to my 4th great grandmother Sarah Osment Smyth (1768-1831) using these pieces of evidence:

  • Jeremiah and Mary Smyth lived at St Botolph Aldgate in 1753
  • Jeremiah served as a Steward on HMS Cumberland 1748-1750 and his son John served as a Captain's Clerk on HMS Firm up until 1764 when he married i.e. both were in the Navy.
  • John and Sarah (nee Osment) Smyth baptised their daughter Sarah Osment Smyth at St Botolph Aldgate in 1768
  • Sarah Osment Smyth married John Stacy at St Botolph Aldgate in 1792

There are two more document sets at the National Archives that may be useful because both of John Smyth's brothers appear also to have been admitted to Greenwich Hospital School before him:

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.


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.

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