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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.

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    Once again I ask: do any of the people in these records have siblings? – Jan Murphy Dec 5 '15 at 21:14
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    Thanks to @vervet finding the baptism record that I could not, there are three siblings also at FreeREG. – PolyGeo Dec 5 '15 at 22:22
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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 Dec 8 '15 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 Vervet Dec 8 '15 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 Dec 8 '15 at 20:52

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