Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Leaflet Guides to Records:


CORPORATION OF TRINITY HOUSE -

FAMILY HISTORY SOURCES AT GUILDHALL LIBRARY


LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS AND OTHER EMPLOYEES

Surviving records specifically of lighthouse keepers and the crews of light vessels and Trinity House cutters are all 20th century. (Most records of the lighthouse and light vessel service appear to have been destroyed in the 1940 bombing of Trinity House.) Some pension records covering staff appointed 1900-88 have been retained by Trinity House and enquirers should email requests for information to enquiries@thls.org.

Specific family history sources are:

Register of staff appointed 1914-72                                                      (Ms 30121)

"Station book" listing keepers and crews 1941-55                                 (Ms 30122

Registers of pensionable staff (staff born 1870-1931)                            (Ms 30055)

However, other sources can be used such as indexed volumes of court, board and wardens’ minutes. It is worth trying to find the surname of the individual keeper first but you will normally have to look up the lighthouse name (if known) in the index. At some periods the keepers are grouped together in the index as “lightkeepers” or “keepers” and this is indicated below.

Other useful sources are:

Court minutes, 1661-date                                                                     (Ms 30004)

especially 1720-47 and 1816-51 when indexed as “lightkeepers” or “keepers”

Board minutes, 1746-date                                                                    (Ms 30010)

especially from 1781 when sometimes indexed under surname and from 1809-41 when indexed as “lightkeepers” and then surname. NB from 1848 the board minutes indices are not very helpful for keepers and from the 1860s the board minute entries do not normally name the keeper.

Wardens’ minutes, 1828-date                                                               (Ms 30025

From 1828 onwards try the Wardens’ minutes first. The entries in the Wardens’ minutes are quite informative and normally name the keeper(s). From 1828-54 the entries are indexed as “lightkeepers”. From 1854 try “lighthouse service” and “lightvessel service” as well as individual surnames.

PILOTS

Pilots were licensed, not employed, by the Corporation of Trinity House. When a pilot first applied to be licensed, he had to have British nationality, have several years' experience as a watch-keeping officer of a ship, hold a foreign-going Master Mariner's certificate (or Naval certificate of service) and be under 35. The Corporation examined London Pilotage district pilots itself (about two-thirds of all pilots). The London Pilotage district extended from Felixstowe to Dungeness, taking in all the intermediate harbours and the River Thames up to London Bridge. In the forty outport districts, sub-commissioners of pilotage, appointed by the Corporation, examined pilots and recommended them for licences. In the smaller ports, "Trinity House pilots" were often fishermen.

Major family history sources are:

Registers of pilots' licences (London) 1808-1986 (Ms 30172)

NB Dover and Cinque port pilots were not licensed by Trinity House until 1854

Registers of pilots' licences (outports) 1808-46 & 1810-76 (Ms 30174) covering different ports

(Both London and outport registers give pilot's age, residence, qualifications and physical description and are indexed in Ms 30173B, held on Reading Room open shelves.)

Lists of pilots already working in outports 1808 (Ms 30193)

Returns of pilotage listing pilots (by port) 1854-1912 (Ms 30198) giving name, age and qualification

Pilotage committee minutes (1809-1969) (Ms 30158)

The pilotage committee minutes are a valuable resource for searchers who want to find out more detailed information about a pilot’s career. Appointments, promotions, details of specific incidents and pensions are described. These records are sometimes indexed by name, and sometimes just under “pilots”.

ALMSPEOPLE AND OUT-PENSIONERS

To receive a Trinity House pension or enter an almshouse, one had to petition the Corporation. Petitions survive from 1787-1854 and are a useful family history source:

Main series of petitions 1787-1854 (Ms 30218A)

Second series of petitions 1787-1853 (Ms 30218B)

(both series indexed in a volume "Trinity House Petitions" in Reading Room)

THEY MUST BE CONSULTED ON MICROFILM. Copies can be obtained, for a fee, from www.britishorigins.com.

Other family history sources are:

Registers of almspeople and pensioners 1729-1946 (Ms 30218) giving age and reason for assistance (indexed 1907-39 only)

Registers of almspeople only 1845-1971 (Ms 30219) giving age and reason for assistance (indexed)

ELDER AND YOUNGER BRETHREN

Merchant and Royal Navy officers elected to the fellowship of Trinity House.

Family history sources are:

Lists of Elder brethren 1685-1984 (Ms 30302)

Lists of Elder brethren 1660-1950 (indexed) (Ms 30307)

Lists of Younger brethren 1628 and 1660-1850 (Ms 30324)

Admissions of Younger brethren are entered (and indexed) (Ms 30004) in court minutes thereafter                                                                    

MERCHANT NAVY MASTERS AND MATES

Masters and mates, if examined by the Corporation of Trinity House, could be granted pilotage exemption certificates to enable them to pilot their own vessels in waters where they would otherwise need to take an independent pilot.

Family history sources are :

Registers of exemption certificates 1850-1957 (Ms 30182) giving age and physical description, and the vessel's name and shipping company.

Registers of masters' & mates' examinations 1864-1986 (Ms 30184)

TRINITY HOUSE WATERMEN

The Corporation of Trinity House had the right to license mariners to row on the Thames as watermen. These watermen were both older and fewer in number than the apprentices and freemen of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen. (Guildhall Library also holds the records of the Watermen and Lightermen's Company - an introductory leaflet is available.)

The only surviving register of Trinity House Watermen covers 1829-64  (Ms 30335).

CHRIST'S HOSPITAL MATHEMATICAL SCHOOL

Mathematical school boys were examined by Corporation of Trinity House elder brethren and bound as apprentices for seven years to ships' captains.

The only surviving register of "ships' apprentices" covers 1816-57 (Ms 30338). However, this register only repeats the discharge information given in the children's registers for these pupils of Christ's Hospital (Ms 12818).

GENERAL INFORMATION

As these records are all bound volumes, Guildhall Library regrets that for conservation reasons it is not possible to supply photocopies of original documents. Microfilm print-outs (of Trinity House petitions) may be made by personal callers only.

Guildhall Library also regrets that shortage of staff time prevents detailed searches of the Trinity House archive. Enquirers are welcome to visit the Manuscripts Section in person or to hire a record agent (details are given in the access leaflet).

RELATED FAMILY HISTORY SOURCES

Records of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution are held at RNLI HQ, West Quay Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 1HZ.

Records of HM Coastguard are held at the National Archives.

Records of Trinity House Newcastle are held at Tyne & Wear Archives, Blandford House, Blandford Square, Newcastle-Upon Tyne NE1 4JA.

The other Trinity Houses retain their own records :

Trinity House, Trinity House Lane, Hull, Humberside HU1 2JE.

Trinity House (Leith), 99 Kirkgate, Edinburgh EH6 6BJ.

Records of Scottish Lighthouses are held by the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, 84 George Street, Edinburgh EH2.

Records of Irish Lighthouses are held by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, 16 Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

GENERAL INFORMATION
As these records are all bound volumes, Guildhall Library regrets that for conservation reasons it is not possible to supply photocopies of original documents. Microfilm print-outs (of Trinity House petitions) may be made by personal callers only.

Guildhall Library also regrets that shortage of staff time prevents detailed searches of the Trinity House archive. Enquirers are welcome to visit the Manuscripts Section in person or to hire a record agent.


Last updated December 2008

Leaflet Guides to Records

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section