Military Career of William Charles Webb 1884-1955

Photo of William Charles WEBB in Naval Uniform

I never met my paternal Grandfather as he died before I was born and very little was ever said about him by my Dad. The only pieces of information I had about him other than his date of birth was a photo of him in Naval Uniform and in 2003 when my Aunt Margaret WEBB died a book of postcards was discovered from him to her mother during his service in the Royal Navy. So there was little to go on by fortunately there are a number of Navy records online which some great details about his service.

I started off by looking through the census records for my Grandfather. In 1891 when he was 7 he could be found living with his parents George & Elizabeth and his brothers and sisters at Beddingham, East Sussex next to the Level Crossing which his father used to be in charge of. In 1901he was aboard the Duke of Wellington in Portsmouth as a stoker in the Royal Navy. The Duke of Wellington being a retired ship used for training purposes. When the 1911 census records finally came out he was a stoker petty officer at the Royal Naval Barracks in Chatham.

1911 census showing William as a Stoker Petty Officer at the Royal Naval Barracks in Chatham

I was able to use the National Archives online to find the service Record for my Grandfather which are originally from the National Archives ADM188 Registers of Seamen’s Services 1900-1928.

The record starts off by giving details about William’s date and place of birth as well as his physical characteristics. It then continued giving a complete service record upon each ship that he worked and his rating, as well as his character. He started off as a stoker on the Duke of Wellington on February 1901 as we saw in the 1901 census and then moved to various other ships before becoming a Leading Stoker in 1907 aboard the HMS Fisgard, another training vessel. In 1908 he became Acting Stoker Petty Officer aboard the HMS Terrible before being made Stoker Petty Officer in 1911 aboard the HMS Spanker. In 1912 he became an Acting Mechanician aboard the HMS Pembroke II. Just before the outbreak of the First World War he became a Mechanician aboard the HMS Hercules. He then served aboard a number of ships during the First World War before becoming an Acting Chief Mechanician on the HMS Greenwich after it ended in 1919. He then became a Chief Mechanician aboard the HMS Argus which was an aircraft carrier converted from an Ocean Liner. He was then shore pensioned in 1922 whilst aboard the HMS Victory II.

HMS Argus (one of the postcards that WIlliam Webb sent home to his wife)

I have started to look at where each of the ships noted on his service record was at that time to see what happened to William during the First World War. There are lots of websites that are very useful in doing this and this is now my ongoing research. His marriage certificate to his second wife, my Grand mother Sarah Bridget WHITE showed that he had put his skills learned during his Naval career to good use and was working as a Marine Engine Fitter.

DNA – What can it tell you?

It took me a while to get around to it, but finally I got my DNA test done and linked to my ancestry tree. Managed to get it on one of their deals so it cost a little less.
They send you a small box with a plastic tube you add saliva to and then add some other liquid which stabilises it I guess. This then gets sent back to their labs in America.
It takes some time to get there and you get notified when it arrives. You then have to wait a few weeks more for it to be tested and the results published.
You then get your DNA story which gives you a break down of how your DNA is made up of DNA from different regions around the world. You also get matches with any other people who have submitted their DNA.
So how did mine look.

No great surprises!
You can drill down a little further and I have links to Cornwall, South-East and East Anglia, all of which are found in my family history.
The smaller 1% parts are the historical aspects of my DNA which shows how people migrated to and from different areas.

Did I expect a little more?
Probably, but there are other DNA programs out there you can upload your DNA to and I will talk about them later, as well as the cousin matches.

Are printed and online indexes a boon to the genealogist? Part 1

Printed and online indexes of the census are very much commonplace now if you are willing to pay a fee. Companies like Ancestry and Findmypast have online indexes of all the available census returns and other companies such as Origin have some available and are working on others. Transcripts are also available of local areas through family history societies and private enterprise. The National Archives can let you search the indexes if you visit them as will most Record offices. The online indexes have been a great boon to those looking for ancestors but can also be most frustrating at times.

One of the most annoying aspects of using an online index is knowing that an ancestor should be in a census return but not being able to find them. There are a variety of reasons why that ancestor may not be found and I will start by setting out some of those reasons.

It is quite possible that an ancestor may not appear on a census as they may have opposed the idea of the census and refused to take part.

There were also not enough enumerators to properly cover the entirety of England and Wales and because of this not all the homes were visited. It is also quite possible that an ancestor spent some time overseas and would therefore have missed the date the census was taken.

A lot of institutions such as workhouses did not put the full name of people in their care and instead would just give the initials. This means that a great deal of searching would be needed to find this ancestor.

A number of census returns went missing particularly in 1841 and 1851, as the household returns were destroyed there is no record left of ancestors in these areas.

Secondly, an ancestor may be on the census but due to errors caused by the enumerator they have not appeared correctly on the indexes. Enumerators were stretched to get their job done and as such many errors would creep in as they copied household returns. Many householders were illiterate and could not fill in the return properly or filled it incorrectly which would then be transcribed by the enumerator. In some cases the enumerator would try to fill in missing information through the use of their own local knowledge if they had any. Those without local knowledge would assume that details had been filled in correctly and copy them on their own returns. The enumerators used blue pencils to fill in their returns. These faded over time and in some cases made the indexing difficult. The poor handwriting of some enumerators also made transcribing the returns difficult and correct information would be transcribed incorrectly. The marks made by enumerators to signal different tally’s on their returns also sometimes obscured their own work making transcription difficult and leading to errors in the online indexes.

When companies transcribe the census there is ample opportunities for many errors to be made. Transcribers can quite easily make mistakes due to their own fault, the fault of their equipment or because the images they are transcribing from are of a poor quality.

Learning how to search the indexes properly online will enable the finding of an ancestor to be faster and easier. There are a number of reasons why you may not find an ancestor on the first search of an online index and I will try to address these and offer solutions.

The main reasons why it is difficult to locate ancestors through the census returns online are because

Census records are incomplete and flawed

Information you are using to locate ancestors is wrong or incomplete

Electronic indexes contain errors resulting from transcription.

The name of an ancestor is usually the first thing that is used to locate them on an online database. However, there are a couple of reasons why it may be difficult to locate them using this. Firstly, the wrong information may be written down by the enumerator, due to them reading the information provided wrongly or transcribing a householders surname wrongly. Names which can be spelled in different ways such as Smith or Smyth can also be entered wrongly by the enumerator. Secondly, when the enumerator’s returns were being transcribed more errors could have been introduced into the information.