Accident, disease and war were risks for seamen and many of them made wills to provide for their families in the event of death. As far back as 1698 the Admiralty had to deal with individuals impersonating deceased seamen or their executors, creditors or next of kin. They were trying to claim unpaid wages by forging wills and letters of attorney .
Various Acts of Parliament were passed to try to stop these criminal practices and in 1716 and 1720 there were proposals to set up an office for registering seamen’s wills. However these proposals were turned down by the Admiralty and it was not until 1786 that the office of Inspector of Wills was established.
The records in this online collection are original wills of Warrant officers and seamen. Most of them are written on printed forms. These forms were accepted as valid by the Admiralty and they were deposited in the Navy Office, with orders to issue cheques to the executors.
You can now search and download around 35,000 Royal Navy wills from the National Archives. The wills cover men who joined the Royal Navy between 1786 and 1882.