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Trinity House petitions are petitions of merchant sailors or their widows, who were seeking financial assistance from the Corporation of Trinity House at Deptford in Kent and London. The Corporation distributed charitable funds entrusted to it by benefactors for the aid of seafarers and their dependents. Added to those funds were donations from the Corporation from its incomes (in particular, the annual surplus from Light, meaning lighthouse, Dues). The Merchant Marine Act of 1854 caused the corporation to lose its right to administer the surplus funds. Thus, Trinity House petitions end in 1854.
To safeguard the proper administration of funds, every merchant sailor or dependent applying for aid had to give full particulars of his/her circumstances. Generally, the particulars were recorded on printed forms with supporting evidence submitted to prove marriage (of the merchant sailor) and baptism of children.
In 1934, the Corporation of Trinity House presented to the Society of Genealogists, bundles of Trinity House petitions. These petitions were arranged in chronological order and dated from 1787 to 1854. The earlier petitions were destroyed by fires at Trinity House. Six years after delivering the petitions to the Society of Genealogists, the remaining records of Trinity House were destroyed by bombing during World War II.
The Society of Genealogists sorted the petitions into alphabetical order and bound them into 102 volumes. In 1969 some additional petitions were found at the Society of Genealogists. These records were also put into alphabetical order and bound into another 11 volumes. The Family History Library has both sets of the bound volumes on microfilm.
The Trinity House Petitions: A Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Trinity House, London, England, in the Library of the Society of Genealogists (FHL #942 U3tr) serves as an index to both sets of bound volumes of Trinity House petitions. The index most often gives the name and age of the petitioner, the name of the spouse (sometimes an individual is just listed as married), the residence, and the year of application. Also included in this printed calendar is an alphabetical list of some apprenticeship indentures found later. Details in this index include name, age, sometimes the name of the father or mother, residence, year of apprenticeship, and occasionally other details. Finally, the printed calendar includes an index to some miscellaneous papers pertaining to Trinity House petitioners. The miscellaneous papers are usually church records used for documentation purposes.
For further details of the surviving records and of other Trinity Houses elsewhere in England see the article Trinity_House.