There is no naval record for a William, born Starcross on The National Archives website, but that in itself is not conclusive. He may have stated RN on the birth cert as it is, perhaps, more prestigious that other forms of mariner. Or perhaps Elizabeth gave that detail.
There are 5 merchant seaman on the Find My Past website, using a birth year 1832 +/- 5 born in Devon, including one born in Ide, which is closer to Exeter than Starcross. However, that batch of records stops at 1857.
The William Symons who dies in 1880 (on the ship Rovena) is ‘of Cockwood, near Dawlish’ according to a newspaper report. There is a Fanny living in Cockwood who states she is a mariner’s wife in 1871. She is a widow in 1881.
Further complicated by a record in that name (on FMP) for a chap born in Starcross 1834/5 for the year 1880, which states that he transferred from Rovena to a ship called Jehu early in 1880. There is another record for Jehu for that mariner.
So I was thinking the one who drowned in 1880 couldn't be be your William, but there is a marriage in 1854 in Exeter of a Fanny Cook to a William Symons, a mariner of Teignmouth. So now I am not so sure.
Have you seen the birth reg for John Symons, mother’s maiden name Rooks? He is presumably the John Pope with Elizabeth’s parents in 1871. Born prior to Elizabeth’s marriage to Henry Pope.
SYMONS, JOHN ROOKS
GRO Reference: 1861 S Quarter in EXETER Volume 05B Page 98
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