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ENGLISH & WELSH ROOTS - British Military Records Part 2: THE ROYAL NAVY
Article posted: January 17, 2000
By: Fawne Stratford-Devai   Biography & Archived Articles

This issue of English and Welsh Roots is the second in a series of articles designed to help you find information for ancestors who served in the British Military. The first article in the series examined Army Records. The series is not designed to be an exhaustive study of British military records. Rather, it is offered as a starting point for those who wish to research their ancestors who served in the British military. A complete study of military records would require its own regular column. Military records, military events and military history in general are covered in hundreds of published books and almost as many internet websites. Part two of the series now examines records and resources for the Royal Navy. Future articles will examine records and resources for the Merchant Navy, Air Force and other military records.

Great Britain has a long history of maritime conquest and exploration. In fact Britain was recognized for many years as having the greatest navy in the world. The significant reach and power of Britain's colonial dominance is said to have been built on the nation's maritime strength. Many British men served as sailors in the Royal Navy or the Merchant Marine. Still many thousands more served in the various ports and dockyards or worked to supply the goods and services to support the country's maritime strength. It would not be surprising for modern family historians with English or Welsh roots to find evidence in a census, family papers, oral history traditions or vital records that an ancestor served in the Royal Navy or Merchant Marine.

Navy records can be complex, frustrating and elusive, but non-the-less extremely rewarding when discovered. The thousands of feet of navy records preserved by the Public Record Office (PRO) in England and other museums, archives and libraries both in the UK and abroad attest to the incredible volume and complexity of the information available to modern family historians.


Before undertaking research in British Naval records it is important to know as much information as possible about the person who served. In particular: the rank (if any) held by your ancestor (naval records are more easily identified for officers than ratings). the time period in which they served; the geographic area(s) in which they served (this information may help you to determine which campaigns/battles or other military events that occurred during the time period in a particular geographic area); the name of the ship(s) on which they served; and, when they were discharged (some records are arranged by date of discharge).

Until the 1900s, individuals who served in the Navy were either commissioned officers, warrant officers or ratings. Commissioned officers were the executive officers on the ship who were required to report directly to the Admiralty. Warrant officers were basically heads of departments on the ships (such as engineer, gunners, boatswain, etc.). All other members of the ships complement were considered "ratings" which could range from petty officers and cooks to able seamen.


As with most primary records, naval records do not survive for the convenience of modern genealogists. Primary records were compiled and therefore preserved to document more complex processes - often for bureaucratic purposes. Naval records are intricately connected to the British government and for this reason are primarily preserved by the Public Record Office (PRO). At the same time it is important to know that many other primary records or microfilm/copies of naval records are held by other institutions (a list of which are provided later in this article).

Researchers should be cautioned against assuming complete and extensive records exist for all who served in the Navy. Unfortunately detailed family history information about an individual is not always available in the records that survive today. For example, no complete or systematic records survive in the PRO for those men who served before 1660.

Given the bureaucratic nature of the admiralty, it is important to understand some of the complex bureaucracy of the day in order to know where to begin to look for information. For example, until 1546, the King, through his council, was responsible for managing all naval affairs. After 1546, the King delegated his authority to the Lord Admiral. However, systematic Admiralty records do not begin until 1660. To find records before 1660 it would be necessary to look through the complex records series of the Privy Council, Exchequer or Domestic State Papers. In addition, for the period from about 1660 until the early 1830s, the Royal Navy was administered by both the Navy Board and the Admiralty which means that some types of records were duplicated. The Navy Board was abolished in 1832 and the Admiralty was singularly responsible for the Royal Navy. As a result of historic events, shifting responsibilities and simple government bureaucracy, naval records can become rather complex. If nothing else, modern researchers should at least understand the basic hierarchy within which their ancestor served. Even if a researcher knew their ancestor was an officer, there are six different "classes" or groupings of records of men appointed as officers from 1790 until 1850. For all of the reasons highlighted, the discussion of primary records in this article will be based upon the rank of those who served.


As discussed in the first article of this series, it is often easier to locate records for officers than others who served in the navy. Officers could be commissioned officers (e.g. admirals, captains, lieutenants and commanders). Officers could also be simply warrant officers who looked after specific departments (services) on a ship (e.g. masters, surgeons, gunners, engineers, etc.).

There is no central, readily available overall index for the names of navy officers. There do exist many published lists of naval officers. The first place researchers in search of an officer's information should look is published sources such as the printed Navy Lists. There were a variety of Navy Lists published between 1700 and 1782 but no systematic, regular or annual list exists. Pragmatically, the Navy Lists began in 1782 with Steele's Navy List which was published from 1782 until 1814 when an annual official Navy List began.

The lists usually include alphabetical lists of commissioned officers and many warrant officers. Many of the lists provide a cross reference from an officer's name to a specific ship. The printed volumes then list the officers on a particular ship. For example, the List will assign a specific number to a ship, provide the ship's name and type (e.g. Iron S. Troop Ship, Double S. Iron Gunboat, Corvette, etc.). Sometimes additional details such as the ships tonnage will also be listed. Under each ship listed will be printed the names of the officers. The exact type of officers listed will vary by the type of ship also. For example, a list may include the Captain, Lieutenant, Paymaster, Surgeon, Assistant Paymaster, Gunner, Boatswain, Midshipman, etc. Carefully following the published Navy Lists will provide researchers with the basic outline of an officer's career.

Although surviving naval records for officers can be quite complex, there are a few main record groups which should be consulted for naval officers. These include:

Records of Officers' Service (PRO - Admiralty [ADM] 199)
Records of Officers' Service include both commissioned officers and warrant officers. The records begin towards the end of the 1700s and consist of several series/sections of registers. Although each series has its own index, the different series may overlap making it necessary to search more than one index for the full information about an individual officer. Many of the records provide dates and places of birth and death - this is particularly true for nineteenth century registers. All the registers list the names of ships on which the officer served with dates.

Returns of Officers' Service (PRO-ADM 9)
Returns of Officers' Service basically consist of two censuses of serving and retired officers which were taken from 1817-1822 and again in 1846. The 1846 census usually includes the age of the officer. It is important to note that not all officers sent in a census return. Even if an officer did send in a return, not all the returns survive. Indexes to the census returns are available in the PRO in ADM 10 (1-7). Additional census returns also exist which are more specialized - such as: returns of officers appointed 1660-1688; Lieutenants serving in the navy in 1847; officers who passed gunnery courses 1833-1842, Lieutenants unfit for service 1804-1810.

Warrant Officers' and Seamen's Certificates of Service (PRO - ADM 29)
Warrant Officers' and Seamen's Certificates of Services are the records of those men who received a pension from the navy. The records begin in about 1802 and document a pensioners service record by ships and dates. Although the early records tend to include primarily warrant officers, after 1834 pensions became more common and listings of regular seamen in the records also became more frequent. The certificates of service in provide researchers with the naval service of warrant officers and ratings who applied for a pension or admission to Greenwich Hospital. The records provide brief information about ships and dates, the times payed but not a great deal more information.

The actual volumes may include the Time Book, Certificates of Servitude; or Records of Service and could be part of the original set of records sent to the Admiralty so a pensions could be granted (or denied), or gratuities or medals could be awarded. They could also be the set of records sent to Greenwich Hospital for the admission of children into the Lower School (also known as the Royal Naval Asylum). The Greenwich Hospital volumes actually relate to the fathers of children applying for entry to the school. Unfortunately many of the children who were admitted under special claims were orphans which also means that many of the officers and men whose service information is recorded were dead.

The original certificates do exist and can be located in the Greenwich Hospital School Admission Papers at the PRO in ADM 73. It should also be noted that Certificates of Service were compiled by the Navy Pay Office from the actual Ships' Pay Books which are a separate group of records that can be used to find similar information.

Lieutenants' Passing Certificates (PRO - ADM 6; ADM 13 and ADM 107)
Lieutenants' Passing Certificates basically summarize an officers' career and training. Occasionally they will include certificates of birth or baptism or other supporting papers. The records are found in three series from 1691 to 1902 but there are some gaps (for example, there is a gap in the middle of the 19th century). As with the returns of officers' service records, the series do overlap. However, each series does have its own index or is at least arranged alphabetically. The records are filed in the PRO in ADM 6 (86-118), ADM 13 (88-101 and 207-238) and ADM 107 (1-63).


For records of naval service before the mid-nineteenth century, it is usually necessary for the researcher to know the name of at least one ship on which a seaman served and the approximate date of service. The main reason for knowing the ship before 1853 is because men were recruited into the navy by a particular ship and were then recorded in the ships muster/pay lists. The navy did not keep systematic, central records of average seamen/ratings before 1853. The following records are the most commonly used for information about seamen/ratings:

Ships' Muster Books (PRO - ADM 36 to ADM 39, ADM 41, ADM 115 and ADM 119)
Ship's muster books tend to survive from 1688 with a few as early as 1667 and are filed by ship. To understand the muster books it is important to know that a muster list was sent by a ship to the central navy pay office so that payment would be issued to the crew of the ship. Due to the bureaucracy of the central pay office there are basically to main types of musters - general musters and monthly musters. It becomes rather confusing if you are looking at a monthly muster because it most often covered a two month time period but listed the weekly musters. The general musters were basically musters for a 12 month period. Often the musters for a one year period were bound together so that one ships muster would include six monthly musters and a general muster.

The ships muster records the names of officers, regular seamen (ratings), servants, marines or others that were on board a ship. Next to each name will be some indication as to whether they were present or absent for each muster and some additional information. The musters usually provide researchers with a ratings name, name of ship and a starting date. In many instances after the mid 1760s, the musters also include age and place of birth. Please use the age and place of birth information with caution as it has been found to be vague or inaccurate (note: it can still provide a useful clue to follow up in parish registers). Beginning in about 1800 description books (which give a man's age, height, complexion, scars and tattoos) may be included with the musters. The descriptive information can also include clothing, tobacco and other items issued to a seaman by the navy.

The first muster roll that a seaman is recorded on should note the name of any ship from which he transferred. The last muster roll that a man is listed on for a particular ship should also note the name of any ship he transfers to - as long as he remained in the navy. The main problem with the muster books is that until continuous service was introduced in 1853, seamen tended to move frequently between naval ships and merchant ships which makes it more difficult to trace them over time.

Continuous Service Engagement Books (PRO - ADM 139)
Continuous Service Engagement Books begin with the introduction of continuous service in 1853 and cover the period to 1872. Beginning in 1853, a man entering the navy was given a continuous service number. The continuous service books list the date of entry, place of birth, physical description and name of ship or summary of the man's service. Although the entries in the books are by continuous service number, there are alphabetical indexes cross referencing the name and service number at the PRO in ADM 139 (1019-1026). At the time of writing this article, the records of men who joined the Royal Navy after 1922 remain in the custody of the Ministry of Defence and must be requested by writing directly to Naval Personnel Records at the Ministry of Defence.

Seamen's Services (PRO - ADM 188)
Registers of Seamens' Services are the official records of seamen (ratings) who were already serving in 1873 or who enlisted between 1873 and 1923. The entries in them continue for many years, sometimes after 1923, but depended on the length of service of each man. Seamen's service records are listed by a man's service number and offer researchers the date of birth and enlistment, first ship and period of service. Indexes to seamen's service records are also available in the PRO filed under ADM 188 (245-267). Records of seamen who entered the Navy after 1928 are not held by the Public Record Office but must be requested from the Ministry of Defence.

If the name of a seaman's ship is unknown researchers may direct inquiries about ships of the Royal Navy to the National Maritime Museum which holds List Books for the period 1673 to 1893 that can be checked to find out the geographic location of a ship on a certain date. Please do not contact the museum or other institutions unless you are able to provide very specific information about the time period in which an individual is believed to have served and the geographic area(s) of service. A listing of contact information for relevant institutions is provided below.

More detailed information about Naval records at the Public Record Office (PRO) and specific classes or series of records are provided in the PRO's online leaflets for researchers.


The Public Record Office's Research Information Leaflets have been developed over the years by members of staff and by generous contributions from researchers. As more information is discovered and new records are accessioned the leaflets are updated. The main A-Z Index of all leaflets provides the researcher with a variety of topics and information. Leaflets relevant to Royal Navy records include the following: Copyright notice: The PRO Records Information Leaflets are subject to Crown Copyright. Although researchers are welcome to print copies of leaflets for personal research use, they cannot be copied for commercial purposes nor republished in any form, including electronically.

PRO Family Fact Sheets Researchers should stop by the Family Facts Sheets area of the PRO website for information about: Tracing an Ancestor in the Navy: Ratings; Tracing an Ancestor in the Navy: Officers; and Tracing an Ancestor in the Merchant Navy: Seamen.

A very important book for anyone researching their English and Welsh ancestry - including Royal Navy records is in its 5th edition, Tracing Your Ancestors in the Public Record Office by Amanda Bevan (1999), includes exceptionally detailed information about a variety of Navy records with much more detailed information than what is provided in this introductory article. The book is also important for understanding the wide variety of other records held by the PRO.


While many naval records are only available directly from the PRO in England or other repositories, a great many of these primary records have been microfilmed by the LDS and are available in their main Family History Library Catalog. When searching the Family History Library Catalogue, begin with BRITAIN---MILITARY RECORDS. The small sample of entries from the online LDS Family History Library Catalogue are listed to illustrate but a few of the many resources available to researchers on loan to a local Family History Center of the LDS.
  • The Navy List [Great Britain. Admiralty (Main Author)] Imprint varies. Date on cover is one month later than date of correction, i.e. January 1884 for the list corrected to December 1883, etc. located under the subject: England – Military records. Available in book form at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City under the call number: 942 M25gba or on microfilm loan to your local Family History Center on 18 reels of microfilm: beginning with Apr. 1851 -- Jan. 1854 -- Jan. 1856 -- Apr. 1857 on microfilm FHL BRITISH Film 918928 and ending with Apr. 1881 -- July 1886 -- Apr. 1872 on microfilm FHL BRITISH Film 990326.

  • Continuous Service Engagement Books (PRO-ADM. 139), 1853-1896. [Great Britain. Admiralty (Main Author)] Microfilm of original records in the Public Record Office, Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire. These books give the date and place of birth, physical characteristics on entry, and a summary of the service of each rating (seaman). Arrangement is in order of continuous service numbers, but includes alphabetical indexes of surnames, giving also the individual's continuous service number. These records are arranged in three series. The first series has no specific designation but the 2nd and 3rd series are designated series A and series B respectively. There is one index for all three series so it is important to note from the index which series is referred to. The series designations are at the top of each page of the index. If there is no series designation the page refers to the first series. Located under the subjects: Great Britain – Military records – Navy and England – Military records – Navy. Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1973 and held on 923 reels of 35mm microfilm.

  • Admiralty Records -- Seamen's Effect Papers (PRO-ADM 44), 1757-1850. [Great Britain. Admiralty (Main Author)] Microfilm copy of originals at the London Public Record Office at Kew, Surrey, England. Public Record Office call nos.: ADM44/A1-10, ADM44/B1-10. Wills are arranged in alphabetical order of the writers' names and by the date of making the will. Dates of records range from 1757 to 1850. Located under subject heading(s): Great Britain – Probate records and Great Britain – Military records – Navy. Original manuscript filmed on 29 reels of 35 mm. microfilm. Film notes for the 29 reels begin with the following microfilm: Seamen's effects papers, A1, pages 1-645 (Surnames begin with A) cases 1-250, 1767-1827 found on film: VAULT BRITISH Film 1942131. The second reel contains Seamen's effects papers, A1, pages 645-830 (Surnames begin with A), 1781-1847 on film: VAULT BRITISH Film 1942132.

  • Index To Bounty Papers, 1675-1822. [Great Britain. Admiralty (Main Author)]. Microfilm of original records at the London Public Record Office. Navy board nos. 3021-3034 adm. 106. Index indicates type of papers: birth, marriage or death certificates; correspondence; or name only. Located under subject heading(s): England – Military records – Indexes and Great Britain – Military records - Indexes. Filmed by the LDS in 1970 on 1 reel of microfilm, Film no: FHL BRITISH Film 824518 Item 1.

  • A list of the officers of His Majesty's Royal Marine Forces ... (PRO-ADM 192) [Great Britain. Admiralty (Main Author)]. Microfilm of original records : [London] : Admiralty Office, 1760-1886. 44 v. Contains the Admiralty class no. ADM 192. The information contained in these printed volumes includes lists of officers, the date of commission, rate of pay, company numbers and details of the officers establishment of the corps. Located under subject heading: Great Britain – Military records – 1760 - 1789. 5 microfilm reels ; 35 mm. Film numbers begin with ADM 192/1-7(ends p. 94) Royal Marines, list of officers--1760, 1777, 1779, 1804, 1806, 1807, 1813 on microfilm: FHL BRITISH Film 1502037 Items 1-7

  • Naval Officers' Marriage Certificates, 1806-1902 (PRO-ADM 13). [Great Britain. Admiralty (Main Author)]. Microfilm of original records at the Public Record Office, Surrey, England. Marriage certificates and accompanying letters from 1867 to 1902 are arranged in a loose alphabetical format, a to z, for each year. London PRO call no.: ADM 13/70-71, 186-192. Located under subject heading(s): Great Britain – Vital records, Great Britain – Civil registration and, Great Britain – Military records - Navy. Located on 12 microfilm reels ; 35 mm. Begins with Index to marriage certificates, 1806-1861 Letters and marriage certificates, 1806-1858 on microfilm FHL BRITISH Film 1818342.

  • Pensions For Widows Of Naval Officers, 1800-1818 (PRO-ADM 30/57). [Great Britain. Admiralty (Main Author)].Microfilm of original records at the Public Record Office, Surrey, England. Register includes name of widow, name of husband, rank, name of ship, date and place of marriage, and age of husband at death. London PRO call no.: ADM 30/57. Located under subject heading(s): Great Britain – Vital records, Great Britain – Civil registration and, Great Britain – Military records - Navy. Can be viewed on 1 microfilm reel ; 35 mm. microfilm number FHL BRITISH Film 1818354.
When searching the LDS catalog online, don't forget to use a variety of subject headings in your search. For example, topics/subjects to search also include:
Always remember to do a final search through the catalog for the AUTHOR(s) listed on the most common resources (e.g. Great Britain. Admiralty). There are occasions when a search of the catalog by Author will turn up entries not filed under standard subject headings.


Naval Records for Genealogists By N A M Rodger. Extensive new edition of this guide to the holdings of the PRO, Public Record Office Handbook No 22. With illustrations. 1998, 230 pages. (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06028073)

The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy By N A M Rodger This book offers a portrait of eighteenth century Naval Society, showing clearly how the Navy worked, what life was like below decks. Probably the most complete picture of the Navy in the eighteenth century. 1st edition 1988, 446 pages. (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06028575)

Every man will do his duty: An Anthology of firsthand accounts from the age of Nelson 1793-1815, edited by Dean King. This book offers a collection of firsthand accounts of battles, and voyages from Nelson's era. Illustrated with some diagrams, maps and charts. Hardback. 1st edition 1997, 424 pages (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06028444)

The Royal Naval Air Service compiled by Terry C Treadwell and Alan C Wood. Images of the Air Service at war, in training and on parade as well as singular members and other situations. 1st edition 1999, 128 pages (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06022385)

The Jutland Roll of Honour: compiled from Official Admiralty sources at the Public Record Office (3.5" computer disc) by Stuart Tamblin (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06021978)

Victorian Sailor by David Marcombe. This book is an illustrated guide to the life of the Victorian sailor. (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 0602721)

Liverpool Docks compiled by Michael Stammers. This work offers invaluable images of the Liverpool Docks both in their heyday, and in more recent times. 1st edition 1999, 128 pages. (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06022392m)

National Maritime Museum: the Collections This work provides an illustrated guide to the collections of the National Maritime Museum, mainly dealing with the extensive collection of artworks pertinent to Naval history. 1990, 128 pages. (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06021397)

Britain's Maritime Memorials & Mementoes by David Saunders. This book is geographically arranged in A-Z and offers a survey of more than 1400 memorials to those lost at sea. Gives a fascinating aspect into Britains's maritime past. Illustrated. Hardback. 1st edition 1996, 178 pages (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06028416)

Discovering British Military Badges and Buttons by R J Wilkinson-Latham. This 88 page guide is designed to help researchers recognize badges and buttons of the army. Very helpful when trying to identify uniformed soldiers in photographs. Part of Shire books 'Discovering' series. 2nd edition 1994. More info at:

Researching British Military Medals: A Practical Guide by Steve Dymond. This 144 page guide is designed to point researchers to the records available for tracing and researching medals and their recipients. Well illustrated with examples of documents, medals and photos. Includes case histories showing how the research process worked. 1st edition 1999. (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 06028467)

Maritime Sources In The Library of The Society of Genealogists by: John Hailey. The Library of the Society of Genealogists contains much information about maritime history, although it is not always easy to find, as it is incorporated into many parts of the library. This guide, therefore, is not a complete record of the library's holdings, but provides a starting point for those seeking their seafaring ancestors. 32pp., Soft Cover, 6" x 9",1999, ISBN 1-85951-069-8. More info at:

Tracing Your Family Tree by Jean Cole and John Titford. More info at: In particular chapter 15.

In Search of your British and Irish Roots. A complete guide to tracing your English and Welsh, Scottish & Irish Ancestors. By Angus Baxter. 4th edition (1999). In particular chapter 8. More info at:

Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber. First published 1997 and republished 1998 (USA). This exceptional book includes an extensive chapter on records of shipping and seamen with illustrations of actual PRO Admiralty records. The author carefully explains the research process within the record groups using step by step research examples to learn as much information as possible. This 674 page reference book is invaluable for anyone researching their English and Welsh Roots and is most helpful when working through military records. (Available from at 1 800 361-5168 or email at, Catalog# 2182691)


UK Ministry of Defence: Royal Navy Service Records:

Royal Navy: Learn about the Royal Marines - their history, structure and modern careers. What is the difference between the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines? The Royal Marines are the Royal Navy's infantry, and provide a Commando Brigade for amphibious operations.

History of the Royal Navy: Did you know that many terms now in use in the English language around the world owe their beginnings to slang originated by sailors of the Royal Navy. A valuable resource in tracing these origins has been Covey Crump - a collection of Naval slang, abbreviations, legends and historical tit-bits which was originally compiled by Commander A. Covey-Crump, RN, a former Naval Assistant to the Chief of Naval Information. The first edition appeared on 17th May, 1955. It is reproduced on the Royal Navy's website. Such words as: ADRIFT (This is the accepted Naval word for anyone or anything that cannot be found when it is wanted) and; GARLAND - WEDDING GARLAND which according to Covey Crump reports that it is an old naval custom to hoist a garland (usually between foremast and mainmast) on the wedding day of an officer of the ship; the garland consists of two loops of evergreen, forming a sort of sphere, with white satin ribbon streamers hanging from the base. The custom is said to have its origin in the days when wives and sweethearts were allowed on board a ship on her return to port from sea; very little work was done for the first two or three days and a garland was hoisted to indicate that the ship was `out of routine' and was not to be boarded by the Officer-of-the-Guard on his tour of inspection. The wedding garland custom properly culminates in the garland being put in the bridegroom's cabin for him to find there on his return from his honeymoon; the white satin ribbon is then the perquisite of the bride.

Royal Navy Historical Information Pages:

Royal Navy: a photographic A to Z of British Naval warships, submarines, and auxiliaries from 1880 to 1950`s:

National Maritime Museum - Centre for maritime research This site is a must visit destination. Filled with scanned images of priceless artwork and filled with helpful guides to their extensive art, manuscript and library collections. In particular do not miss the Museum's detailed and helpful online research guides at:

British Naval and Maritime History Historic Newspaper Reports:

A Miscellaneous listing of Reports of British Ships 1850 - 1880:

Ships Co. Uk website:

Ship Losses and Incidents around Britain:

DataMarine - UK's premier source for Maritime Databases:


The main institutions with naval/maritime records, artifacts and related services are as follows:

Public Record Office (PRO)
Ruskin Avenue, Kew
Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU
Tel: (+44) 020 8876 3444, Tel: (+44) 020 8392 5200 (Records Enquiries)
Fax: (+44) 020 8392 5286
The PRO holds most Admiralty records including official logs of warships. It also holds all personnel and service records of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines up to about 1922

The Family Record Centre 1 Myddleton Street
London EC1R 1UW
Telephone: (+44) 020 8392 5300 (general enquiries) or (+44) 0151 471 4800 (certificate enquiries) website: The FRC has records of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837, with a separate Marine Register for events at sea. Note: registers of events at sea were not recorded with any regularity before about 1852.

National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
Telephone: (+44) 020 8858 4422
Fax: (+44) 020 8312 6632
Website: Telephone (+44) 020 8312 6691/6669, fax (+44) 020 8312 6722 E-mail enquiries:
The Museum has a large collection of Royal Navy Portraits and many other navy and maritime resources. For additional information about researching Royal Navy Portraits, visit the Museum's online research guide at:

Ministry of Defence CSR (2) - Navy Search
Bourne Avenue, Hayes
Middlesex, UB3 1RF
This office controls all service records which have not yet been passed to the PRO. Please note that information can only be given to next of kin.

PP1 A1 HMS Centurion
Grange Road, Gosport
Hampshire, PO13 9XA
This office controls service records for the period after 1939. Please note that information can only be provided to next of kin.

The Admiralty Library 3-5 Great Scotland Yard
London SW1A 2HW
Tel: (+44) 020 7218 5446
This library in Whitehall also has material housed with the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth and in the Hydrographic Office at Taunton, but initial enquiries should be made to the main Admiralty Library address shown above.
Royal Naval Museum Library No 12 Store, Semaphore Tower Road
HM Naval Base, Portsmouth
Hampshire PO1 3NH
Tel: (+44) 01705 725490

Royal Navy Submarine Museum Haslar Jetty, Gosport
Hampshire, PO12 2AS
Tel: (+44) 01705 510354
Fax: (+44) 01705 511349

Royal Marines Museum Southsea, Portsmouth
Hampshire, PO4 9PX
Tel: (+44) 01705 819385
Fax: (+44) 01705 838420
The Royal Marines Museum provides the public and researchers with the history of Britain's sea soldiers from 1664 to the present.

Fleet Air Arm Museum Box D6, RNAS Yeovilton
Near Ilchester, Somerset BA22 8HT
Tel: (+44) 01935 840565
Fax: (+44) 01935 840181
The Fleet Air Arm Museum is the repository for the history of the Royal Naval Air Service and Naval aviation as well as the Fleet Air Arm.

Royal Naval Hospital Haslar Haslar, Gosport
Hampshire PO12 2AA
Tel: (+44) 01705 584255
The centre for the Royal Naval Medical Library Service, MOD.

Imperial War Museum Lambeth Road
London SE1 6HZ
Tel: (+44) 020 7416 5000
Fax: (+44) 020 7416 5374
E-mail: website: Collection covers 20th century naval history and warfare only.

Imperial War Museum Department of Photographs
All Saints Annexe, Austral Street
London SE11
Tel: (+44) 020 7416 5333 Fax: (+44) 020 7416 5379
Website: Includes the official photographic record of the Royal and merchant navies during the First and Second World Wars.

British Library Oriental and India Office Collections
96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
Telephone: (+44) 020 7412 7873
website: E-mail: The British Library holdings include the surviving archives of the East India Company.

British Library- Newspaper Library Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5HE Telephone: (+44) 020 7412 7353 website: e-mail: The holdings of the Newspaper Library include national and provincial newspapers, maritime and trade papers.

Guildhall Library Aldermanbury London EC2P 2EJ
Telephone: (+44) 020 7332 1868/1870 (printed books) or (+44) 020 7332 1862/1863 (manuscripts)
website: E-mail (manuscripts):

Maritime History Research Collection Memorial University of Newfoundland
St John's, Newfoundland, Canada. A1B 3Y1
website: and Maritime History Archive Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. A1C 5S7
Phone: 1-709-737-8428/9
Fax: 1-709-737-3123
website: email: The Maritime History Archive collects and preserves original documents and copies of documents relating to the history of sea based activities in the north Atlantic region. The Maritime History Archive will research the records in its custody and provide reports and/or copies of documents on request. They are not able to construct detailed family trees or determine family relationships. Further details about genealogical research at the MHA can be found on their website:

Merseyside Maritime Museum Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AA
Telephone: (+44) 0151 207 0001
website: The Merseyside Maritime Museum has the records of Liverpool and area shipping, trade and emigration (emigration records do not include passenger lists.)

National Register of Archives Quality House, Quality Court
Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1TT
Telephone: (+44) 020 7242 1198
website: The National Register of Archives has some 41,000 unpublished lists of major manuscript collections, approximately 5,000 published finding aids and repositories' annual reports. Indexes to lists available online, arranged archivally rather than thematically. Information sheets are also available.

The Genealogical Services Directory, compiled by Robert Blatchford and Geoffrey Heslop (1999) includes an extensive listing of military museums in England and Wales. Many county and borough record offices and local specialty museums have military and/or naval collections not necessarily found in the larger naval institutions or repositories. In addition these records may be supplemented by local diaries, private papers and other collections that help to explain the local impact of naval events and recruitment.

The discussion of records within this article has been little more than a general overview of the more commonly used records; many of which have been microfilmed and are available on microfilm loan through the LDS. British Military records in general are very extensive while navy records can be quite complex. The details they offer researchers about the people who served in the navy are sometimes one-of-a-kind. Links to online resources and listing of published resources and institutional contact information has been provided to help researchers locate more detailed information concerning the records, events and historical context of the British Navy.

Learning to understand military or navy terminology, hierarchy and the changing structure and service can be quite a daunting task. Regardless of how difficult the learning curve may appear, the information available for your ancestor who served in the navy is well worth the effort. Placing the life of the ancestor and the naval records within the historic context of the time period will also add to your family history endeavours by painting a more vivid and meaningful picture of the person/family you are researching.

Whether you are searching for records online, in published sources or in other electronic products, please remember there is absolutely NO substitute for verifying the information with original or other supporting records and sources. All indexes, databases and other publications should be used as clues or pointers to information requiring additional confirmation with other records and primary sources which you should access to ensure the accuracy of your research.

Always remember, your research is the legacy you leave to others - verify all information you find!


NATIONAL REGISTER OF ARCHIVES The National Register of Archives is the clearing house for local record offices and stately homes and provides details of their holdings but NOT the actual documents. The register can be searched by place or name. Don't forget to check out and download their explanatory leaflets.

PAMPHLET COLLECTION - British Library of Political and Economic Science (BLPES) In a welcome move to researchers and historians, the British Library of Political and Economic Science (BLPES) has created an online guide to its large pamphlet collection, containing some 90,000 pamphlets, many from the 19th and early 20th centuries. While covering a number of important public and political issues in British history, the collection also contains a fair amount of European and International materials, including a large number of German-language pamphlets, as well as materials on Latin American trade unions, the League of Nations, pacifism, the two World Wars, and conflict in the Middle East. Users can browse the guide by fifteen topics (e.g., Issues in British history, political parties, social policy, poor laws, transport, etc.) or search the online catalog by subject keyword, author, title, or issuing body. The guide lists pamphlet author, title, and classmark, while the online catalog also includes publisher, pages, location, and other notes. As an added bonus, the majority of pamphlets listed in the social policy and transport guides have been digitized and are available in .pdf format.

BRITAIN TO BE MAPPED FOR INTERNET (ASSOCIATED PRESS) source: November 1999, Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

LONDON (AP) -- A series of aerial photographs will allow Internet-users to zoom in on every town, every street and every house in Britain as part of a millennium mapping project. The map shows the nation in such detail that objects as small as 9.8 inches can be viewed in high-resolution photographs....

The Millennium Mapping Co. raised $3.8 million from investors for the project, which involved more than 55,000 aerial photographs taken over six months. Computer-users will be able to download detailed images from the Internet site for about $16 each. Half of the map will be online in January, and the rest should be available by the end of 2001, the company said.

"It is a snapshot of the country at the end of the millennium, allowing people 100 years from now to see how we lived our lives and what our environment looked like," said Tristram Cary, the company's managing director. The project's Web site is

About Fawne Stratford-Devai
Fawne Stratford-Devai's work on Land Records and early Ontario records is well known in the genealogy community. A published author of several Canadian and UK research books, she has also contributed articles to the Ontario Genealogical Society's newsletter "Families" as well as writing for the online family history newsletter the "Global Gazette". Biography

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
(Pontiac County, Quebec)

The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)