What Information Do The Records Contain
The information in these records can include:
- year of birth
- town and country of birth
- names of ships served on, with dates of joining and discharge from each ship
- period of time actually served
- any engagements not completed and the reason for this
- service numbers known as continuous service numbers up to 1872, and official numbers from 1873 onwards
From 1892 you can find greater detail in the records, including:
- good conduct badges issued
- notes made about character and ability
- physical appearance, such as hair and eye colour, height and tattoos
- wounds suffered
- date of death
- you may also find a cross reference to the new register. This will be to one of the Continuation books in ADM 188/83-90
The continuous service engagement books, from series ADM 139, may also reveal:
- details of any service in the merchant navy
- official numbers
What Can These Records Tell Me
Each record is an image and transcript of a Royal Navy Seaman’s service record from The National Archives ADM188 series.
The amount of information varies, but the Royal Navy Seamen 1899-1924 records usually include a combination of the following information about your ancestor.
Physical description: height, hair and eye colour
Ships served in and dates
Bibliography For Military Records
The resorces listed below may assist you in your research:
Bevan, Amanda, and Andrea Duncan. Tracing Your Ancestors in the Public Record Office. Fourth Edition. London, England: Her Majestys Stationery Office, 1995.
Colledge, James J. Ships of the Royal Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1987.
Hamilton-Edwards, Gerald. In Search of Army Ancestry. London, England: Phillimore & Company, Limited, 1977.
Higham, Robin. A Guide to the Sources of British Military History. London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972.
Records of Officers and Soldiers Who Have Served in the British Army. London, England: Public Record Office, 1984.
Rodgers, N.A.M. Naval Records for Genealogists. Second Edition. London, England: Her Majestys Stationery Office, 1988.
Swinson, Arthur S., Editor. A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London, England: Archive Press, 1972.
White, Arthur S. comp. A Bibliography of Regimental Histories of the British Army. Dallington, East Sussex, England: Naval and Military Press Ltd., 1992.
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Request Recent Military Records
If You Are a Veteran or Next-of-Kin
To get a copy of the vets military records, you can:
Most requests are free.
If You Are Not the Veteran or Next-of-Kin
You can only get limited information about non-archival records without the consent of the veteran or next-of-kin. Non-archival records are those from 62 years ago to the present. Learn about access to non-archival military records by the general public and researchers.
Correcting Military Service Records
For guidance on the review of discharges and military corrections boards, see NARA’s “Veterans’ Service Records: Correcting Military Service Records”.1For informationon the military service review boards , see “Boards for Correction of Military Records / Discharge Upgrades” site.2NARA’s site also provides the following BCMR guidance:
“Prior to submitting a request to a Board for Correction of Military Records, ALL administrative avenues must be used. Generally, that means a request to NPRC for a correction , then a request to the military service department , and finally if both these fail, then submit DD Form 149, with supporting evidence as instructed on the form.”3
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Is It Still Worthwhile Looking At The Service Records
Yes it is – for this project much information is being extracted from the Royal Navy Officers and ratings service records held by the TNA in the series ADM 196 and ADM 188. However information such as physical descriptions, disciplinary offences, qualifications etc are not being captured and so may be of interest to researchers. Digital scans of the service records can be downloaded for a fee from the National Archives website.
Personnel Files: Military Service And Pension Records At The National Archives
The Military Personnel Records division of the National Personnel Records Center , a component of the National Archives and Records Administration located in St. Louis, Missouri, holds most existing U.S. military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services from World War I to the present. Neither the NPRC nor the Department of Defense intends to destroy the physical records of U.S. servicemembers. Some older records have been electronically scanned to reduce the handling of fragile records. See NARA’s site “Access to Military Service and Pension Records” at .
Official Military Personnel File records may be requested online at , by using the Standard Form 180 and submitting by mail , or fax .
Veterans and their next-of-kin may request these records. According to the NPRC, for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, the NOK is defined as the unremarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister for the Army, the NOK is defined as the surviving spouse, eldest child, father or mother, eldest sibling or eldest grandchild.
In 1973, a fire at NPRC destroyed approximately 16 million to 18 million Army and Air Force official military personnel files. In such cases where files were lost, NPRC uses alternate sources of information to respond to requests.
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What Information Youll Get
Service records date from:
- 1750 for Foot Guards
- 1920 for the RAF
- 1926 for Royal Navy including Royal Marines
Each service record may include:
- surname, first name, service number, rank and regiment or corps
- place and date of birth
- date they joined and left the armed forces
- date of death, if they died in service
- good conduct medals
- details about their career, for example the units they served in
You can only get details about their career 25 years after the date they died unless you have consent from their immediate next of kin.
In some cases little or no information is available about someones military service. For example, Home Guard records may only include their personal details from when they enlisted.
Your request might be refused if it could harm the security or operations of the armed forces.
Records Of The Bureau Of Naval Personnel
- 24.3 RECORDS RELATING TO NAVAL OFFICERS, ENLISTED MEN, ANDAPPRENTICES1798-1943
- 24.3.1 Records relating to naval officers
- 24.3.2 Records relating to enlisted men
- 24.3.3 Records relating to naval apprentices
- 24.4 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF DETAIL 1865-90
- 24.5 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF EQUIPMENT AND RECRUITING 1856-1928
- 24.6 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF NAVIGATION 1804-1946
- 24.6.1 Records of the Chaplains Division
- 24.6.2 Records of the Division of Naval Militia Affairs
- 24.6.3 Records of the Naval Reserve Division
- 24.6.4 Records of the Division of Officers and Fleet
- 24.6.5 Records of the Naval Academy Division
- 24.6.6 Records of the Morale Division
- 24.6.7 Records of the Training Division
- 24.7 RECORDS OF OPERATING UNITS OF THE BUREAU OF NAVAL PERSONNEL 1940-46
- 24.8 RECORDS OF FIELD ESTABLISHMENTS 1838-1970
- 24.8.1 Records of the U.S. Naval Home, Philadelphia, PA
- 24.8.2 Records of the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, PA
- 24.8.3 Records of the Indoctrination School for Officers, Fort Schuyler, NY
- 24.8.4 Records of the Enlisted Naval Training School , Bedford Springs, PA
- 24.8.5 Records of the V-12 Unit, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
- 24.8.6 Records of the Naval Midshipmen’s School, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
- 24.8.7 Records of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, Yale University, New Haven, CT
- 24.9 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS 1898-1944
- 24.10 MOTION PICTURES 1917-27
- 24.11 SOUND RECORDINGS
- 24.12 STILL PICTURES 1892-1945
- 24.13 MACHINE-READABLE RECORDS
24.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
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War Gratuity Cards For World War I And World War Ii
Most members of the naval forces who returned from World War I and World War II were eligible for a war gratuity or bonus to recognise their service.
This was paid as cash or government bonds.
All of the WWI naval war gratuity records can be found through NameSearch – enter the surname and select the ‘war gratuity records’ category
Only a few WWII records have been listed . You can do a basic search for the surname on RecordSearch, or ask us a question.
What Do The Records Look Like
The early two examples here are from the record of George Smith, who first served on HMS Victory.
The form in the first image shows that he volunteered on 10 June 1853 and gives his birth date as 1 December 1838, along with a description of his appearance.
Royal Navy service record of George Smith
The second image shows the separate forms that were signed by boys, agreeing to serve ten years once they turn 18, and by men, agreeing to serve a fixed number of years.
Certificate for boys
The third image is a later example. Its a pre-printed form, with the details listed in headed columns.
This final image is an example of the later records in ADM 363. This image shows the first page only.
First page of a service record for Alfred Henry Conway
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Contents Of Muster Rolls
Muster Roll of the USS Jeannette, 1879
National Archives Identifier 134425890
Pre-1940 Navy muster rolls may provide the following information about enlistees:
- Date and place of enlistment
- State and/or country of birth
However, not all muster rolls include all of this information. Pre-1860 muster rolls usually only provide the sailor’s name, vessel or station, and service dates.
Obtaining Service Records Using Sf
Military personnel records are requested using the SF-180 form. SF-180 is used by the NPRC to obtain public files from a service member and outlines several ways to send in your request:
- The PDF is available online for download. Fill out the form with accurate information to the best of your ability.
- NPRC explains how to return the document: Review the tables on page 3 of SF-180 to identify the correct location of the record you need and send the completed form to the address identified on the table.
- Fill out an inquiry form on NPRC to have the SF-180 mailed to you directly.
- Return the documents to:
St. Louis, Missouri 63138
- Visit a Veterans Administration office, VA organization, or Federal Information Center.
The SF-180 can be mailed directly or faxed to 801-9195. NPRC responds in the order in which the request was received. Separation documents typically take about 10 business days, whereas older records may take up to six months to retrieve.
Next-of-kin of deceased veterans may fill out a SF-180 form or have the option of filling out an online order form.
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Foia And The Privacy Act
Most documents are kept at the National Personnel Records Center, a collection of over 70 million files in St. Louis, Missouri. NPRC stores service records from the Department of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
As outlined on the NPRC website, the Freedom of Information Act typically grants anyone with the statutory right to view general information from executive branch agency records. These files do not require the veterans or next-of-kins permission.
The FOIAs purpose is to provide transparency to the public while also protecting the service members privacy through the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act limits the type of information accessible to the public and how they are used.
Any documents needed beyond public information are limited to the next-of-kin are permitted by the service member.
Information that may be viewed by the public:
- Transcript of Courts-Martial Trials
- Place of entrance and separation
Items such as salary, source of commission, and promotion sequence number are rarely on file. Typically, deceased veterans have the place of birth, date, and location of death, and place of burial on public file.
Note: OFMPs, separation documents , replacement records, and medical records are not open to the public and must go through a verification process to obtain these items.
What Else Can I Learn From The Record
If an ADM 363 record shows that the rating re-entered at a date after 1928, with a new official number, then you may find their record is still held by the Ministry of Defence.
If the service numbers is prefixed with the letter F this means the rating served in the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War or with The Fleet Air Arm after 1920.
If you find a Y-prefixed official number, the rating may have volunteered for service in the Royal Navy but was allocated a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve without necessarily being called up.
From January 1894 service numbers were assigned according to a ratings branch of service. Consult the table below to find which sets of service numbers were assigned to the respective branches of service:
|Service numbers issued 1894-1907|
|Officers stewards, Officers cooks and Boy servants|
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Morning Reports And Rosters
- Morning reports and rosters may also be of interest.
- Unit morning reports created from 1917 to 1974 are in the custody of the National Personnel Records Center, Military Records Facility, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
- Rosters created from 1917 until the present are also located at the National Personnel Records Center or at the Army Reserve Personnel Center, both of which may be contacted at the address above.
- Additional information may be found at the National Personnel Records Center Web site.
About The First World War Royal Navy Lives At Sea Project
The National Archives , The National Maritime Museum and the Crew List Index Project team building on their successful collaboration with the Merchant 1915 Crew List Index project have joined together again with the help of a team of e-volunteers from all over the world to create a free to search database resource relating to all the Royal Navy officers and ratings that served in the First World War based principally on service records held by TNA.
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Military Awards And Decorations
The NPRC also provides information and guidance on how to request military awards and decorations online and by mail for veterans and their NOK replacing certain military medals and obtaining a Cold War Recognition Certificate.4 This is available for the records of a servicemember who separated before or during 1956. For records for individuals who separated after 1956, these records can be requested through FOIA. The general public may also purchase a copy of the veteran’s OMPF to determine the awards due and obtain the medals from a commercial source. Individuals can request information on military service medals, decorations and awards online: .
National Personnel Records Center
Coast Guard Personnel Service Center4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 900 Stop 7200Arlington, VA 20598-7200
Search For Family And Friends
When did the member serve?
Choose one of the following:
All First World War records are open on Library and Archives Canada website.
Search records of those who died in service between 1939 and 1947, including those killed in action, those who subsequently died of injuries related to service, and those who died as a result of accident or illness while in service.
Send an ATIP Online Request to LAC.
Library and Archives Canada keeps records for those who were in:
- the regular forces between 1919 and 1997, including Permanent Force, Second World War and Korea -OR-
- the reserves between 1919 and 2007 -OR-
- the Newfoundland Militia who served in the Second World War .
Service records from this time are protected because they contain personal information.
Send an ATIP Online Request to DND.
DND keeps records for those who were in:
- the regular Canadian Forces between 1 January 1998 and today AND is either:
- currently serving,
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Ancestry Us Military Collection
Discover the heroes in your family tree in the Ancestry.com U.S. Military Collection including millions of U.S. military records, covering almost 400 years of American wars and conflicts. With more than 100 million names and 700 titles and databases of military records from all 50 U.S. states, there are countless opportunities to learn the stories of courage and sacrifice in your family tree.
Search through enlightening historical documents from every major U.S. war from the American Revolution through Vietnam, including draft registration cards, veterans gravesites, soldier pension indexes, enlistment records, muster rolls and much more.
NARA provides many of the military records on Ancestry.
And Later Us Navy Muster Rolls
The National Archives at College Park, MD, houses U.S. Navy muster rolls from approximately 1940 to the early 1980s.
World War IIera Navy muster rolls are available online through Ancestry.com .
Select muster rolls from the postWorld War II era are also available through Ancestry .
For more information about these records, see Know Your Records: U.S. Navy Muster Rolls and Personnel Diaries. For questions, please email .
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Records Of Navy Service After 1970
Records of Navy service after 1970 are held by the Department of Defence.
If you are a former serving member or their next of kin, you can request your records directly from the Department of Defence.
If you are not a former serving member or their next of kin, please submit a ‘Defence service after World War II‘ enquiry.