The British National Archives is now offering researchers the ability to download the Royal Naval Seaman service records. It’s another resource to add to your list of places to look for your ancestors. I can recommend this database because I was lucky enough to find someone to add to my family history records online from my laptop here in the U.S. At first I was unable to find the person I was looking for by adding his first name to the search and was successful when I entered the last name only.
There are over 600,000 service records for people who joined the Royal Navy between 1853 and 1923. These records can be located in the Registers of Seamen’s Services (ADM 188) and the Continuous Service engagement books (ADM 139).
The information available in these records could provide you with clues about a family member that you can’t trace in other databases. For instance:
- Year of birth (you might also find the day and month)
- 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
From 1892 you can find greater detail in the records:
- Any badges issued
- Notes made about “character” and “ability”
- Physical appearance, such as hair and eye colour, height and tattoos
- Any wounds received
- Date of death (if occurred in service)
As with most databases these days, you’ll need to pay for a copy of the records you purchase from the National Archives.
To learn more about the database, how to search, and content, click on National Archives.