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Royal Navy/Royal Marines - Navy Lists (Service Records) - Officers (Military)

Nature of Source

Official account printed quarterly of a naval officers career and biography. The Navy Lists contains details of all Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service and former Women's Royal Naval Service commissioned officers at the rank of lieutenant or above. The Lists include surgeons and pursers but do not include non-commissioned Officers. Chief engineers were added from 1853 and midshipmen, boatswains and gunners from 1870. Royal Marine officers appear in the Army Lists from 1797.

The Navy List was preceded by the unofficial Steel's Navy List from 1782 to 1816 and Lean's Navy List from 1878 to 1916. The unofficial New Navy List covering 1841-1856 is also worth checking. Some editions of the New Navy List are available at Google Books whilst the 1867 edition of the official Navy List and other editions are also available at Google Books.

The officer grade consisted of warrant and commissioned officers. Warrant officers were appointed by the Admiralty for a particular technical skill or knowledge and worked in a number of occupations such as purser's mate, boatswain, carpenter, gunner, cook, surgeon's mate, sailmaker, armourer and cooper. Warrant Officers also included masters pre-1808, surgeons, pursers and chaplains pre-1843 and engineers pre-1847. These posts became commissioned officers after these dates. Warrant officers rank below that of a commissioned officer but above a non-commissioned officer.

Commissioned officers are appointed to a position of command directly from the Crown and included admirals, commodores, captains, commanders and lieutenants. A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is appointed to a position of authority by promotion through the ranks. Petty officers or Senior Ratings are non-commissioned but rank below an NCO.

Similar publications providing biographical and service details of officers include:

Syrett & DiNardo's, The Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815 (alphabetical list of serving officers compiled from a variety of sources including the Navy Lists providing dates of seniority, promotion, retirement and death. The reference work is based on the original publication of 1955 by David Bonner Smith with revisions and corrections)

John Marshall's Royal Navy Biography 1760-1823 (up to 1835 and providing details about all officers extracted from the Admiralty list of sea officers. A name index to Marshall's work by Anthony Gary Brown is available at Anthony G Brown Fine Nautical Books)

O'Byrne's A Naval Biographical Dictionary (lists of serving commissioned officers for the year 1845 and includes career and biographical information)

John Charnock's Biographia Navalis (1660-1794 providing a summary of the officer's career. Volume 1 avaialble to view online at Google Books)

Patrick Marione's The Complete Navy List of the Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815

John Campbell's Lives of the British Admirals (Up to 1816. A number of volumes of Campbell's work can be found at Google Books and the Internet Archive)

Dictionary of National Biography

Also consult editions of the Naval Chronicle published monthly from 1799 to 1819 which carried news of campaigns, promotions and some announcements of naval births, marriages and deaths. Some editions are available at Google Books and the Internet Archive. Also see Norman Hurst's Naval Chronicle, 1799-1818: Index to Births, Marriages and Deaths, published in 1989.

Publications such as the Gentleman's Magazine and the Illustrated London News and possibly local and national newspapers and journals carried stories and news on officers. At an officer's death it is almost certain that at least the local newspaper would have carried an obituary, giving a career summary of the person.

The records of officers who faced disciplinary proceedings can be found in court martial records held at TNA in series ADM 1/5261-5351. An Alphabetical digest of convictions of officers at court martial, arranged by name covering 1810-1816 can be found in series ADM 12/27A and in ADM 12/27F can be found an index and digest of court martial verdicts covering 1812-1855. The Naval authorities also kept 'Black Books' containing the names of officers who had transgressed and who were barred from further employment in the Navy. The three volumes are held in series ADM 12/27B, ADM 12/27C and ADM 12/27D with a name index available in series ADM 12/27E, 1741-1819.

Service records for all ranks who served after 1920 remain with the Ministry of Defence with each military service maintaining its own record office. The Veterans UK web site provides contact details of where to apply for service records for each of the services.

Also see
Casualty Records, Ratings & Officers
Certificates of Service - Ratings & Officers
Half Pay Registers – Officers
Medal Rolls, Ratings & Officers
Muster & Pay Books (Service Records) - Ratings & Officers
Passing Certificates & Examinations - Officers
Service Registers - Officers including WWI
Surveys and Succession Books - Officers

Where Found

The National Archives (Printed Navy Lists, official and unofficial; ADM 118, Officers Seniority Lists, 1717-1850; ADM 8, Admiralty List Books, 1673-1909 showing the disposition of ships and names of officers)
Society of Genealogists (Navy Resources)
British Library
National Maritime Museum/Caird Library
Royal Naval Museum
National Library of Scotland
Local and specialist reference libraries

Period Covered

1814 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names, career, service, biographies, decorations, personal information, lists of ships with serving officers

Further References

Addis, C.P. The Men Who Fought with Nelson in HMS Victory at Trafalgar: Nelson Society, 1988


Adkins, Roy & Lesley. Jack Tar: The Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary Seamen in Nelson's Navy: Abacus, 2009


Bevan, Amanda. Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives: The National Archives, 2006


Blank, Dr. Stuart. Researching British Military History on the Internet: Alwyn Enterprises, 2007


Brooks, Richard & Little, Matthew. Tracing Your Royal Marine Ancestors: Pen and Sword Books, 2008


Burt, R.A. British Battleships of World War One: Seaforth, 2012


Clarke, John D. Men of HMS Victory at Trafalgar Including the Muster Roll, Casualties, Rewards and Medals: Naval & Military Press 2002


Cock, Randolph & Rodgers N.A.M. A Guide to the Naval Records in The National Archives of the UK: Institute of Historical Research, 2006


Coleman, E.C. Rank and Rate: Insignia of Royal Naval Ratings, WRNS, Royal Marines, QARNNS and Auxiliaries: Crowood Press, 2012


Divall, Ken. My Ancestor was a Royal Marine: Society of Genealogists, 2008


Fenton, Roy & Briody, Nuala & Macdonald, Mike. Maritime Information : A Guide to Libraries and Sources of Information in the United Kingdom: Maritime Information Association, 2004


Fowler, Simon. A Guide to Military History on the Internet: Pen & Sword, 2007


Fowler, Simon. Tracing Your Naval Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2011


Gregson, Keith. Nelson's Navy 1793-1815: Federation of Family History Societies, 2006


Hurst, Norman (comp). Naval Chronicle, 1799-1818: Index to Births, Marriages and Deaths: N. Hurst, 1989


Ingham, Mary. Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books 2012


Lavery, Brian. Life in Nelson's Navy: The History Press, 2011


Lavery, Brian. Empire of the Seas: The Remarkable Story of How the Navy Forged the Modern World: Conway, 2012


Lavery, Brian. Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation, 1793-1815: Conway, 2013


Mackenzie, Robert Holden. The Trafalgar Roll: The Ships and the Officers: Chatham, 2004


Morris, Stuart. Dorset, The Royal Navy: Dovecote Press, 2011  

Pappalardo, Bruno. Tracing Your Naval Ancestors: PRO, 2003


Pappalardo, Bruno. Royal Navy Lieutenants' Passing Certificates 1691-1902: List & Index Society, 2001 (Available in The National Archives reading rooms)


Pope, Dudley.Life In Nelson's Navy: Chatham Publishing, 1997


Prysor, Glyn. Citizen Sailors: The Royal Navy In the Second World War: Penguin Books, 2012


Rodger, N.A.M. Naval Records for Genealogists: PRO, 1998


Royal Marines Historical Society. A Register of Royal Marine Deaths, 1914-19: 1991


Spencer, William. Family History in the Wars: The National Archives, 2007


Storey, Neil. Military Photographs and How to Date Them: Countryside Books, 2009


Tracing Your Family History. Royal Navy: Imperial War Museum, 2006


Tracy, Nicholas. The Naval Chronicle: The Contemporary Record of the Royal Navy at War, vols 1-5: various publishers


Usher, George. Dictionary of British Military History: A&C Black Publishers, 2006


Waller, Ian. My Ancestor was in the Royal Navy: Society of Genealogists, 2014


Watts, Christopher T. and Watts, Michael J. Tracing Births, Deaths and Marriages at Sea: Society of Genealogists, 2004


Willis, Sam. In the Hour of Victory: The Royal Navy At War in the Age Nelson: Atlantic Books, 2014


Wills, Simon. Tracing Your Seafaring Ancestors: A Guide to Maritime Photographs for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2016

Wilson, Alastair. A Biographical Dictionary of The Twentieth Century Royal Navy: Volume 1 Admirals of the Fleet and Admirals: Seaforth, 2013


TNA Research Guides

Websites (TNA Guide: Looking for a subject, Military history) (TNA Guide: Looking for a person, Navy) (Journal for Maritime Research. Commissioned officers' careers in the Royal Navy, 1690-1815 by professor N.A.M. Rodger) (The Navy List) (British Library Guide: Service lists for the Army, Navy and Air Force) (British Maritime History: Background to researching mariners: Mercantile & Naval) (Officer Ranks in the Royal Navy: The Naval Hierarchy Explained) (UK Military Family History Online: Links to web sites with online data and information to aid in military family history research) (GENUKI Military guide with useful links) (National Maritime Museum: The Royal Navy: Guides to tracing people, ship records, administrative records, naval gunnery etc) (Imperial War Museum, Your History, Family History: Royal Navy: Information sheets include Tracing Royal Navy Ancestry, Naval Service Records and List of Abbreviations) (British Military Records Part 2: The Royal Navy, by Fawne Stratford-Devai) (Guide to service lists for the Army, Navy and Air Force) (Naval enthusiast site that contains a number of indexes including extracts from the Navy Lists, ship's photos & other information) (Information on battles, actions, medals, convoys, warships, merchant ships and ship losses, including photos of lost soldiers) (Online exhibition to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805) (Navy Records Society: Publisher of original documents on the Royal Navy) (Naval Dockyards Society)

Online Databases

TNA Online Collections (Royal Naval Officers' Service Records: Service records of officers who joined the Royal Navy, 1756-1917 extracted from series ADM 196; Naval Officers' Service Record Cards and Files: Service records of officers who joined the Royal Navy, Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and Women's Royal Naval Service, 1880-1960 extracted from series ADM 340. Online Collections is produced by The National Archives and contains online access to indexes, transcriptions and digital images of some of the TNA's most important holdings. Searches are free but a fee is levied for each downloaded item. However downloads are free if used at TNA or the Society of Genealogists) (Royal Navy Lists: Details of all Royal Navy and Royal Marine commissioned officers on the Active List of those serving at the time of publication, 1847-1945; Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy 1660-1815, by David Bonner Smith containing a listing of officers with his rank and year of commission compiled from a variety of sources including the Navy Lists)
(Navy Lists, 1689-1944) (Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy 1660-1815, by David Bonner Smith containing a listing of officers with his rank and year of commission compiled from a variety of sources including the Navy Lists) (Naval Biographical Database: Biographical information on Royal Navy commission, warrant and yard officers extracted from a variety of sources, starting from 1660. The database also identifies volunteers who supported the Navy as well as a complete ship listing including places. Expect to find the person's name, rank, entry and discharge date, pension award, date of death and family members)
(British Royal Naval Reserve 1899-1930. The dataset consists of over 81,000 service cards of officers and ratings who served with the RNR extracted from TNA series ADM 337 and ADM 240) (Forces War Records:Military records of over two million British Armed Forces personnel cross matched with over 4000 Regiments including Rolls of Honour, Crimean and Boer War Databases, Medal Rolls and Casualties Lists. The site also has a facility to access information on specific units or bases including regiments, ships, airfields)
(Navy Records Online is an online archive of miscellaneous British naval records including charts, portraits, cartoons, logs, letters, diaries, battle plans, sketchbooks, photograph albums and videos) (Transcripts of the TNA series ADM 26 registers which allowed ratings/sailors and not officers to remit part of their pay to a third party, usually a relative, 1795-1851) (The Complete Navy List of the Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815: Transcribed names and details of more than 11,000 commissioned officers who served in the Royal Navy from 1787 onwards, up to those who entered the service before 1817) (The Ayshford Trafalgar Roll: Names and details of over 21,000 seamen and marines who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805) (Names and details of those that served in the Battle of Trafalgar)

CD Roms

Your Old Books & Maps (Royal Navy Lists)
Archive CD Books (1861 Royal Navy census returns)
S & N Genealogy Supplies (Navy Lists and the 1871 Royal Navy census returns) (The Complete Navy List of the Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815: Transcribed names and details of more than 11,000 commissioned officers who served in the Royal Navy from 1787 onwards, up to those who entered the service before 1817) (The Ayshford Trafalgar Roll: Names and details of over 21,000 seamen and marines who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805)