Search Royal Naval seamen

A Royal Navy service record from the last comp...

Image via Wikipedia

News from The National Archives | February 2012.  You can search and download over 600,000 service records for most ratings who joined the Royal Navy between 1853 and 1923.

These records can tell you about your ancestor’s birth, their physical appearance, their occupation and which ship(s) they served on.  Service from 1853 to 1872 (series ADM 139)

Until the early nineteenth century the Royal Navy used impressment to man warships. However it  created problems during times of war when there was an urgent need for more ratings  to man the ships.

From 1853, all boys from the ages of 14-17 joining the navy had to sign an engagement to serve 10 years, from the age of 18. There was the possibility of serving further engagements, towards the 20 years required for a long service pension. This form of service was also extended to those joining aged 18 and over.

Existing ratings could opt to serve an initial 7 year continuous engagement, along with further engagements to qualify for a pension. For each engagement served, a continuous service number was issued. These numbers are also known as “CS numbers”. So it is possible that a rating could have been issued with several continuous service engagement numbers throughout his career. Service from 1873 to 1923 (series ADM 188)

In the original documents there are three groups of service records covering the periods: 1873 – 1891, 1892 – 1907 and 1908 – 1923.

If a rating joined the Royal Navy before 1873 and continued service after 1873, he might have a service record in both the ADM 139 and ADM 188 series. Also, some men may appear to have two accounts of service within ADM 188; firstly in the register and then continued in the Continuation Books (“new register”). We have linked these together, so both are attached to the same man’s online entry.

While the last entrants were added in 1923, further entries were made to existing registers up until 1928. In 1928 the Royal Navy adopted an index card system instead.



About mallerstang

Member of the Guild of One Name Studies researching the name CUMPSTON and its variants. You can see my website at I have a new study of the name LAXEN with its own blog at and a further research blog which is not registered as a one name study of KNAGGS of Flamborough
This entry was posted in Research web sites and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s