Like the other military services, there are many records of the Royal Navy to search for online that are useful for the family historian. But first, a little background on the Royal Navy, founded by Henry VIII and the oldest of the armed forces.
The Royal Navy, the “Senior Service” is famous (or infamous) for the use of press gangs up to the early nineteenth century to supply their warships with fighting men, but even using this method of ‘recruitment’ it was hard to find the necessary requirement of ratings to man the fighting ships when at war. Boys could join the navy from the age of 14 and from 1853 onwards, those aged from between 14 and 17 years had to commit to 10 years service, starting from the age of 18. They could sign to continue their service and eventually receive the long service pension awarded after 20 years service. Periods of service time were known as engagements. CS (continuous service) numbers were issued for each continuous service engagement served.
There are few British Services (Army, Navy and Air Force) records available for World War 2 because they are still classified documents held by the Ministry of Defence.
WW 1 Naval Casualties
Royal Navy Officers Medal Roll 1914-1920
Royal Naval Division Records 1914-1919
Military, Armed forces & Conflict Records
UK Naval Medal and Award Rolls 1793-1972
UK Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll 1914-1919
UK De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1919
Contains biographies of over 26,000 Great war casualties including those of the Royal Navy. Some biographies include photographs.
Great Britain Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War 1914-1924
The Genealogist has a very comprehensive range of genealogical records including
Naval and Military Despatches and Navy Lists
Ratings Service Records
The National Archives holds over 600,000 including:
Service from 1853 to 1872 (series ADM 139)
Service from 1873 to 1923 (series ADM 188)
Royal Naval Officers’ Service Records – Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officer
Search the records of about 74,000 officers who joined the navy between 1756 and 1917 digitised by the National Archives.
The Admiralty kept records from the 1840’s.
The National Archives Navy Records
Navy records for searching online