Discover your British Royal Navy Seamen ancestors. Learn fascinating details about their service including the ships on which they served. You will also find a physical description of the sailor and their occupation before joining the navy as a 'rating'.

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.

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Sailor number
  • Place of birth
  • Country of birth


  • Physical description: height, hair and eye colour
  • Occupation
  • Ships served in and dates
  • Character ratings
  • If died, cause of death

Discover more about these records

British Royal Navy Seamen 1899-1924 records provide you with your ancestor’s service record, which details their career with the navy. The records will show when your ancestor served and on what ship, which will help you to determine what engagements or naval battles they took part in. Most include a physical description such as height, eye and hair colour, and any distinguishable marks like scars. Your ancestor’s character during service is recorded, and if they were killed or died during service, most records will include a cause of death.

The Royal Navy can trace its origins to the 16th century. It is the oldest service branch of the British Armed Forces and is often referred to as the Senior Service. From the end of the 17th century until well into the 20th century, it was the most powerful navy in the world and played a central part in establishing the British Empire as the dominant world power.

The Royal Navy Seaman records contain the complete service histories of up to 375,000 ratings who joined the service between 1899 and 1924 Our Royal Navy Officers’ records are held in a separate series which we are also publishing. The period covered takes in both the Boer War (1899-1902) and World War 1 (1914-1918) and it is, therefore, likely that anyone who enlisted in the Royal Navy during this period could have seen active service in one or both of these conflicts.