3 top free websites for finding Royal Navy ancestors


04 September 2017
WW1-seaman-06667.png A seaman from World War I
Start researching your Royal Navy ancestors today with our guide to 3 of the best free websites for family history

Did your relatives serve their country at sea in past times? Fortunately, there are extensive Royal Navy (RN) records available at The National Archives at Kew – including many online – and you’ll find a series of very useful research guides to them on the TNA website.


However, before you begin delving into the records, it’s well worth gaining an understanding about the Navy’s career structure and distinctions between roles, because most TNA sources are divided into separate records for officers and ratings. Was your relative a commissioned officer, a captain, commander, lieutenant, midshipman, commodore, or even admiral? Alternatively, many of the crew were ratings, which included seamen and equivalent ranks, such as stokers and petty officers.


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You can find out more about the records and distinctions in maritime genealogist Simon Wills’s excellent guide to tracing Royal Navy ancestors in the October 2017 issue of Family Tree, available here.


But to first whet your appetite for your family history research, here are 3 of Simon’s other top choices of free websites that could reveal more about your Royal Navy employee:


1 Commonwealth War Graves Commission 

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Indexes all RN personnel who died in WW1 or WW2 and provides their service number and place of commemoration


2 WW1 officers and ratings

The RN Lives at Sea resource provides wartime biographies of many officers and ratings, derived mainly from service records transcriptions


3 Unit histories 

This database has biographies of many WW2 officers who served in the RN. It includes naval reservist officers too.


WW1 seaman image: © Simon Wills.