How to look for records of... Civil or crown servants

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Visit us in Kew

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

Pay for research

This is a brief guide to researching records of civil or crown servants.

Many of these records do not survive, except for those of people who served in a very senior position. Those that do survive can be difficult to find. You may find printed sources useful in locating information but please note that the details provided are brief and will not contain personal information.

It is difficult to research the career of any civil servant or employee of the British Crown because, as a general rule, personnel records of administrators (whether they were based in the United Kingdom or abroad) are not kept for permanent preservation in the archives.

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • what work the civil or crown servant did
  • the organisation they worked in
  • the years or dates of their service

Civil servants’ personnel records are generally kept by the creating government department at least until the person reaches 72 years of age.

The Ministry of Defence, in general, keeps civilian service records until the person reaches 100 years of age. Contact the Ministry of Defence for more details on how to access these records. Personal information will only be released where proof of death can be provided.

Some records of civil servants held at The National Archives are not yet open to public inspection. Access conditions are indicated in our catalogue.

What records can I see online?

Royal Household Staff 1526-1924

Search for a Royal Household employee from 1526-1924 using the Royal Household establishment lists and Royal Household index sheets (£) on

Civil Service evidences of age (for years of birth between 1752-1948)

Search the index to Civil Service evidences of age (£) records on The records were originally collected by the Civil Service Commission and are now held by the Society of Genealogists.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Lists of staff in various government departments

Although The National Archives does not hold employment records, there are some lists of civil servants in the records of the relevant government departments. Try searching by department code in Discovery, our catalogue, along with terms such as ‘staff list’, ‘establishment list’ or ‘register of service’.

The two departments responsible for staff in the royal household can be broadly divided between above stairs (Lord Chamberlain’s) and below stairs (Lord Steward’s).

Examination marks and results (1876-1991)

Search the Civil Service Commission examination marks and results in CSC 10. These records relate to all candidates who sat examinations or attended interviews for Civil Service posts, whether home or colonial, held under open and limited competition with appointment through merit.

The Civil Service Commission administered civil service examinations from 1855 onwards.

Application papers of famous or high-ranking civil servants (1836-1976)

Search the Civil Service Commission records in CSC 11 for application papers of people who were, either at the time of application or subsequently, famous or of high rank.

The Civil Service Commissioners’ annual reports (1870-1876)

Browse CSC 4/16-23 for brief details taken from original papers for appointments between 1870 and 1876. Please note that details are brief and will not give personal details.

For example, each entry in the ‘List of all Persons for whom Certificates of Qualifications have been granted by the Civil Service Commissioners for Clerkships and similar appointments, between 1 January 1876 and 31 December 1876’ (within CSC 4/21) provides brief details such as:

  • name
  • department
  • situation (job title)
  • date of certificate

Correspondence of the Lord Chamberlain’s department (1710-1902)

Browse LC 1 in our catalogue for correspondence of the department. Registers, including those to this correspondence, are in LC 3.

Accounts of the Lord Chamberlain’s department (1483-1901)

Browse LC 9, LC 10 and LC 11 in our catalogue for accounts of the department. Many of the volumes are indexed.

Warrants of appointment of servants and officers of the Lord Steward’s department (1660-1820)

Browse LS 13/246-267 in our catalogue for Warrants of Appointment.

In 1854 the office of Lord Steward was abolished and its functions were taken over by the Master of the Royal Household, whose records are not open to the public.

Accounts of the Lord Steward’s department (1640-1761)

Browse LS 1, LS 2, LS 3, LS 4, LS 6, LS 7 and LS 8 in our catalogue for accounts of the department. Those relating to the kitchen are in LS 9, and to the royal gardens in LS 10, LS 11 and LS 12.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

The Royal Archives

The Royal Archives has references to people employed in the Royal Household from the 18th century, and indexes to names of people employed from 1660 onwards.

What other resources will help me find information?

War Office Lists

Consult the annually published War Office Lists for details of staff, mostly high ranking officials, in various departments of the War Office. These lists contain a mixture of military and civilian staff and usually include the official’s job title, job description, qualifications and awards.

The National Archives holds a set of War Office Lists 1863-1964.


Consult Office-Holders in Modern Britain on the Institute of Historical Research website for information up to the 19th century.

Search the Database of Court Officers 1660-1837 on the Loyola University of Chicago website.

Consult the archived website of the BIS war memorial project for names of Board of Trade employees who fought in the world wars. You may find similar lists on the ‘war memorials in other departments page’.

Printed sources

Consult the Royal Kalendar (1767-1890), the British Imperial Calendar (1809-1972), the Civil Service Year Book (1972-) the Foreign Office List (1852-1965), the Colonial Office List (1862-1966) or The Diplomatic List (1966-).

Consult Officials of the Royal Household, 1660-1837, Part I: Department of the Lord Chamberlain and associated offices, and Part II: Departments of the Lord Steward and the Master of the Horse compiled by JC Sainty and RO Bucholz (University of London Institute of Historical Research, 1997 and 1998 respectively).