This is a brief guide to researching Royal Naval records for a warrant officer. These records are comprehensive and varied, though sometimes complicated. While many records are available at The National Archives, some service records are currently held by the Ministry of Defence.
This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists and, if it does, where to find it or more information about it. Please note, before becoming a warrant officer they will have served as a rating so check ratings’ records too.
What do I need to know before I start?
Try to find out:
- the name and rank of the person
- a date range to help focus your search
What records can I see online?
Royal Navy First World War Lives at Sea database
Search the First World War Royal Navy records database by name, service number and numerous other criteria. The database relates to all the Royal Navy officers and ratings that served in the First World War and is compiled largely from records held at The National Archives.
Battle of Trafalgar database (1805)
Search the Trafalgar ancestors database by name for a warrant officer who served in Nelson’s fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Service records (1802-1894)
Search on Ancestry (£) by name for certificates of service for warrant officers who served between 1802 and 1894 and applied for a pension in the Royal Navy (ADM 29). The date range is specific to the application for a pension rather than the date of service of the rating involved.
If you don’t find an entry try searching the service records below – ADM 196.
Service records (1830-1931)
Search Royal Naval officers’ service records on our website (ADM 196) by name for records of most of the warrant officers who entered the Royal Navy between 1830 and 1931.
Medal rolls (1793-1972)
Search by name for information about the award of campaign, long service and good conduct medals in the Royal Navy medal rolls (ADM 171) using Ancestry.co.uk (£). These rolls do not usually contain biographical information.
What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?
Royal Navy warrant officer service records held by The National Archives are available online (see above).
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?
Service records (1931-present)
Visit the GOV.UK website for information about how to request a summary of a service records from the Ministry of Defence. These are not available to members of the general public, though next of kin may request access to them.
What other resources will help me find information?
Did you know?
A warrant officer was someone who became an officer by being awarded a warrant – these are junior to commissioned officers and senior to ratings.
Warrant officers include: master, purser, boatswain, gunner, carpenter, surgeon, armourer, chaplain, cook, master at arms, sailmaker and schoolmaster.
Service records after 1931 are held by the Ministry of Defence. They are not open to the general public, though next of kin may request access to them.
Records for warrant officers in the Royal Navy before 1830 are incomplete and patchy as there were no central service registers for personnel.