Drawing of sailor

This is a brief guide to researching records of Royal Navy ratings before 1853. Royal Naval records are informative and varied, though sometimes complicated. The Royal Navy did not keep individual service recordsservice record - a document recording the career of an individual in the armed forces on ratingsRating - a seaman ranking lower than an officer. These are the most junior class of seamen in the Royal Navy. before 1853, so it can be difficult to trace a person in this period. The majority of records which may help, however, are available at The National Archives.

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.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name and rating of the person
      • the name of the ship the person served on
      • a date range to help focus the search
  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records held elsewhere

      Discovery, our catalogue has details of collections held by The National Archives over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue using keywords; you can refine your results using the filters.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Books

      Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.

      The books are all available in The National Archives' reference library. You may also be able to find them in a local library. You can buy from a wide range of history titles in our bookshop.