Photograph of Royal Navy rating (Catalogue reference: COPY 1/456)

This is a brief guide to help you with your research. Records of Royal Navy ratingsRating - a seaman ranking lower than an officer. These are the most junior class of seamen in the Royal Navy. are kept in different places depending on when the rating served. This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists, and if it does where to find it.

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Men serving in the Royal Navy were rated according to skills they had and the tasks they performed, hence the term 'rating'. There were many different ratings, such as Ordinary Seaman, Able Seaman and Leading Seaman.

It is difficult to trace a seaman before 1853 as there was no form of continuous servicea seaman's service continuing from voyage to voyage in the Royal Navy. Men signed up to serve on a particular ship and were paid off when the ship was decommissioned.

From 1853 new ratingsRating - a seaman ranking lower than an officer. These are the most junior class of seamen in the Royal Navy. signed up for ten years' service if they were 18 or older. Existing ratings could sign up for seven years' service. Both new and existing ratings were given a continuous service (CS) number.

In 1873 a new system began of giving ratings an official number (ON).

The registers of seamen's services (ADM 139 and ADM 188) can include information such as:

  • date and place of birth
  • ships served on with dates
  • character and ability
  • medals awarded

Some of the records go up to 1928, but if a rating entered the Royal Navy after 1923, his record will still be with the Ministry of Defence. For information, see the Veterans UK website.