How to look for records of... Births, marriages and deaths in the armed forces
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
How many are online?
This is a brief guide to help you with your research into a birth, marriage or death in the British Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines or Royal Navy. There is no single place or collection where you can easily search for a birth, marriage or death in the armed forces, although many resources are available.
What do I need to know before I start?
Most records of births in the armed forces are held by the General Register Office.
British Army regimental registers of births and baptisms start in 1761 in England and Wales and around 1790 in other countries, and continue to 1924. They include births in the United Kingdom and abroad.
There is no casualty roll for the Royal Air Force outside of the First and Second World Wars, making some RAF deaths particularly difficult to trace. Some of these airmen were registered as deaths in the army or as civilian deaths, rather than as deaths in the Royal Air Force. Similarly, army returns of births, marriages and deaths (1881–1955) include some Royal Air Force births from 1920 onwards.
Royal Navy registers of reports of deaths on ships (1893–1950)
Download, for free, digital microfilm copies of indexes to registers of reports of deaths on Royal Navy ships in ADM 104/102–108 and the respective registers themselves in ADM 104/109–118 and ADM 104/122–139. The registers include name, age and rank of each seaman, the ship on which they were serving at the time of their death, with the date, place and cause of their death.
Royal Navy registers of killed and wounded (1854–1911 and 1914–1929)
Download, for free, digital microfilm copies of the Royal Navy registers of killed and wounded 1854–1911 and 1914–1929 in ADM 104/144–149. Indexes to these records for 1915–1929 are in ADM 104/140–143. The registers include name, age and rank of seamen, the ship on which they were serving and the date, place and circumstances of their injury or death.
British Army and Royal Navy birth, marriage and death records (1730–1960)
Search for a range of different types of British Army and Royal Navy birth, marriage and death records (£), including baptism and burial records and registers of marriages and deaths, at Ancestry.co.uk. The records span a variety of year ranges between 1730 and 1960 and are from multiple ADM and WO record series.
Indexes to births, marriages and deaths in the armed forces (1761–1995)
Search indexes to the regimental registers, British Army chaplains’ registers, army returns and service departments registers in the military section on findmypast (£). The related certificates can be obtained from the General Register Office.
The indexes to the regimental registers give a name, place, year and regiment.
Army chaplains’ registers (1796–1880) relate to births, marriages and deaths overseas. The index gives a name, place and date range of two to three years.
Service departments registers of births and marriages (1956–1965) relate to army, navy and air force births and marriages abroad.
Royal Navy seamen wills (1786–1882)
Search and download wills of Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel (£) from ADM 48.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
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 (£).
Army registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in UK and overseas garrisons (1808–2007)
Browse Discovery, our catalogue, in record series WO 156 to see which garrison records are held by The National Archives. The registers are relatively few in number and mainly date from the 20th century.
RAF Chaplaincy Board registers of baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials (1919–2009)
Browse our catalogue, in record series AIR 82 for registers of baptisms, confirmations, burials, and marriage (including banns) which were kept at various RAF stations in the British Isles and overseas. The records are searchable by name of RAF station/country and not by name of individual.
Royal Navy Chaplaincy records of baptisms, marriages and burials (1845–1998)
Browse in ADM 338 for registers of baptisms, marriages and burials by the Chaplain of the Fleet. These will mostly cover Royal Navy personnel but can also include civilians of any national.
Records in other archives and organisations
British Library birth, marriage and death records for the Indian subcontinent
Consult the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collection at the British Library for births or baptisms, marriages, and deaths or burials across the Indian subcontinent, including Burma and Aden.
Search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for information about deaths in the First or Second World War.
Search for the will of a soldier who died while serving in the British armed forces between 1850 and 1986 on probatesearch.service.gov.uk.
Search The National Archives’ shop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.
Audrey Collins and David Annal, ‘Birth, marriage and death records’ (Pen and Sword, 2012)
Amanda Bevan, ‘Tracing your ancestors in The National Archives’ (The National Archives, 2006)
C M Hobson, ‘Airmen died in the Great War’ (J B Hayward & Son, 1995)
Bruno Pappalardo, ‘Tracing your naval ancestors’ (The National Archives, 2003)
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