Photograph of sailing ship (Catalogue reference: ADM 176/769)

This is a brief guide to researching Royal Naval records for a warrant officera person who holds their position by Admiralty warrant - they are junior to commissioned officers and senior to ratings. These records are comprehensive and varied, though sometimes complicated. While many records are available at The National Archives, some service recordsservice record - a document recording the career of an individual in the armed forces 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.

  • 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 other resources will help me find information?

    • Books

      Read Tracing Your Naval Ancestors, Bruno Pappalardo (The National Archives, 2003).


      Consult the published Navy Lists to follow an officer's career.

Did you know?

A warrant officera person who holds their position by Admiralty warrant - they are junior to commissioned officers and senior to ratings was someone who became an officer by being awarded a warrant - these are junior to commissioned officerscommissioned officer - a person who holds their position by royal commission and senior to ratingsRating - a seaman ranking lower than an officer. These are the most junior class of seamen in the Royal Navy..

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.