As outlined in part 3 the Navy List is the starting point for finding out about
an officer ancestor, but this will only give you the barest outline of his career.
There are also seniority lists for the highest ranks (including admirals, captains
and commanders) available at the PRO and else- where.
There are many potential
sources for further information. The best are explained below. If you want to
explore further you can find other lines of enquiry in Roger, Naval Records
Officers' service registers, 1756-1966
Registers recording the naval careers of individual officers were begun in the
mid-19th century. Retrospective entries were made going back to 1756, though
these are not complete. The main body of the entries covers 1840-1920. Deaths
are entered up until the 1950s. The information given varies from register to
register but generally includes:
- names of the ships on which each officer served
- dates and places of births and deaths
- dates and places of marriages and full names of brides
There is a collection of indexes to help you find your ancestor in these registers.
Do not give up too easily if you cannot find your ancestor's name in the expected
index as they are of variable reliability. You may also find entries for your
ancestor in more than one register because different departments of the Admiralty
compiled different registers.
There are also registers of confidential performance re- ports by commanding
officers on captains and flag officers hoping to be promoted to the rank of
admiral. These give real insight into the individual men.
Survey returns, 1817-51
The Admiralty conducted a series of surveys of officers, starting in 1817. The
purpose of the surveys was to improve record keeping in order to gain a clearer
picture of the state of the Navy after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars
in 1815. A range of surveys was conducted covering both commissioned officers
and warrant officers. The collection of returns is far from complete because
of the numbers of officers who never received their survey letters and the numbers
who never replied. Indexes are available to parts of the survey collection.