6 websites for researching your WW1 naval ancestors

By Editor, 26 May 2016 - 1:31pm

The First World War was not just about the trenches, we've picked out six great online resources that will help you research your First World War naval ancestors

1. Royal Navy First World War Lives at Sea

WW1 Lives at Sea

The National Archives (TNA), the Royal Museums Greenwich and the Crew List Index Project team are working together on a vast cataloguing project that will enable researchers to find out which ships their naval ancestor served on (and when), making it much easier to then research what action they may have seen during the First World War.  

The site has just launched with its first tranche of data but it won't be complete until November 1918. 

2. The National Archives


As the main repository of Naval records, The National Archives is marking the centenary of the Battle of Jutland both online and at the archive in Kew.

Over 700,000 Royal Navy service records for ratings who entered the service between 1853 and 1928 have now been digitised and are free to search via the TNA Discovery Catalogue, as are Royal Navy officers’ service records (1756-1931) and other divisions such as the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Divison

Search results give enough details, including date and place of birth, for you to be confident you have found your man. To download the full service record there is a small fee of £3.45.

The National Archives website also has research guides that will help you find records that are not yet digitised or that are available from other sites.

3. Naval-history.net

CWGC Jutland

Expert's Choice – This website was chosen by Janet Dempsey, Principal Records Specialist at The National Archives, in an article we ran on First World War online resources in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine – and this is what she said about it:

“Google anything to do with Naval history and almost the first result you will come across every time, regardless of the search term, will be naval-history.net. I love this website and it has proved invaluable to my work on the First World War commemorations.

"The site is vast and, with a large number of specialist contributors adding articles relevant to their field, it is also very informative. Unlike a lot of information on the internet, this site is also very reliable. Among the articles that I find particularly useful are the Royal Navy dispatches, the honours and awards, naval operations and battles, chronology, the political and military background and the articles on the Merchant Navy.

"In short, if you want to know anything about the war at sea for the First World War (or any period for that matter) don’t bother to Google – just go straight to naval-history.net.”

4. Commonwealth War Graves Commission

CWGC Jutland

In the months and years after the guns fell silent, the Admiralty commissioned three memorials to be built in their manning ports – Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham – specifically for casualties with no known grave. The Portsmouth Naval Memorial, for example, commemorates the officers’ ranks and ratings, and the actions in which they fought.

Today there are 24,588 names on this monument, 9,666 of whom died during the First World War. You can view pictures and plans of the memorial, and search a database listing name, age, rank and other information, plus details of where their name can be found on the memorial.

The CWGC has produced a page dedicated to the Battle of Jutland where you can learn more about the battle and view a range of photographs.

5. Battle of Jutland Centenary Intiative

Battle of Jutland Centenary Initiative

This umbrella intiative has been set up to coordinate the efforts of museums, historians and organisations to commemorate Jutland. The website is packed with information about the battle from animations and podcasts to databases and teaching resources. There is also the opportunity for you to share your own personal family stories connected to the battle.

6. Findmypast

Findmypast Jutland

Subscription website, Findmypast, has set up a search page specifically for researching men who participated in the Battle of Jutland with access to thousands of service records. It is free to search, but you will have to take out a subscription (from £9.95 for a month) or PayAsYouGo (£6.95 for credits) to view the records.

For more information on how to research your family history, pick up a copy of the June 2016 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, on sale until Monday 6 June


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