Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




Review of
Tracing Your Naval Ancestors – A Guide for Family Historians
By Simon Fowler
Pen and Sword (
ISBN 9781848846258
RRP GBP £12.99


The publishers Pen and Sword have been developing this outstanding series of guides for family historians entitled “Tracing Your xxx Ancestors”. So far they have produced volumes covering the army, air force and the marines as well as some other specialist areas such as “Tank Ancestors”. This volume, based on the Royal Navy and its related services, is the very latest in the series.

If you have an ancestor who served in either the Royal Navy or its affiliated services then this book is likely to be of exceptional use to you. The author, Simon Fowler, is a well known genealogist and author and he is one of the country’s leading specialists on military genealogy.

With this volume the author has produced another exceptional work and he opens the book with a chapter on how to start conducting research into naval ancestors. The second chapter describes how one can use Birth, Marriage & Death Records, Census Returns, Newspapers and Journals, Wills and Private Papers (i.e. the more general records).

The third and fourth chapters specialise in military research and they consider records for (1) Commissioned Officers’ and (2) Ratings and Petty Officers respectively. Both of these chapters concentrate on the period 1660 to 1914 and interestingly there are sub-chapters on Court Martials and Women at Sea.

Next the Navy after 1914 is given treatment and there are sub-chapters on both of the World Wars, the Royal Naval Air Services and the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). Also, the Auxiliary Naval Forces and the Coastguard are considered.

The Auxiliary Naval Forces have played an important role in the history of the nation and they were an integral part of the Ministry of Defence (Navy). Over time these forces have included the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), Royal Naval Reserve Trawler Section (RNR(T)), Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS) and the Royal Naval Division (RND). When researching individuals’ service these auxiliary forces should not be overlooked as there is always the possibility that the ancestor was an auxiliary rather than in the Royal Navy per se.

Other chapters deal with the sick and wounded, the Royal Marines, HM Dockyards and researching ships. These chapters are exceedingly useful and help the researcher to develop his / her investigations.

This volume provides an excellent guide for researching ancestors who served in the Royal Navy and its’ affiliated forces. The structure of the book is such that it introduces the reader to the subject and then it helps the reader to enhance their research. As such it provides considerable “value added” to the progress of the research. This work is not just aimed at those researchers with minimal experience. Those with considerable experience will still find this book to be of exceptional value. In short, if you are contemplating conducting research into the Royal Navy and its affiliates then this book is a must have for your personal library.

December 2011