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If you have an ancestor who served in the Royal Navy, the National Museum of the Royal Naval Portsmouth is a logical place to begin your research into life in the Navy.

Portsmouth is synonymous with the Navy. It was King Alfred who introduced the idea of a national fleet of ships to defend England against Danish invasion.

HMS Warrior in Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard
HMS Warrior in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard

From then onwards, Kings of England saw the importance of Portsmouth as a safe harbour, just across the sea from France. It became home to the worlds first dry dock. A dockyard has survived here for over five hundred years, since  established in the reign of King Henry VII.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth does not hold any official naval personnel service records. However it  has an extensive archive of material that may just reveal that unexpected nugget of information.

So how can the museum help you with your research?

  • The archive is mainly a collection of groups of personal papers and accounts of service from all ranks and branches of the Navy. Personal diaries, memoirs, journals as well as collections of letters, c.1780-2000.
  • Small collections of historic interest principally from the C17th – C20th. Navy Board records, papers of Admiralty officials, ship and dockyard plans, logs, personal diaries, order books, letter books, accounts of exploration
  • C18th century maps and charts.
  • An extensive library of Naval history.

There is an online search facility available of the archive

  • To help with your research the museum has a bank of information on a wide variety of topics, in the form of information sheets and reading lists available to view online or for printing to hard copy.
  • Sea Your History project has digitised 15,000 items from 20th century collections and is available via its own website.

How HGS can help you to find out more about your military ancestors?

  • Many members of the society, including those on the research team, have a military background and expertise in this area, so feel free to contact us.
  • The HGS Research Centre in Cosham has an extensive library of books on all aspects of exploring your military family history.
  • Look at our ‘How to’ guides to help you find out more about your military ancestors.

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