Navy in the family?
Last week, Ancestry added 'UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1900-1928' to their military databases.
The source data tells us these come from ADM 188 at The National Archives. The collection at TNA covers a larger selection of dates (1873 to 1923) in ADM 188 than those already at Ancestry, all of which can be searched there and downloaded for £3.30. Some of the records are noted to cover periods up to 1928 - hence Ancestry's database title.
These records are for ratings (ie not officers) who joined between 1873 and 1923.
The records may include dates and places of birth (not necessarily exact), names of ships served on, service numbers, badges, character, appearance, date of death in service, wounds, and cross references to the 'new register'. Importantly for First World War researchers, ADM 188 records may include records of men who served in RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service) - look for a service number prefixed with an 'F'.
Details about how (after January 1894) service numbers were issued in relation to the branch of service (eg stokers or ship's police) can be found at the ADM 188 link above.
These records can be used together with others to piece together more details about a career - for instance warrant officers' service records (ADM 196) or continuous service engagement books (ADM 139). Records after 1923 are still held by the Ministry of Defence.
To look at a couple of examples, I found my Great Great Uncle, Leonard Walne (F14715). His record tells us his date and place of birth, and his occupation - Motor Mechanic. We know that he was engaged on 20 May 1916 during the hostilities and that he was 5' 10 1/4, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion and that he served with a 'Very Good' character. He had already completed a year and 254 days of army service (from other records we know he was sent to Gallipoli with the Suffolks earlier in the war). He served in a number of places as an air mechanic including accounting base President II and airfield HMS Daedalus before being engaged in the newly formed RAF - an example of a pre-war occupation influencing later service. (UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1900-1928; Leonard Nesling Walne; F14715; Piece 589:1916; 14501-15000; Page 217 of 502; www.ancestry.co.uk: accessed 22 February 2015)
I also found an Outerbridge with Bermudan connections (one of my research interests) who served prior to the First World War. Arthur James Outerbridge was born in 1881 and had a scar on the right side of his chest. He was 5 feet 4 inches and described as a 'man of color'. He served on the HMS Comus and later the HMS Charybdis (I suspect the fourth one) between January 1900 and February 1901. (UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1900-1928; Arthur James Outerbridge; 358143; Piece 543:1900; 358001-358500; Page 143 of 549; www.ancestry.co.uk: accessed 22 February 2015) Arthur may perhaps reappear later in Merchant Navy record sets.
I wonder if the earlier records will become available later? For the time being, search for earlier records in the ADM 188 series on the National Archives website, and download them for £3.30 each.