Header image  
     A Guide to Research Resources

Union Navy Military Records

USS Cairo
USS Cairo - 1862


Records relating to service in the U.S. Navy are held by the National Archives.  There are no compiled service records for sailors in the U.S. Navy.  However, there are other records that will aid you in researching your Civil War sailor.

Pension Files
Begin your research on navy enlisted men by looking in the Navy pension files. A pension file may provide leads such as dates of service and the ship(s) or duty station(s) where the sailor served. Pensions usually provide the most genealogical information.

Rendezvous Reports
The next set of records to check are the Rendezvous Reports. A rendezvous was the recruitment station or vessel where the men signed up to enlist in the navy. Officers at the rendezvous kept a record of each man enlisted and reported the information weekly to the Navy Department. These documents, known as the "rendezvous reports," provide the following information: name of recruit, date and term of enlistment and rating, previous naval service, usual place of residence, place of birth, occupation, and personal description. The index to these records is available on microfilm:

T1099 - Index to Rendezvous Reports, Civil War, 1861 - 1865.
These indexes were filmed by the U.S. Navy before transferring the records to the National Archives.  Each card shows the names of the individual; rendezvous; date of enlistment or return (the roll on which the name first appeared); and a space for a “Record of Service.”  Although the information varies, the Record of Service may provide the date of reassignment or discharge, the names of the vessel on which the individual served or the name of death.  Indexes are arranged alphabetically by surname. 

The following list may help with some of the abbreviations found in these indexes.

D or Dis Discharged
DD Died
R or Ran Deserted
RS Receiving Ship
Ship Art Shipping articles
EOV Enlistment on vessels
MK Misc. keys to enlistments

The records to which these indexes refer are not on microfilm.  After finding an entry in the index, the researcher may then order the rendezvous report and record any additional information found in it.  Request copies in the consultant’s office at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. You may also order copies of these reports from the Textual Reference Branch.

Correspondence Records
Another good source is jackets of enlisted men found in RG 24, entry 204, Records Relating to Enlisted Men Who Served in the Navy Between 1842 and 1885, 1885 - 1941.  The correspondence in these "jackets" are arranged alphabetically by sailor's name and contain correspondence that was collected on men who served in the navy between 1842 and 1885. The jackets also contain material for the years 1885 to 1941 if the sailor applied for a pension, filed a claim, or requested verification documents. Jackets may contain letters received, copies of letters sent, endorsements, applications for certificates of honorable discharge, or copies of other types of certificates.

Muster Rolls and Payrolls
To track the service of an enlisted man in the navy, consult the muster rolls and payrolls. There are several series of bound volumes of muster rolls and payrolls of ships and stations. Muster rolls generally show the name of the enlisted man, the ship or station on which he was serving, his dates of service, and in some cases, the ship or station from which he had transferred. Payrolls generally show the name of the enlisted man, his station or rank, date of commencement of his service, and terms of service. To use muster rolls and payrolls, you should know where your subject was stationed during the time pertinent to the research. Generally, muster and pay rolls are arranged alphabetically by name of ship or station and thereunder chronologically.


When beginning research on U.S. Navy officers, first consult the List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900, edited by Edward W. Callahan. This will provide name, rank and dates of service.


Pension Files
You must also consult the pension files. The pension file may provide leads such as dates of service and the ship(s) or duty station(s) where the officer served.

Abstracts of Service
Your next step is to consult the abstracts of service. These records have been reproduced on microfilm.
M330, Abstracts of Service Records of Naval Officers, 1798 – 1893
M1328, Abstracts of Service Records of Naval Officers, 1829 - 1924
The descriptive pamphlet for M1328 provides a name index to the abstracts.

Correspondence Files Relating to Officers
These records have also been microfilmed.
M89 – Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy From Commanding Officers of Squadrons, 1841-1886 
Letters are arranged by Squadron, and then by date.  These letters describe operations by ships and are more likely to provide information about an entire crew rather than individual officers.  Most of the volumes have a name index. 
M147 – Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy From Commanders, 1804-1886
These letters are arranged by date, and a printed index is included in the Descriptive Pamphlet.
M148 – Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy From Commissioned Officers Below the Rank of Commander and From Warrant Officers, 1802-1844 
These letters contain material about personnel matters, duties, furloughs, desertions, resignations, and courts-martial.  Most of the volumes have an index at the beginning or end of the volume.

Naval Academy Records
If the officer attended the Naval Academy, check M991, U.S. Naval Registers of Delinquencies, 1846 - 1850, 1853 - 1882, and Academic and Conduct Records of Cadets, 1881 - 1908. You can also consult various records relating to applications and appointments of naval cadets found in several series in Record Group 24.

Additional information on naval officers can be found in examining board and retiring board files in Record Group 125, Records of the Judge Advocate General (Navy). The records of these boards are found in entry 58, Records of the Proceedings of Naval and Marine Examining Boards, 1861 - 1903, and entry 56, Records of Proceedings of Naval and Marine Retiring Boards, 1861 - 1909.

Medical Records
For medical information, consult Record Group 52, Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (Navy), entry 21, Medical Journals of Shore Stations, 1812 - 89; entry 22, Medical Journals of Ships, 1813 - 1910; entry 30, Reports of Diseases and Deaths, July 1828 - December 1846; entry 31, Certificates of Death, Disability, Pension and Medical Survey, June 1842 - January 1896; and entry 51, Registers of Patients, 1812 - 1929.

The staff in the consultant’s office can help you in locating and ordering these or other records that may be helpful in you search.

Navy Deck Logs
U.S. Navy deck logs typically provide information on a ship's performance and location, weather conditions, personnel (names of officers, assignments, transfers, desertions, deaths, injuries, and courts-martial), supplies received, and miscellaneous observations. Consult the National Archives Special List 44, List of Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Miscellaneous Units, 1801 - 1947.

U. S. Navy Vessel Histories
For brief histories of U.S. Navy vessels, consult the multivolume Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. In this publication you will find an alphabetical listing of navy ships that includes a brief history of each vessel and provides statistics such as type or classification, tonnage or displacement, length, beam, draft, speed, complement, armament, and class. Consulting the dictionary allows you to confirm that the ship was a U.S. Navy vessel and verify dates of service. Before starting your search in archival records, make sure you have information on the correct vessel. Because several ships served at different times under the same name, the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships can help you find the dates of service of the vessel you are looking for.

Published Sources

Callahan, Edward W. List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900New York: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1901
Also available online. Click here!

Hamersly, Lewis R.  General Register of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1792-1892 (1900)

----------. The Record of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy.  Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1870-1878.

United States Dept. of the Navy. Navy Directory: Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.  Washington, DC: Bureau of Navigation,1898-1986.

United States Navy Department.  Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.  Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1894-1922.

These publications are available at the National Archives, and also at many large reference and university libraries.

Want a copy of your own? Abebooks.com


National Archives Articles

Civil War and Later Navy Personnel Records at the National Archives, 1861-1924
By Lee D. Bacon
From Prologue, Summer 1995, Vol. 27, No. 2
Defunct Strategy and Divergent Goals:

The Role of the United States Navy along the Eastern Seaboard during the Civil War

By Robert M. Browning, Jr.
From Prologue, Fall 2001, Vol. 33, No. 3

Black Men in Navy Blue during the Civil War
By Joseph P. Reidy
From Prologue, Fall 2001, Vol. 33, No. 3
A history of black participates in the Navy during the Civil War.

Naval History Research Links

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
Naval Historical Center
The Center is charged with preserving, analyzing and interpreting its hard-earned experience and history for the Navy and the American people.
World Wide Web Virtual Library: Naval and Maritime
This site is maintained by the United States Naval Academy Alumni Online Community and hosted by the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Custom Search

Copyright 2007-2011 - CivilWarSoldierSearch.com
All Rights Reserved