The Army Lists and Navy Lists: Tracing an ancestor who was in the Forces

The Regular Army and British Navy

For up-to-date general information consult Family history in the wars: how your ancestors served their country, by William Spencer.¹

Army Lists

A catalogue of Army and Navy Lists held at the Library can be downloaded at Historical Lists of Armed Forces Personnel at the Priaulx Library: Resource List 2. These are useful to trace officers of the British Army and Navy and the East India Company, but not all years are available in the collection. The Official Army Lists in the Priaulx Library run from 1756 to 1844. We also have other lists from various years in the 18th-20th centuries, with some for the First War in printed format and on CD-ROM, and a few from the years immediately preceding the Second War.

For inquiries concerning personnel active in the 20th century, the information we can provide at the Library other than through Army Lists is scarce. If your relative was an Officer and you do not know what became of him, you should find useful the book Officers died in the Great War, 1914-1919, including the Indian Army, (at LOC355.31 OFF) which consists of Regimental Rolls. A very good source for detailed information is the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Consult the British Army Records Centre and the Ministry of Defence through the National Archives for deceased service personnel. The MoD offer a paid-for service. Before contacting them you may wish to follow the link to the Armed Forces Memorial (AFM) website, dedicated to members of the UK Armed Forces (Regular & Reserve) killed on duty or as a result of terrorist action since WW2. The link will also direct you to a search facility for the Roll of Honour.

Information about merchant seamen up to 1860 can be traced online at the National Archives. The National Maritime Museum holds 90% of these records post 1860.

Digital Navy Lists are held by the National Library of Scotland. Visitors to the Priaulx Library may search the extensive collection of Navy Lists on FindMyPast at no cost.

Regular soldiers from the garrisons stationed in Guernsey can sometimes feature in our collection of local source material such as documentary records and newspapers, but retrieval requires dedicated searching and a good deal of luck.

Guernsey Armed Forces Personnel

Civil BMD information for the first half of the 20th century is held here in the Library, but, as always, microfilm records are available only for the island.

Guernseymen and women who served as regulars in the Second War will be traceable as above. As Guernsey was occupied by the German Forces throughout the war there are no obituaries of the fallen in local newspapers.

The first port of call for information for the First War is Diex aïx! God help us: Guernseymen who marched away, 1914-1918, a monograph published in 1992, written by Major Edwin Parks, which lists all those who were killed in action during the war. The CI Great War Study Group has a comprehensive website that updates the information held in this book and includes many photographs and supplementary information, with a searchable roll of honour and roll of service for each of the Bailiwicks. There are many obituaries and other information to be found in the local newspapers in the Library; however the original book or books in which Guernseymen signed up on the island have been lost.

Those who seek information about French nationals who died in the First War should consult the French Government website, Mémoire des Hommes, which includes original certificates and other documents.

The Guernsey Militia

The Priaulx Library has a great deal of material, both original documents and secondary sources. Please contact a Librarian should you require further information.


¹ Spencer, W., Family history in the wars: how your ancestors served their country: Kew: National Archives, 2007. In the Library at LAG 929.1 SPE.