Navy / Maritime Records at Archives I

By T. Juliette Arai

“What records do you have here?” is a common question we are asked everyday at Archives I.  This post — Part 2 of a 3-part series — provides a brief description of the Navy/maritime records one can find at our facility in Washington, DC.  Part 1, Army [records at AI], was posted earlier, while Part 3, Civilian Agencies, will be posted in the near future. 

U.S. Navy Records

Textual records at Archives I (AI) for the U.S. Navy and Department of the Navy range in date from 1775 to 1941 – from the Revolutionary War (1775) up to, but not including, World War II (1941). However, there are some records that fall outside the given date range.  One notable exception is the records of the General Board in the General Records of the Department of the Navy (RG 80) which span 1900 to 1953.

The Record Groups [RG] currently housed at AI include the following: Bureau of Ships (RG 19); Bureau of Naval Personnel (RG 24); Chief of Naval Operations (RG 38); Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library (RG 45); Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (RG 52); Bureau of Yards and Docks (RG 71); Bureau of Ordnance (RG 74); General Records of the Department of the Navy (RG 80); Navy Judge Advocate General (RG 125); U.S. Marine Corps (RG 127); Bureau of Supplies and Accounts (RG 143); Naval Districts and Shore Establishments (RG 181); Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury (RG 217); and Naval Operating Forces (RG 313).

Please note that the record groups listed above—with the exception of RG 45 and 217, all of which is at AI—can also be found at Archives II for records dating from World War II on.

The types of Navy records at AI that researchers are most familiar with include:

  • Navy: deck logs, muster rolls, Rendezvous reports
  • Marine Corps: correspondence; personnel records for enlisted men (prior to 1905), muster rolls

Records of Maritime Agencies

Textual records for maritime agencies date from the late 18th century up to 2000—with some exceptions.

Records Groups for maritime agencies currently at AI are U.S. Coast Guard (RG 26), U.S. Customs Service (RG 36), and the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (RG 41).  RG 26 also includes records for the Revenue Cutter Service, Life-Saving Service, and Lighthouse Service.

Please note that all records in RG 26 are housed at AI while most of RG 36 has been regionalized.  Some records relating to vessels in RG 41 have also been regionalized.

The types of maritime records at AI that researchers are most familiar with include:

  • Coast Guard: ships’ logs, lighthouse records (i.e., site files, lighthouse keepers), muster rolls, ship wreck reports
  • Customs Service: vessel documentation
  • Marine Inspection and Navigation: vessel documentation, Seaman Protection Certificates (indexes and applications)
  • Merchant Marine: personnel files of recruits, shipping articles (crew lists), seamen killed or reported missing during WWII
  • Maritime: enrollments, licenses, ship registers

If you have any questions, please contact us via our email at

3 thoughts on “Navy / Maritime Records at Archives I

  1. Can you help me find a documentation on my dad’s boat that he built in our back yard in the mid 40’s. in Miami FL. He died around 1952/53 and the boat was then sold to the University of Miami for ocean research. His name was Carl Olaf Swanson, 2958 Bird Ave. 33133. The boat was approx. 36ft built for commercial fishing and named SEA GULL. I would appreciate any info and records that might be available to me from the National Archives.

    Carl A. Swanson

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