By Onaona Guay
The Know Your Records series aims to inform our readers of the types of records in our holdings, the information found in those record types, and the process by which researchers can request/get access to these records.
Know Your Records: U.S. Navy Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries
U.S. Navy muster rolls and personnel diaries (online ID 594996) are among the most popular U.S. Navy records in our holdings, along with U.S. Navy deck logs. Archivists at the National Archives in College Park, MD (Archives II) frequently consult these records to answer researcher requests. We discussed deck logs in a previous post. Today let’s take a look at U.S. Navy Muster Rolls and Personnel Diaries!
U.S. Navy Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries – What they are:
Information found on muster rolls and in the personnel diaries may be helpful in identifying the ship, station or activity to which an officer or enlisted man was attached, as well as significant status changes that may have occurred during their service.
Muster Rolls are lists of naval personnel formerly attached to a ship, station or other activity. These reports are generated quarterly. Information usually available on muster rolls includes:
- Name of enlistee
- Rating (occupation/specialty)
- Service number
- Date reported for particular duty or on board
- Date of enlistment
- Name of ship, station, or activity
- Ship number or other numeric designation
- Date of muster roll
Personnel diaries are the U.S. Navy equivalent of the morning rosters found in U.S. Army records. These personnel diaries were compiled monthly. They record significant status changes, including reporting to or transferring from the activity; being promoted or demoted; departing for or returning from periods of leave, and temporary attached duty. Information usually available on personnel diaries includes:
- Name of enlistee
- Date of the change
- Explanation of the change
Nuances of Muster Rolls
- For the period of 1939-1956, muster rolls list the names of enlisted personnel only. Some of the rolls do include the original place of enlistment.
- For rosters of officers serving aboard commissioned U.S. Navy ships during the period 1939-1956, researchers must consult the deck logs of the ship; however, the National Archives does not have custody of officer rosters of Navy units and shore establishments.
- From March 1957 onwards, the muster rolls include lists of officers AND lists of enlisted personnel.
Muster rolls/Personnel Diaries from 1971 onward utilize social security numbers as service numbers and therefore are subject to privacy restrictions (see below).
What they are not:
Muster rolls do not provide daily lists of naval personnel formerly attached to a ship, station, or other activity. They will not tell you the daily whereabouts of a sailor during their service.
Muster rolls/personnel diaries do not contain current addresses of former naval personnel or their survivors.
Requesting Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries from 1939-1970:
If you are interested in requesting information from or copies of U.S. Navy Muster Rolls/personnel diaries for the period 1939-1970, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reproductions of muster rolls/personnel diaries from 1939 through 1970 can be reproduced only on DVD. Paper copies are not available. A number of images may be illegible due to the poor quality of the original which was transferred to us by the Department of the Navy. The original paper records were destroyed by the Navy after filming.
Requesting pre-1939 Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries:
Muster rolls/Personnel diaries prior to 1939 are maintained by NARA’s Archives I Reference Section (RDTR1), National Archives Main Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001. To request muster rolls/personnel diaries prior to 1939, please contact email@example.com.
Requesting Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries from 1971-1982:
As mentioned above, muster rolls/personnel diaries from 1971-1982 use Social Security numbers as service numbers, and are therefore subject to privacy restrictions. This means that requests for these records must be submitted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Submitting a FOIA request for Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries
- Begin your request with the following: “Under the Freedom of Information Act (5 USC 552) I hereby request access to U.S. Navy Muster Rolls.” Failure to do so will delay the processing of your request.
- Provide the following information:
- Activity code (if known)
- Ship/Base or Unit designation(s)
- Beginning and End date of interest
- Type of information sought (more than one may be indicated)
- Both Officer and Enlisted
- Quarterly Roster entries
- Personnel Diary entries
- Both Quarterly Rosters and Quarterly Diaries
- The name(s) of specific person(s) (if applicable)
- Your contact information
- Be as specific as possible. A narrow timeframe/specific information will expedite the processing of your request.
If you are requesting muster rolls/personnel diaries for a claim, it is also beneficial to fill out and submit a Certification of Identity form with your request. Doing so will allow the release of private information to you that would otherwise be withheld if requested by a third party.
Please send your request to Martha Wagner Murphy, Chief, Special Access/FOIA Staff, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, Room 5500, College Park, MD 20740-6001. You may also submit your request via email to specialaccess_FOIA@nara.gov.
Requesting Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries Post-1982
Post-1982 muster rolls and personnel diaries are still in the custody of the U.S. Navy. To request access to this material, please contact the Navy Personnel Command (PERS-00J6), 5720 Integrity Drive, Millington, TN 38055.
Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries online
Muster rolls for the World War II era are available online via www.ancestry.com. Search their catalog for the collection “U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949.” There is a fee for this service. An institution in your area may provide free access to ancestry.com. Or you may view these records online at one NARA’s facilities for free. For the nearest NARA location, please consult our web page at http://www.archives.gov/locations/