Many of the questions we receive in the Navy Department Library involve a family member’s service in the US Navy. If you are looking to research a relative’s time in the Navy we can offer you a few helpful hints. If the relative is still living have them request their personnel records from the National Personnel Record Center, if the relative is deceased you may request the records as next of kin. If you are looking for information on relatives who served prior to 1912 you will need to contact the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. The process is not particularly fast, but once you have the records we can help you find out more about what is listed in those records.
Often, the DD-214 or discharge paper work is included in the records. We can help you find more information about the discharge codes listed on the document with the help of older Bureau of Personnel Manuals. We have a wonderful two volume set edited by Paolo E. Coletta and K. Jack Bauer titled United States Navy and Marine Corps Bases that can help you find out about the places where your relative served. The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships is an excellent place to look for more information on the ships, and we might even hold a cruise book for a ship on which your relative served. We also have books and pieces in our Online Reading Room where you can find out about the ratings your relative held and the insignia they may have worn.
These are a few of the basics to help you get started. We are a library filled with wonderful resources and hope that you will enjoy using our collections to help tell a piece of your family’s story.