Posted by Paul Rawlins on June 6, 2011 in Collections

Odds are, if you had an ancestor who served as enlisted personnel aboard a U.S. Navy vessel in WWII, you’ll most likely find him—or her—in the U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938–1949, database that recently went live on You’ll also find some civilian passengers and a few officers here and there among the records.

But don’t stop there. If you’re lucky, your Navy ancestor will pop up among the pages in the U.S. Navy Cruise Books Index, 1918–2009, collection. Navy cruise books—think yearbooks at sea—are unofficial publications put together by crewmembers aboard ship. This means they can have an informal, candid feel, but it also means that not every ship created one. The Navy Library holds the largest collection of cruise books in the U.S.—about 3,500 volumes—and these make up the bulk of our database, with the oldest going back to 1918 and the newest printed in 2009.

You can find plenty of historical figures in their pages, whether it’s Hall of Famer Bob Feller at bat for the U.S.S. Alabama’s baseball team (they won the fleet championship that year—go figure):

Or Lieutenant Junior Grade (now Senator) John McCain looking shipshape as a Navy pilot:

Celebrities like Tom Cruise filiming the movie Top Gun:

Or Oprah Winfrey dropping by for a visit on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt while she was vacationing in the Mediterranean:

And, with a little luck, a photo of your ancestor and his or her shipmates:

There’s another tale you can trace via muster rolls and cruise books, as well. Like the sailors on them, each of these ships has a story. The Anne Arundel had been the liner MS Mormacyork, until the Navy turned her into a transport that landed troops at Normandy and evacuated Marines from Iwo Jima. The U.S.S. Otus, a tender whose story “is not the type of story that feature writers use for copy” according to its cruise book’s introduction, was in the war almost from day one after being damaged in a 10 December 1941 attack in the Philippines and even made it into the movies: she’s the ship being launched at the beginning of the 1964 Don Knotts film The Incredible Mister Limpet.

If you have a swabbie, sea dog, or skipper in your family tree, it’s worth a look to see what story they might have left behind in Navy muster rolls or cruise books.


  1. Linda Szynal

    Thank you so much! The information I was able to gather about the LCI my dad was on thrilled him!
    Have the muster rolls from all the ships been done? I noticed the LCI(L)91 and 93 are not listed. They were in Flotilla 4 and later renamed Flotilla 10. Involved in the landings at Omaha Beach.

  2. Sarah

    I am really enjoying this collection. I was able to find my grandfather listed on three different muster rolls aboard the USS Currituck while he was recovering from a plane crash.

    I am curious to know if the muster rolls will ever be searchable by service number. I tried looking for my father-in-law’s dad, but because he had such a common name, I was unable to locate him, even though I know his service number.

    I know it’s possible that there aren’t any muster rolls available for whatever ships he served on, but searching by the service number would make things alot easier. Thanks!!

  3. Jerry Gladwell

    I think this was an extremely interesting addition to your collections. Just curious about the USS DuPont (DD941). I can’t seem to find any cruise records before 1967. Are those available for 1963-1966 or am I looking in the wrong place?

  4. Paul Rawlins

    I’m glad you are enjoying the content. As for your questions:

    I’m not sure why those craft wouldn’t be included. Our source for the records is NARA; could some of the records not have come to them? Could it have something to do with those ships having been lost? I’m waiting to hear back from one possible source of info, but in the meantime, does anybody else have any insight?

    I have passed the idea of searchable service numbers along. For now, if you can narrow down by year at all, that might help. I would suggest ship, but I’m thinking you probably don’t have that information or you wouldn’t be facing your problem. Good luck.

    There are a couple of possibilities. One, the DuPont didn’t create cruise books for the years you’re looking for. Two, we don’t have a copy. Since cruise books are unofficial publications, there is no single source to go to to find a copy or even a definitive list of what exists. We have posted everything we’ve been able to obtain from our sources thus far, but there are bound to be more volumes out there.

  5. Jade

    The added collection is nice. But bring back the single scrollable list of military databases that existed until a few hours ago in OldSearch mode.

    With the NewSearch setup there is no way to look at a one-page list of all the military databases.

    Instead, the military databases are spread across more than 40 pages with 25 entries each, and the pages are not navigable. You have to go through one at a time.

    If you don’t already know a database exists and exactly how it is named, you might never find it. The search engine does ~~not~~ search all databases.

    And to filter by time period (wonky–since when did War of 1812 begin in 1789?) or the wrong way the engine sorts by locality, is more infernal clickiness.

    Just bring back the single list, please.

  6. Betsy

    The Navy Cruise Books are a great addition to! We have some from my father’s Naval career, including the 1943 Flight Jacket Mark I (USN Air Training Center Pensacola, Fl) that has hundreds of graduating aviators depicted from pilot…to Naval aviator. Also various airplane divisions and great advertisements from local businesses as well as aircraft manufacturers.
    I would love to have these added to your collection for all to view, but don’t want to give up the books. Please advise your scanning process, do you have a location in Florida?

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