The list books contain monthly returns compiled in the Admiralty Office for the information of the Board, entitled 'The present Disposal of His Majesty's Ships and Vessels in Sea Pay', showing the disposition of ships, names of officers, etc.
There are no indexes, either of ship or officer, but in the Library of The National Archives, Kew, there is a copy (from the original MS in the National Maritime Museum) of Commissioned Sea Officers, 1660-1815 (ed. D Bonner Smith et al, National Maritime Museum, 1954, 3 vols), as annotated by the late Commander Pitcairn-Jones with officers' services taken from the List Books. This can be used as a rough index to officers' names in ADM 8 up to 1813, though it should be noted that Commander Pitcairn-Jones consulted only one month out of each year. Almost all the information in the list books can from 1815 be extracted more easily from the Navy List. From 1855 the list books were issued in a smaller format, printed, and giving more information about the armament, tonnage etc of the ships.
From 1674 the lists appear in the form which they retained until 1853; returns of ships and vessels in commission, arranged geographically, naming their captains (and lieutenants up to 1808), stating their complement of men and guns, when they were commissioned, when they had last been docked, and sometimes other information.