Researching ancestors 1760-1914

Useful hints & tips for military research.

Moderators: admin, Northern Lass, apowell

Researching ancestors 1760-1914

Postby apowell » Fri Sep 13, 2013 7:11 am

Military Documents

British Army Service Records 1760-1915 (available findmypast & National Archive)
Here you can search for your ancestors in the following sets of records:
Militia service records 1806-1915 (WO96)
Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913 (WO97)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents 1760-1887 (WO121)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents, foreign regiments 1816-1817 (WO122)
War Office: Imperial Yeomanry, soldiers' documents, South African War 1899-1902 (WO128)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea: documents of soldiers awarded deferred pensions 1838-1896 (WO131)

The records comprise soldiers' attestation and discharge papers and form part of the WO (War Office) series of records held at The National Archives in Kew. The War Office was the precursor of today's Ministry of Defence.

The attestation form was completed when the soldier joined the regiment and the discharge form when he left. This search covers all available papers for each soldier. The records include soldiers from 'other ranks', rather than officer class soldiers, unlike many other military resources of this period. This means that you're much more likely to be able to find your ancestors in this collection.

British Army Pensioners - Kilmainham, Ireland 1783-1822 (available findmypast & National Archive)
These records contain 41,651 images of discharge documents for 19,109 men for the period 1783-1822. The records form part of the WO (War Office) series of records held at The National Archives in Kew. The War Office was the precursor of today's Ministry of Defence. Pension records do not just relate to older men: soldiers were eligible for a pension after 12 years of service so relatively young men could be pensioned out.

Note that these records cover men discharged to pension from English, Scottish and Welsh units, as well as Irish regiments, even though the pensions were administered from the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham near Dublin, as opposed to the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.

Napoleonic War Records1775-1817 (available findmypast)

Army of Reserve 1803
Search 26,314 records of Other Ranks who were part of the 1803 England and Wales Army of Reserve.
Acts of Parliament were passed in July 1803 which required each county in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to provide a stated number of men to make up an Army of Reserve. These men were called up for the 'defence of the realm' at a time when there was a very serious threat of invasion. The men were only required to serve in Britain and they enlisted for a limited period, commonly five years. The men from each county were allocated as reservists to a specific regiment or a specific numbered reserve battalion, of which 16 were formed. Several counties were grouped together and their men sent to the same regiment or reserve battalion. These records cover the men who signed up from England and Wales. Many of them went on to enlist as regular soldiers for an unlimited period of service. These are records of the Exchequer and the source of the marching money is specifically the Land Tax records.

These records provide valuable information about your military ancestors. Due to the nature of the records, however, the information provided varies greatly from soldier to soldier. All the records give The National Archives reference number. The records originate from E182 (Deserter Bounty Certificates) and WO12 (Muster Books and Pay Lists) at The National Archives.

Regimental indexes 1806
Search 97,463 regimental records of Napoleonic era Other Ranks from 1806. The records cover the 1st-50th Regiments of Foot and the Cavalry, Foot Guards and Royal Waggon Train. Where provided, these records will tell you the following information about your ancestors: first name, last name, enlistment date, rank, regiment and The National Archives' reference number. The records originate from WO25 (various registers) at The National Archives – these records are specifically Service Returns no.1. These records are a basic finding aid and do not give any places of birth, although there are some clues as to where men were being recruited from at this time.

Foot Guards attestation papers 1775-1817
Search 9,309 records of Other Ranks' attestations to the 1st Foot Guard between 1775 and 1817.The index contains the following information about your ancestors, where available: first name, last name, place of birth, date enlisted and, in some cases, other remarks. The information about these records originates from the Guards Regiment.

Peninsula Medal Roll 1793-1814 (available various websites listed)
The names of over 26,000 men are listed in the Peninsular Medal Roll. Records generally include first name, last name, rank and regiment, number of clasps, particulars of clasps and remarks.
The Military General Service Medal (MGSM) was a campaign medal approved in 1847, for issue to officers and men of the British Army. The MGSM was approved on 1 June 1847 as a retrospective award for various military actions from 1793-1814.

The above medal was awarded only to a few who were entitled to it because many had already died by its issue date.

Waterloo Roll Call 1815 (available various websites listed)
Search for men who fought in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and received the Waterloo Medal. The Waterloo Medal was awarded to any soldier of the British Army who took part in one or more of: the Battle of Ligny (16 June 1815), the Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815). Find out each soldier's regiment and folio number, plus in many cases detailed information about their service.

Waterloo Medal Roll 1815 (available various websites listed)
The Waterloo Medal was the first military award issued to all ranks that fought in the Battle of Waterloo and the preceding conflicts at Ligny and Quatre Bras. Won by nearly 37,000 Waterloo veterans, it was the British Army’s first campaign medal.

Anglo-Boer War records 1899-1902 (available ancestry & findmypast)
The Register is a unique database for genealogists, military historians and medal collectors. It contains 271,771 names, including a completely revised casualty list of 59,000 casualty records.

The Register can help you:
The Register brings together information from more than 470 sources, some very rare and others out of print, to create a single record for each participant. It shows at a glance what would normally take many hours of painstaking research.

The main sources used to build the Register are:
The complete Queen's South Africa medal roll for the Coldstream Guards, Irish Guards, 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and Rundles Scouts
QSA rolls for: Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, Maritzburg Ambulance Corps, Natal Field Artillery and Natal Volunteer Hotchkiss Gun Detachment
Complete Wepener clasp roll
King's South Africa rolls for: 9th Lancers, 12th Lancers, 10th Hussars, 11th Hussars and Imperial Yeomanry
Talana clasp for 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, Leicestershire Regiment and King's Royal Rifle Corps
Official Casualty Rolls
A Gazetteer of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902
Medal Rolls
Anglo-Boer War Memorials Project
Winifred Scott's Anglo-Boer War Index
Kevin Asplin's rolls for the British cavalry, Imperial Yeomanry, Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, Lovat's Scouts and Scottish Horse

The Official Casualty Rolls are published in two sets: The Natal Field Force (NFF) (October 1899 to October 1900) and the South African Field Force (SAFF) (October 1899 to May 1902). Neither is easy to use, both are arranged by unit and SAFF is divided into six sections by date.

UK, Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949 (available ancestry)
This database contains lists of more than 2.3 million officers, enlisted personnel and other individuals entitled to medals and awards commemorating their service in campaigns and battles for the British Army between 1793 and 1949. The original medal rolls were compiled by the War Office and are housed at the National Archives of the UK in Kew, Surrey. The rolls include medals awarded for British campaigns in Europe, India, Egypt, Sudan, South Africa, West and Central Africa, China, the Middle East, and elsewhere during the height of the British Empire. The collection does not include WWI or WWII medal and award rolls.

UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 (available ancestry)
This database contains lists of more than 1.5 million officers, enlisted personnel and other individuals entitled to medals and awards commemorating their service with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines between 1793 and 1972. The original medal rolls were compiled by the War Office and are housed at the National Archives of the UK in Kew, Surrey. The rolls include medals awarded for British campaigns and service in Europe, India, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere during the height of the British Empire and into the 20th century. This database also includes medal rolls from the First and Second World Wars.

Canada, British Navy Ship Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, 1757-1836 (available ancestry)
This database contains pay lists and muster rolls for Canadian ships and yards.

What You Can Find in the Records:
These records are made up of pay lists and muster rolls for both ships and naval yards in Canada and elsewhere (such as Cape of Good Hope) during an era when Great Britain was establishing itself as the dominant naval power in the world. Documents include records relating to the War of 1812 and ships on the Great Lakes.

Canada, British Regimental Registers of Service, 1756-1900 (available ancestry)
This database contains registers and other records providing details on soldiers and officers in British military units that served in Canada. These registers include description and succession books, returns of officers' services, casualty returns and regimental entry books, which include the names of enlisted men with details such as age, place of birth, trade and service. The records cover various periods between the years 1756 to 1878, with some returns of officers' services in the Royal Engineers up to the mid-1900s. Some registers include a nominal index, either at the beginning or end of the volume.

What You Can Find in the Records:
These records document things such as enlistment, commissions and appointments, dates of service, service history, casualties, desertion, pay and pensions, and discharges. The list of details that one might find in these records is comprehensive, although the discharge information might be stressed even more, such as when, where and why the pension was awarded and from time to time, the amount of the pension is noted.

National Archives
Vast resources available but most useful for military researchers are kept in the WO (War Office collections) and the ADM (Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies of the Admiralty):

Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies concerning all aspects of the organisation and operation of the Royal Navy and associated naval forces.

War Office and successors: Registered Files (General Series)
Records created or inherited by the War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies relating to the administration of the armed forces.
Comprises records of:
General War Office records
Chief of the (Imperial) General Staff and its directorates
Commander-in-Chief, Military Secretary and Army Council
Army Medical services
Other administrative departments of the War Office
Finance departments
Central Department of the Permanent Secretary of State
Land Branch
Muster rolls
Board of General Officers
Royal Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals
Constable of the Tower of London
Research establishments
Armed forces records from commands, headquarters, regiments and corps
Auxiliary forces
Army in Ireland
Armed forces service records

Muster rolls are a great resource and are also kept within the WO collections:
What were muster rolls?
Regimental musters, from the early 18th century onwards, were taken every month or quarter (frequency varied over the years) for pay and accounting purposes. They, along with pay lists, were effectively the main everyday service records kept by the army of men in active service.

What information do they contain?
Muster rolls and pay lists give the enlistment date, movements and discharge date of all soldiers in the British Army. From 1868 to 1883 musters may also contain lists of 'men becoming non-effective', found at the end of each quarter (or the beginning for regiments stationed in India) which give a man's birthplace, along with his trade and date of death or discharge. However, these quarterly lists are not always present. From about 1868 musters may also include Marriage Rolls giving details of children and wives occupying married quarters.

What do you need to conduct a search?
To trace a man's army career by way of the musters, you will have to know the name of his regiment.

How to search for musters and pay lists c. 1730-1878
The musters are bound together in annual volumes for each regiment and are held in the War Office (WO) series, listed below. Each series is searchable in Discovery, our catalogue. Search by name of regiment and specify the appropriate record series from the table below. To view the muster roll or pay list itself you will need to order the original document. The first entry for a recruit in a muster book usually gives his age, place of enlistment and trade.

When completing a search on the national archives website input the WO or ADM prefix prior to the search name eg. WO Halesowen (Army) or ADM Halesowen (Navy).

Website links: (Paid subscription/pay as you go vouchers) (paid subscription) (paid subscription) (paid subscription) (documents can be viewed for free at the National Archives or ordered-fee payable) (documents can be viewed online-fee payable) (information only)

Please note other websites may also offer military records, the ones listed are only for reference and not a recommendation
Posts: 491
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:02 am
Location: Vantaa Finland

Return to Hints & Tips

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest