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Military records are potentially of great genealogical value and may provide information not found in any other source. These records identify individuals who served or were eligible to serve in the military. Military service (other than the militia) was usually a lifetime career. Officers came from the upper classes; soldiers usually came from the poor. A compulsory draft was seldom used except by the militia.
You may find evidence that an ancestor served in the military from family records, biographies, census, probates, civil registration, or church records.
Until 1859, there were two armies in India: the British Army and the Honourable Company (East India Company) Army. There were also several garrisons of French, Danish, and Dutch soldiers.
The British Army regiments were raised in England and spent several years in India, as well as in other places. For the most part, British Army records are now stored in the National Archives (TNA) in Kew, London.
Honourable Company regiments were raised in India or England for service only in India. Their records are for the most part stored in the Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC) at the British Library, also in London.
In 1859, following the Mutiny, all of the Honourable Company's regiments were absorbed into the British Army. Note that many of your ancestors may have begun their lives in India in the British Army, then transferred to the Honourable Company's Army when they become too old or invalid for regular army work.
In 1877 the various marine departments were, in theory, amalgamated to form a single organization called Her Majesty's Indian Marine (later Royal Indian Marine). It had an eastern division based at Calcutta and a western division at Bombay, but the lists continued to appear for all three Presidencies separately, as well as for Burma (now Myanmar) from 1877.
In 1883 the Bengal Division had 15 officers and 87 pilots from masters to leadsman apprentices. The 1887 India List details a marine department of three directors, two surgeons, 29 dockyard officers, about 150 other officers, 45 ships, 14 marine survey officers, and 11 port staff. Unfortunately, these officers do not usually figure in the useful biographical sketches, unless they had a separate career in the Indian Army or civil service.
In 1934 the name was changed to Royal Indian Navy (RIN).
East India Company
Entry papers for officer cadets 1789-1860: L/MIL/9/107-254. Name of cadet, birth/baptism details, parentage, educational testimonials. Index shelved in the Reading Room. For recruitment registers and embarkation lists for other ranks, see I.A. Baxter, India Office Library and Records: A Brief Guide to Biographical Sources.
- Queen's India Cadetships 1858-1930: L/MIL/9/292-302. Application forms giving details of the candidates.
- Sandhurst cadets commissioned onto the Indian Army Unattached List 1859-1940: L/MIL/9/303-319. Index 1902-1914: Z/L/MIL/9/3. Application forms giving details of cadet and his family background, certificate of age.
- Wellington and Quetta cadets 1915-1918: L/MIL/9/320-332. Application forms giving details of cadet and his family background, certificate of age. Each volume contains an index.
- Assistant Surgeons' and Surgeons' Papers 1804-1914: L/MIL/9/358-408, L/MIL/9/413-427. Copy of index Z/L/MIL/9/5 shelved in the Reading Room.
For records of service for officers, surgeons, departmental warrant officers, Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) and privates, see Ian A. Baxter's India Office Library and Records: A Brief Guide to Biographical Sources (FHL book 016.954 B334b). For officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834, see V.C.P. Hodson, List of the Officers of the Bengal Army, 4 vols (London, 1927-1947) (FHL book 942 M23h). For surgeons, see D.G. Crawford's Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930(London, 1930) (FHL film 454,945). Also see D.G. Crawford's A List of Indian Medical Service 1600-1913 (FHL film 454,944).
de Breffny, Brian. Irish Soldiers Stationed on the Coast of Coromandel in India on 31st December, 1766. Alphabetical list of Irish - born soldiers serving in India. Gives name, ship on which soldier arrived in India, Branch of service, Country of origin, the Corps soldier was serving in, and date of enlistment, covering 1741-1766. Article in The Irish Ancestor, vol. XVI, no. 1. 1984, pages 45-53, FHL Ref. 941.5 B2i
Maritime Service Statements
Statements were compiled in 1834 when maritime servants received compensation payments at the abolition of the East India Company mercantile marine: L/MAR/C/849-850G. The payment applied only to those still serving in 1834 and was given to officers, surgeons, boatswains, carpenters and gunners.
Complete records of service, also baptism certificates of applicants and marriage/baptism certificates for wives and children.
- Baptism certificates and certificates of age for marine officers 1780-1820: L/MAR/C/699-670. Both volumes are indexed.
- Baptism certificates and certificates of competence for midshipmen 1820-1830: L/MAR/C/671.
Inquirers who are unable to make a personal visit to the Oriental and India Office Collections may wish to employ research agents to pursue inquiries on their behalf.
- The British Library
Oriental and India Office Collections
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
Telephone: 44 171 412 7873
Fax: 44 171 412 7641
Poplar Pension Fund
This fund was applied to officers and seamen of the East India Company mercantile marine and their families. The main series are the Application Papers 1809-1838: L/MAR/C/789-840. Indexes: L/MAR/C/785-786. Complete service records given, also details of marriages and of baptisms of children.
Lord Clive Military Fund
This fund provided benefits for officers and other ranks of the East India Company armies and for their widows but not their children c1770-c1893: L/AG/23/2 series. These were ex gratia pensions awarded on a charitable basis and not as of right; there were no subscriptions to the Fund. The records include pensions paid both in India and Britain. The volume has an index giving the names of officers and widows who were beneficiaries.
Bengal Military Fund
This fund provided benefits for the widows of officers, surgeons and chaplains of the Bengal Army: L/AG/23/6 series. Index: L/AG/23/6/12. Closed to new subscribers 1862. Subscriber's name, date of birth and marriages, promotions, date of retirement and death, date of wife's/wives' birth and death.
Bengal Military Orphan Society
This fund provided benefits for the children (both legitimate and illegitimate) of officers, chaplains and (until 1823) surgeons of the Bengal Army: L/AG/23/7 series. Index: L/AG/23/6/12. Closed to new subscribers 1861. Names of deceased subscribers' children, their dates of birth and amounts paid to them.
Madras Military Pension Fund
This fund provided benefits for the widows and children of officers, chaplains and (until 1823) surgeons of the Madras Army. Closed to new subscribers 1862. A volume of information edited from L/AG/23/10 is shelved in the Reading Room. Name of subscriber, dates of birth/baptism, marriages, retirement and death; name of wife/wives and dates of birth, remarriage and death; names of children, their dates of birth, dates of daughters' marriage, sometimes with husband's name.
Madras Medical Fund
This fund provided benefits for the widows and children of surgeons and veterinary surgeons of the Madras Army: L/AG/23/12. Closed to new subscribers 1862. The information provided is similar to other Funds.
Bengal, Madras and Bombay Civil Funds
These funds provided benefits for the widows and children of members of the East India Company/Indian Civil Service: L/AG/23/5, L/AG/23/8, and L/AG/23/11. Closed to new subscribers c1882-1885. The information provided is similar to other Funds.
Indian Military Service Family Pension Fund
This fund was established 1873. Closed to new subscribers 1914. Provided benefits for the widows and children of officers, surgeons and chaplains of the Indian Army. For family details of those who joined between 1873 and 1893, see L/AG/23/16/4-9 (Index: L/AG/23/16/10), and for those who joined between 1893 and 1914, see L/AG/23/16/31-41 (Indexes: L/AG/23/16/42-43). The information provided is similar to other Funds.
Indian Military Widows' and Orphans' Fund
Established 1915 in succession to the Indian Military Service Pension Fund. For family details of those who joined between 1915 and 1943, see L/AG/23/17/19-35 (Index: L/AG/23/17/36). The information provided is similar to other Funds.
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