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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Militia Records for Family History
Despite all the regulations that the militia units had to obey they had no orders to keep records! (Normington.) Hence it is rather surprising that anything exists at all. Some were kept by the state and survive at the Public Record Office, but most were kept by the county, which means that they are now preserved in the county archives or record office. Some are still in private collections of those whose ancestors served as Commissioners of Array or Lord Lieutenant of the county and were responsible for making the records, or acting as militia leaders. Many of the records from all of these sources have been microfilmed and there is useful information in The National Archives (TNA) leaflets M2 and M18.
Most of what survives are Militia Lists of eligible men in each parish, and Muster Lists of active men, but there are a few other records as well, and they start for several counties in 1522, which is prior to the earliest parish registers. The earliest return that has been found so far is for 1297 in Sussex. Militia records are most helpful as early ‘censuses’ of the male population as well as for the information on military service, and the assessments for funding the militia give some idea of the local status, wealth and land holdings of the family (Gibson and Dell.) Once the militia regiment is known, and it is typically that of the area in which he lived of-course, then regimental records can show its movements around the country and suggest locations for marriage or burials of militiamen. Parish registers frequently note the regiment of a serving militiaman. The Marching Orders for the Militia 1759-1820 are in WO 5, and the weekly State of the Militia records and Monthly Returns (1759-1925) in WO 68 will give the location of each unit at any time (Thomas 1993.)
The surviving material at the TNA for the post 1757 period is in class WO 13 and consists of musters and pay lists for militia and volunteers for 1780-1878. The series for 1781-2 have been indexed and are available, on CD-ROM from Family History Indexes. 19th century militia lists for (especially) Glamorgan, Ireland, Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk are available from the Society of Genealogists bookshop. Gibson and Dell indicate what is known to survive pre-1757, and Gibson and Medlycott for 1757-1876 and where it is located. Not all survives, has been discovered, or has been filmed. Access for most researchers is most convenient through the FHLC as follows. The lists for the early period tend to be at the Public Record Office and can be found on the FHLC through COUNTRY-MILITARY RECORDS-MILITIA. Other lists, especially for the post 1757 era tend to be at county archives thus would be found on the FHLC at COUNTRY-COUNTY-MILITARY RECORDS-MILITIA and COUNTRY-COUNTY-PARISH-MILITARY RECORDS-MILITIA. Some may also be found under the OCCUPATIONS category. A keyword search on the CD version (not yet available on the net) with the name of your county and the word Militia will bring up most of the records. A typical list is shown below.
CHART: Militia List Rogate, Sussex
| RETURN to be made by the Churchwardens, Overseers of the Poor, or Constables, to the Clerk of the Sub-Division Meeting.
Parish of Rogate
List of Persons between 18 and 45 years
[Columns for #; Name; Description; Age; If any child, and if any, whether any under 14; Exempt, or not Exempt, from Militia; Grounds of Exemption; Effective Volunteer or Yeoman; Licensed Teacher not carrying on Trade, or Medical practitioner actually Practicing.] Examples:
Militia Officers’ Records
Appointments of officers to militia and volunteer units from 1782 to 1840 can be found in HO 50, the Home Office Military Papers, and the entry books in HO 51.
The Army List records militia officers from 1865. Officer’s Service Records may be found amongst WO 76, an example found on film FHL film 0917263 of one retiring in 1879 from the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders Militia, which became the 3rd battalion of the Gordon Highlanders (92nd Foot), is shown below.
CHART: Militia Officer’s Record in WO 76/451
The Statement of Service of William Gordon Alexander of the Royal Aberdeenshire Militia with a record of such other particulars as may be useful in case of his death.
Rank in Royal Aberdeenshire Militia:
Battles, Sieges and Campaigns in which present
Eastern Campaign—Siege of Sebastopol 11 Jul 1855-8 Sep 1855 Indian Campaign Rebellion 1857-58- Relief of Lucknow, Defeat of Gwalior Contingent at Cawnpore 6 Dec 1857 and persuit [sic] to Serai Ghat 9 Dec 1857, Trentyan (?) Affair at the Bridge of Kallanuddee 2 Jan 1858, Capture of Lucknow 2-21 Mar 1858 (Lieutenant) Allegunge, Battle of Bascilla, Action of Pusgawner23 Apr 1858 and 5 May 1858, 9 Oct 1858 (Lieutenant) Russulpore Noor 1875, Evacuation of Fort William C. Dec 1858 (Lieutenant), Action of Biswah Dec 1858, General Lord Clyde Umbeyla Nov 1863 to Jusitialy (?) 1864 under Major General Sir J. Garrod (Captain).
Titles, Honorary Distinctions and Medals and station
Crimean Medal with Clasp from 16 Jan-1 July 1855 GB Turkish Medal from 2 Jul 1855-16 Jun 1856 Crimea Indian Medal, 2 Clasps from 17 Jun 1856 to 13 Jun 1857 GB And 14 Jun 1856 to 28 Mar 1870 East Indies North West Frontier Medal, 1 Clasp from 29 Mar 1870 GB Doing duty with Rohiland Horse and Adjutant... 17 Irregular Cavalry... East Indies from Mar 1859 to Jun 1861, 2 ½ years. Retired 1 Nov 1879 with Honorary Rank of Lieutenant Colonel (London Gazette 31 Oct 1879) District order No 2 3 Nov 1879 and pension of £255 per annum (H. Gds letter 68519/48 d (20 Oct 1879 Rel letter BH No 371)
Marriage: 12 Feb 1861 at Jedwarpore House, Tirhout (?), Bengal To Joan MacKnight Crawford by Rev William King MA chaplain Mozrefferpore (?) Terhout
Legitimate Children—name, date of birth, place of baptism
William Adrian (?) Gordon 11 Dec 1861 Peshawar, East Indies Agnes Nina Beatrice Gordon 16 Nov 1864 Sealkote, East Indies Henry Trevor Gordon 30 Jun 1871 Edinburgh
Service on Full Pay- Abroad 14 yrs 242 days
Certifying witnesses - The Commanding Officer and Paymaster have not signed, but only the Adjutant which was himself!
Records of service of officers from 1757 to 1925 of disbanded militia regiments are in WO 68, most of which can be found on 141 films starting at FHL film 0917051. There are some WO 68 items on the TNA List (fiche 6342554) which are not on the FHLC. Lists of officers and dates of commissions for the Yeomanry of Ireland 1797-1825 on FHL film 1279329. Muster Books in WO 13, pensions in WO 23 and births and christenings in WO 32 are other sources (Fowler and Spencer.)
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military and Services offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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