Ireland Military Records

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Military records identify individuals who served or were eligible to serve in the armed forces. From 1660 to 1922, the Irish were part of the British armed services. Consequently, pre-1922 records for Irish military personnel are mostly British.
Further information: British Military Records

The regular army and the navy constituted the major branches of the British military. Militia (part-time units for local defense), fencibles (full-time units for local defense), yeomanry (volunteer calvary units), territorial armies (units raised outside the British Isles for foreign service), coast guard (units that patrol British shores), and royal marines (troop units on ships) were also armed forces. Each of these services kept its own records.

Military officers were typically from the upper classes and soldiers were from among the poor. Compulsory draft was seldom used, except by the militia. The navy, however, did utilize "Chain Gangs" to provide enforced recruitment, especially during the Napoleonic wars. The officers of each parish decided who would serve in the militia.

You may find evidence that your ancestor served in the military in family records, biographies, censuses, probates, civil registrations, or church records.

Military records are potentially of great genealogical value. But they are difficult to use because few are indexed and many are only available at the Public Record Office, Kew at the National Archives.  Civil registration, census, or church records, if available, are easier records to use. Still, military records sometimes provide information that is not found in any other source. Search the easier records first; they will often provide information that will then help you search military records.

The Family History Library has many military records, but these are only a small part of the military records available. You may want to hire a researcher to search military records that are not available at the Family History Library.

Books

  • Bevan, Amanda, and Andrea Duncan.Tracing Your Ancestors in the Public Record Office. 4th ed. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1990. (Family History Library book Ref 942 A5p no. 19 1990.)

British Military Records. Salt Lake City, Utah: Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1991. (Wiki article)

NOTE: All of the information from the original research outline has been imported into this Wiki site and is being updated here, as time permits.
  • Fowler, Simon. Army Records for Family Historians. London: Public Record Office Publications, 1992. (Family History Librarybook Ref 942 M27f.)
  • Great Britain, Public Record Office. Kew Lists. 17 vols. Microfiche ed. Norwich, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1986-88. (Family History Library book 942 A3gp.)
  • Rodger, N. A. M. Naval Records for Genealogists. 2d ed. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1988. (Family History Library book Ref 942 A5p no. 22.)
  • Swinson, Arthur S., ed. A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London, England: Archive Press, 1972. (Family History Library book Ref 942 M2am.)

Pre-1914 Records

Pre-1914 military records are kept in the Public Record Office, Kew and are divided into army and navy records.

Army Records. The army began as a permanent organization in 1660. Earlier armies were raised as needed, usually as county militia units directed by the county's lord lieutenant. For information on pre-1660 military records, see the handbooks described below.

Pre-1847 British army service was generally for life. Some soldiers were discharged early for disability (liberally defined) or age (often by age 40).

Army records before 1872 are organized by regiment. Records from 1872 through 1882 are arranged alphabetically by type of troop (calvary, infantry, etc.). Post-1882 records are arranged in a single alphabetical series.

Ffolliott, Rosemary.  Some Irish Militia Movements During the Napoleonic Wars. The movement of different Irish Militia, from 1793-1816. Extracted from the Church of Ireland registers and Sir Henry MacAnally's work, The Irish Militia 1793-1816. Article found in The Irish Ancestor, vol.1 no.2, 1969, pages 109-114, Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i also held at the National Library of Ireland.

Quinlivan, Patrick.  Father Benard's Register and the Irish Militia in Essex.  Article is Father Benard's Register of the Irish Militia in Essex, also register of baptisms 1812-1817 kept at Church of St. James-the-less, Priory St. Colchester.  Also a list of references of the Irish Militia from the Suffolk Chronicle and Ipswich Journal 1812-1814. Article is in The Irish Ancestor vol. V.no. 1. 1973. pages 12-17, Family History Ref.  941.5 B2i V5-6.

Punch, Terrence M. Irish Deserters at Halifax, Nova Scotia, During the Napoleonic Wars 1803-1807.  List of Irish desters, complete with age, height and physical description and where they came from in Ireland. Article in The Irish Ancestor, Vol.VIII.no.1.1976, pages 33-35. Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v7-8.

Mossong, Verna.  Mid-19th Century Irish Deserters in New Zealand.  The list of Irish deserters, taken from the New Zealand Gazette of 1863, shows all those with irish birthplaces, names, army rank and number, age, place and year of enlistment, parish and county of birth, trade, date and place of desertion. 1840-1866.  Article in The Irish Ancestor, vol. XI, no.1. 1979. pages 4-9. Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v10-11.

de Breffny, Brian.  Irish Soldiers Stationed on the Coast of Coromandel in India.  Alphabetical list of Irish born soldiers serving in India.  Gives name, ship on which he arrived in India, branch of service, Country of origin, the Corps each soldier was serving in, and date of enlistment.  Article in The Irish Ancestor, vol. XVI, no. 1. pages 45-53. FHL Ref. 941.5 B2i

Navy Records. The earliest surviving navy records are from 1617. Ships' logs survive from 1673, but usually only give information on ship location, weather, sightings of other ships, and shipboard events. While descriptions of shipboard events often include individual names, no indexes exist to help locate these names.

Until 1853, naval enlistment was informal and lasted for the ship's commission, usually three years. Seamen often alternated between the navy and the merchant marines. After 1853, seamen enlisted for the duration of their careers.

Before 1853, individual seamen (called ratings) were not mentioned in navy records other than musters, description books, or pay lists unless they deserted, misbehaved, or earned a medal.

Individual military units (regiments for the army, ships for the navy) kept records on their own personnel.

Officers in the Navy have received Admiralty Passing Certificates 1691-1902. Public Record Office/National Archives England. FamilySearch Catalog

Admiralty Passing Certificates 1808-1811 extracted from the Public Record Office London.  Article found in The Irish Ancestor Vol. 1 No1.  Page 23-26, It concerns Ireland Officers. Gives Surname and christian name, Date of birth, Parents names and place of birth or baptism.  Held at the Family History Library, SLC, also World Catalogue lists the Libraries it is available around the world. WorldCat.  Early Twentieth Century Records - 1913 to 1921

Army records for the years between 1913 and up to 1921 are at the following address:

Army Records Centre
Bourne Avenue
Hayes, Middlesex UB3 1RF
ENGLAND

Irish soldiers killed in World War I are listed in:

Irish National War Memorial Committee. Ireland's Memorial Records, 1914-1918. 8 vols. Dublin, Ireland: Maunsel and Roberts, 1923. (Family History Library film 1279333 items 5-12.)

For more information on twentieth-century army records, see:

Holding, Norman H. World War I Army Ancestry. 2d ed. Birmingham, England: Federation of Family History Societies, 1991. (Family History Library book Ref 942 M2hoL 1991.)

Holding, Norman H. More Sources of World War I Ancestry. 2d ed. Birmingham, England: Federation of Family History Societies, 1991. (Family History Library book Ref 942 M24hn 1991.)

Post-1913 navy records are at the following address:

Ministry of Defense
Main Building, Whitehall SW1A 2HB
ENGLAND
Internet: http://www.mod.uk/defenceinternet/home

1922 to Present

Records for the Irish Defence Forces from the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922 to the present day are held by the Military Archives section at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin.

Officer in Charge,
Military Archives,
Cathal Brugha Barracks,
Rathmines,
Dublin 6. Republic of Ireland

Internet: http://www.military.ie/info-centre/military-archives

The Archives also hold many Easter Rising and War of Independence records from the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Republican Army and Cumann na mBan. Most of these relate to applications for pensions (sometimes by dependants).

Types of Military Records

Before you can use navy records or pre-1872 army records, you must determine the specific ship or regiment in which your ancestor served. "Strategies for Using Army and Navy Records" below will help you accomplish that. Once you know your ancestor's ship or regiment, several types of military records may help you learn about your ancestor's age, birthplace, and military career. A few of these record types are described below. Others are described in the British Military Records article. As you search these records, be cautious in accepting the accuracy of the information you find. To enlist, underage boys may have lied about their name, age, and sometimes birthplace.

Muster Rolls. Muster rolls usually list individuals assigned to a ship or regiment on a given day, their ages (on joining), the date and place they joined, and possibly other information, such as their birthplaces (in sea musters since 1770) and dependents (in later army musters). Army musters exist for the years 1760-1878, navy musters for 1667-1878. Musters are held at the Public Record Office, Kew at National Archives.  Chaplain's Returns and Regimental Registers. Chaplain's returns (1760-1971) list the baptisms, marriages, and burials of soldiers and their family members performed abroad by military chaplains. Regimental registers (1790-1924) contain birth, marriage, and death records by regiment for families of officers and enlisted men. Birth and baptism records are indexed. Chaplain's returns and regimental registers are available only by correspondence with the General Register Office.

'Lists of Officers. Published annually, lists of officers provide an officer's name, rank, regiment or ship, and date of commission. For the army, the published version of these records is:'

Great Britain, War Office. Army List. London, England: various publishers, 1754-. (Family History Library book 942 M25g; film 856424-52.) Volumes from 1765 on include indexes.

The published list of naval officers is:

Great Britain, Admirality. Navy List. London, England: various publishers. 1814-. (Family History Librarybook 942 M25gba; film 918928-41 and 990323-26.) The fully indexed Navy List names all commissioned officers, including masters, pursers, surgeons, chaplains, yard officers, coast guardsmen, and reservists who have served in the navy from 1814 to the present.

Continuous Service Engagement Books. Continuous service engagement books record the continuous service numbers assigned to navy ratings (seamen) since 1853. The records give the name, birth date, birthplace, physical description, and ship of service of each rating. Brief career details were later included as well. From 1872 to 1892, merchant seamen were also listed in these records.

Other Records. Other military records include description books; returns of service; and records of pensions, payrolls, promotions, medals, casualties, court martials, service, and desertions. These and other types of military records are explained in the handbooks at the end of this section.

Records of military service are at the Public Record Office, Kew. Some of the Public Record Office's military records as well as military records of various other repositories throughout Ireland and England are listed in:

Hayes, Richard J. Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 A5h.) Look under the subject index headings "Army," "Navy," "Military," and "Militia." Additional military documents may be found in private collections.

For more information on military records at the Public Record Office, see the Bevan and Duncan or Kew Lists handbooks listed at the end of this section.

Naval records: Pensions to widows and orphans

Research use: Shows relationships and supplements information found in church records or to replace missing information because of the loss of church records. Extremely valuable in providing pedigree connections.

Record type: Material relating to awarding of pensions to sailor's next of kin.

Time period: 1653-1959.

Contents: Name of sailor, next of kin and specific relationship, service information, marital condition, date of death and place of burial, and date of application.

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England.

Population coverage: Naval records cover about 10% to 15% of the population during peacetime and much more during wartime.

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: Through a researcher or a professional genealogist.[1]

Naval records: Pensions

Research use: Shows relationships and to supplements information found in church records or missing information due to loss of church records

Record type: Pension records for sailors wounded in service.

Time period: 1653-1961.

Contents: Name of sailor, service information, date of pension, date of death. (PRO classes Adm 6/222, 270, 446; Adm 18/119; Adm 22/47-49, 254-443; Adm 23/23-24, 32, 76-77, 89-94; Adm 82/1-2,122-123; Adm 165; PMG 16/1, 6, 15-31; PMG 70; PMG 71).

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England.

Population coverage: Naval records cover about 10% to 15% of the population during peacetime and much more during wartime.

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: Through a researcher or a professional genealogist.[1]

Naval records: Casualty records (bounty to next of kin)

Research use: Shows relationships and to supplements information found in church records or missing information due to the loss of church records. Extremely valuable in proving pedigree connections.

Record type: Registers and papers concerned with claims for and payments of bounty to next of kin of men killed in battle.

Time period: 1675-1920.

Contents: Registers and papers concerning claims for bounty to next of kin of sailors killed in battle. Includes certificates of birth and marriage, and information about addresses and circumstances of the beneficiaries. (PRO classes: Adm 6/445, Adm 1/51-52, Adm 30/20, Adm 106/3017-3034, Adm 141, and Adm 154).

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England.

Population coverage: Naval records--about 10% to 15% of the population during peacetime and much more during wartime.

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: Through a researcher or a professional genealogist.[1]

Naval records: Pay books

Research use: Substitute for destroyed church records to locate birth dates and places.

Record type: Pay list of Naval officers and men aboard each commissioned warship and hired "armed ship".

Time period: 1669-1856.

Contents: Name, rank, dates of entry and discharge, age and birth place of all members of ship's company. These records cover sailors from England, Scotland, Wales, and foreign countries, as well as Ireland. (PRO classes: Adm. 31, 32, and 33).

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England.

Population coverage: Varies--very high during wartime (40%) and much lower (about 10%) during peacetime.

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: Through a researcher or a professional genealogist.[1]

Naval records: Surveys

Research use: Helps to trace Naval officers, to locate birth information, and to do pedigree linkage.

Record type: Survey of commissioned and warrant officers giving birth information and details of service.

Time period: 1817-1861.

Contents: Detail of Naval service, birth information and date of birth. (PRO classes: Adm 6/66, 73-85, 193-196; Adm 9/1-61; Adm 10/1-7; Adm 11/2-3, 7-10, 35-37, 42-44; Adm 106/3517).

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England.

Population coverage: Less than 4%.

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: Through a researcher or a professional genealogist.[1]

Naval records: Navy lists

Research use: Identifies Naval officers and traces their careers and as a guide to using other records.

Record type: Annual lists of Naval officers, D. Steel, Navy List (1782-1817), List of Sea Officers (1800-1824), The Naval List (1814-present).

Time period: 1782 to present.

Contents: Name of officer, rank and date of commission or advancement.

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU and other libraries in England.

Population coverage: Less than 4%.

Reliability: Very good.

Accessibility: Those not in the Family History Library are only available through correspondence, an agent, or a professional genealogist.[1]

Military records: Muster books and pay lists

Research use: A tool to find and locate the Irish soldier, and a guide to birthplaces.

Record type: Muster and pay lists for soldiers stationed in Irish Recruitment Depots.

Time period: 1732-1878.

Contents: Name of soldier, place of birth given at time of enlistment. (WO 12/12105-13110)

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England.

Population coverage: Varies--very high during wartime (40%) and lower during peace time (10%).

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: Through correspondence, by searching in person or by using a local agent.[1]

Military records: Soldier's documents

Research use: Mainly a research tool to find place of birth and movements of individual soldiers.

Record type: Documents concerning soldiers who were discharged to pension.

Time period: 1760-1900.

Contents: Age, birthplace, trade or occupation on enlistment, record of service and reason for discharge. (PRO class WO 97)

Location: The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU, England.

Population coverage: Varies, very high during wartime (40%) and lower (about 10%) during peacetime.

Reliability: Good.

Accessibility: Through a researcher or a professional genealogist.[1]

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Research use: Lists place of origin for soldiers.

Record type: Admission records, pension records and chapel registers.

Time period: 1807-1892.

Contents: Registers of pensioners of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (Dublin); brief description of the pensioner is given with age, place of birth, particulars of service and reason for discharge. Chapel registers of birth, death, and marriages.

Location: National Archives, Bishops Street, Dublin, Ireland and Public Record Office, Ruskin Avenue, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU England. (Class numbers, PRO Dublin, RHK 5 and RHK 7/1, PRO London WO 118 and 119). Copies of WO 118 are available at the Family History Library.

Population coverage: Varies--very high during wartime (20%) and lower during peacetime (5%).

Reliability: Good.[1]

Strategies for Using Army and Navy Records

It is difficult to locate information about your ancestor in military records without knowing the unit (ship or regiment) in which your ancestor served. If you do not know the ship or regiment already, you may find that information in other records, such as census, church, or family records.

You might find the following strategies helpful for finding your ancestor's ship or regiment:

Soldiers. If your ancestor was a soldier and he married, died, or had children after 1760 while in the army, he and the regiment to which he belonged may be listed in chaplain's returns or regimental registers. If you cannot identify your ancestor's regiment through these records, the sources you should search to determine his regiment will depend on what you know about your ancestor. If you know:

  • The place and approximate date (1) of a campaign or battle in which your ancestor fought, (2) of one of his stations, or (3) that his wife gave birth while he was in the service, use:

    John M. Kitzmiller II, "In Search of the Forlorn Hope," 2 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Manuscript Publishing Foundation, 1988; Family History Library book Ref 942 M2kj) to determine the regiment(s) that were stationed in that place at that time.
  • The area where your ancestor lived during his late teens, use the handbooks below or regimental histories to determine which regiments were recruited in that area. Regimental histories available at the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:

    GREAT BRITAIN - MILITARY HISTORY

For the place he died after receiving an army pension, search the district pension returns for that area.

If your ancestor was in the army in 1806, you may wish to search the return of all men (except commissioned officers) in army service as of 24 June 1806. While the 1806 return is indexed only by regiment, it is more complete and easier to search than other army records.

Army Officers. You can usually find records for army officers in the Army List. If your ancestor does not appear in the Army List for the right time period, consult the card index to officers which is available only at the Public Record Office, Kew. You may write the Public Record Office, Kew with the information you do know to obtain information from this card index.

If your officer ancestor was living during 1828 or 1829, check the indexed returns of service (see the British Military Records article).

Generally, there are separate records for staff officers, medical officers (surgeons), Commissariat officers, chaplains, Board of Ordnance officers (artillerymen, engineers, sappers, miners, artificers, and others), and other officers. Board of Ordnance officers may be included in the Army List, even though they kept their own records until 1855. All these officer records are held at the Public Record Office, Kew.

If you cannot find an officer's record for your ancestor after consulting the sources mentioned, follow the search strategies for soldiers.

If you think you have found the regiment in which your ancestor served, military histories may help confirm your findings. Most regiments have published histories that record the places where they served and the battles they fought. You can compare the information you know about your ancestor with the history of the regiment to determine whether your ancestor could have served in that regiment. A bibliography of regimental histories is:

White, Arthur S., comp. A Bibliography of Regimental Histories of the British Army. Dallington, East Sussex, England: Naval and Military Press Ltd., 1992. (Family History Library book 942 M23was.)

Many military and regimental histories are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:

GREAT BRITAIN - MILITARY HISTORY

Seamen. Navy records seldom mention individual seamen before 1853. If your ancestor served in the navy after 1853, search the index to continuous service engagement books. If he served before 1853, search the muster rolls, description books, or pay lists of the ship on which he served. If you do not know your ancestor's ship, the source you should search to determine the ship will depend on what you know about your ancestor. If you know:

  • A port where your ancestor landed on a specific date, search the list books (Rodger, N. A. M., Naval Records for Genealogists [Family History Library book 942 A5p]), which provide a geographically arranged list of the ports where ships were located on certain dates. These books are available from 1673 on and are held at the Public Records Office, Kew.
  • A battle or campaign in which your ancestor was involved, search medal rolls, also held at the Public Record Office, Kew.
  • Your ancestor was onboard ship in 1861, search the 1861 Surname Index to Persons on Ships at Sea or in Port (Salt Lake City, Utah: Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1988; fiche 6025598).
  • Your ancestor was onboard ship in 1881, search the Surname Index to the 1881 Census of the Royal Navy (Family History Library fiche 6086362).
  • The name of an officer serving with your ancestor, search the Navy List to determine the ship on which that officer served.

Naval Officers. Naval officers who served from 1695 to 1742 are listed in the following work:

Young, D. H. W., comp.Index to Commission and Warrant Books of the Admirality of Great Britain and Ireland, 1695-1742. London, England: Public Record Office, 1958-59; Family History Library film 824516-17.) This index gives the officer's date of commission and a reference to additional information held at the Public Record Office, Kew.

Many officers are listed in published biographies, such as the following:

The Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815. 3 vols. Typescript. Reduplication by Great Britain, Admiralty, 1954. (Family History Library book 942 M23cs; film 908026-27.)

For seamen serving as midshipmen (potential officers) between 1799 and 1854, the Midshipmen's Papers list birth dates and places and parents' names.

If your naval ancestor is not listed in any of the above sources, consult:

Rodger, N. A. M., Naval Records for Genealogists. (Family History Library book 942 A5p.) This book provides other records or strategies you may use.

Many sources, list and describe naval ships and give the dates and places they were in service. One example is:

Colledge, James J. Ships of the Royal Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1987. (Family History Library book Ref 942 M3c.)

Use sources such as the above to learn more about ships on which you think your ancestor served to determine whether your ancestor could have been on those ships. Other naval histories are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:

GREAT BRITAIN - MILITARY HISTORY

Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library's British military record holdings are more fully described in the British Military Records article. The library's military records are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under combinations of the following localities and subject headings:

LOCALITIES

SUBJECT HEADINGS

IRELAND

MILITARY RECORDS

IRELAND, [COUNTY]

MILITARY RECORDS - ARMY

IRELAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH]

MILITARY RECORDS - NAVY

ENGLAND

MILITARY HISTORY

GREAT BRITAIN

MILITARY HISTORY - ARMY

MILITARY HISTORY - NAVY


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Ireland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1986-2003.