British Military - What Do I Want to Know?
What regiment did my ancestor serve in?
Was my ancestor an officer?
RECORDS FOR FINDING OFFICERS' REGIMENT NAME OR NUMBER
- Census records 1841-1911
- Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths (for England & Wales from 1837; for Scotland from 1855; for Ireland from 1864 with Protestant marriages from 1845)
- Homes Sources: especially medals & awards, discharge papers, pension papers, journals, obituaries, old letters
- Army Lists: monthly, annual and the more recent quarterly or half-yearly lists - contain the name, rank, regiment, year of commission to any particular rank of officer. See W.O. 64, 65 & 66.
- Army Lists and Commission Registers: Charles Dalton compiled the commissions of officers from 1661 to 1714.
- Gentleman's Magazine & Index, 1731-1850: Lists many officers' commissions; indexes are at the back of each volume (FHL Book 942 B2gm index).
- Applications for Pensions for Widows and Children 1755-1908: (Foreign Regiments included); W.O. 42, pieces 1-51.
- Militia Attestation Returns: whole military (attachments), 1806-1915; W.O. 96, pieces #1-1522.
- Regimental Registers of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials of soldiers and their families, 1761-1924: (FHL has birth indexes ohnly)
- Chaplain Returns of births, marriages, deaths and burials of soldiers and their families, 1796-1880: FRC, London (FHL has indexes and records)
- Services of Officers on Full Pay: 1828 W.O. 25, pieces #749-779; alphabetical (FHL Book 942 M2sp)
- Services of Officers on Full & Half Pay: 1829, W.O. 25, pieces #780-807; alphabetical
- Returns of Retired Officers' Services on Half Pay: 1847, W.O. 25, pieces #808-823; indexed (FHL Book 942 M23be)
- Registers, Various: Service Returns -- #1 Service Noncommissioned Officers: 1806 (June), W.O. 25, piece #871-1120; indexed.
- Registers, Various: Service Returns -- #3 Discharges (of Noncommissioned Officers): 1783-1810, W.O. 25, pieces #1121-1131; indexed.
- Muster Master Generals' Index of Casualties (officers'): 1797-1817; W.O. 25, pieces 1196-1358
- Regimental Registers of Pensioners: Royal Chelsea Hospital 1717-1857, W.O. 120.
Was my ancestor a soldier?
RECORDS FOR FINDING SOLDIERS' REGIMENT NAME OR NUMBER
- Home Sources: especially medals and awards, discharge papers, diaries and journals, personal knowledge, pictures - especially of soldiers in full military dress, old letters, etc.
- Civil Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths: July 1837-present; certificates usually give regiment name or number and/or rank.
- Census Records 1841-1911: find the soldier and/or family; search other census records; often gives the regiment name or number of soldier (or officer)
- Regimental Registers of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials of soldiers and their families: 1761-1924; The National Archives & FHL has birth indexes.
- Chaplain Returns of baptisms, marriages, burials at stations abroad: 1796-1880; The National Archives & FHL has films.
- Beckett's Index of Chelsea Pensioners: 1806-1838; FHL has films
- Widows' Pensions - Compassionate & Miscellaneous Papers, Registers & Indexes: W.O. 24, pieces #3108-3125; 1748-1851.
- Militia Attestation Returns: W.O. 96 - all; whole military, 1806-1915, alphabetically arranged.
- Judge Advocate General's Office; Courts Martial; confirmed at Home & Abroad: W.O. 93, indexes (to W.O. 91 & 92 Court Martial records); 1650-1922.
- Soldiers' Documents; 1760-1913: W.O. 97; (FHL has 1760-1854 only); alphabetically arranged for each of the major attachments and corps.
- Medals & Awards; Meritorious Service Awards, 1846-1923: W.O. 101, pieces 1-7; indexed (not comprehensive for the whole army).
- Soldiers' documents (& various) Regiments, 1760-1882: W.O. 97 (mostly alphabetical); FHL has pieces #1-1279 only, 1760-1854; arranged alphabetically for whole army
- Regimental Registers of Pensioners, 1717-1857: W.O. 120
Was my ancestor in the Militia or a Volunteer?
RECORDS FOR FINDING MILITIA, VOLUNTEERS & YEOMANRY REGIMENT NAME OR NUMBER
- Soldiers' documents (Militia, by County): 1760-1881; W.O. 97; FHL has pieces 1-1182; 1209-1279, 1760-1854 only with some alphabetical arrangement
- Militia Attestation Returns; whole military (with attachments): 1806-1915; W.O. 96-all; alphabetically arranged. The National Archives
- Army Establishment; Militia, Yeomanry & Volunteers Allowances: 1793-1799; 1817-1927; Pay Master General (PMG) #13, pieces 1-50.
- Muster Books & Pay Lists; Militia & Volunteers: 1780-1878; W.O. 13; pieces 1-4675.
- Depot Description Books - Militia Records, including Officers' Services: 1759-1925; W.O. 68, pieces 1-568; FHL has many of these - helpful enlistment place for soldier is known.
- Militia Attestation Returns; whole military (attachments): 1806-1915; W.O. 96, pieces 1-1522; arranged alphabetically.
- Royal Hospital Chelsea Regimental Registers of Admissions - Out-Pensions: includes Militias
- Home Office - Military Internal Defence (Militia & Volunteers): 1782-1840; H.O. 50, pieces 57-363.
- Militia Entry Books - Commissions, appointments, warrants: 1758-1855; E51
- Quarter Session Records (of each shire/county): most have militia lists or sometimes lists of able-bodied men from the ages of 16-60; some are in print.
Can I find life events or family relationships in military records?
MOST VALUABLE BRITISH ARMY RECORDS FOR OFFICERS
Several War Office (W.O.) class record exist for officers and their families which do not have indexes or are not alphabetically arranged and thus are not mentioned in the above section. This list provides quick identification of records which have an extensive coverage for much of the British Army as a whole but which lack an index or alphabetical arrangement. Listed below by title and W.O. class numbers, these are only a few of the more significant record collections within the War Office class records which can be consulted for research. These records provide information about army personnel and their families.
Be sure to do a Place-names search in the Catalog at www.familysearch.org for the country of settlement, as many compiled books exist pertaining to British military personnel, i.e. "New Zealand - Military". Unless otherwise indicated, the records listed below by title and W.O. number are located at The National Archives in England.
- Regimental Registers of births and baptisms, marriages and burials, 1760-1924
- Chaplains' Returns of births, marriages and burials:1796-1880
- Monthly Returns (Station Returns): W.O. 17, 1759-1865
- Royal Chelsea Hospital Pension Returns: W.O. 22, 1842-1883
- Royal Chelsea Hospital, Chelsea Registers, etc.: W.O. 23, 1702-1933
- Royal Chelsea Hospital, Chelsea Registers, etc.: W.O. 25, 1660-1878 (FHL has some)
- Establishments for Half-pay: W.O. 24, 1686-1829
- Ireland Commission & Succession Books: W.O. 35, 1775-1831
- Certificates of Births, Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths & Burials, Wills, & other personal papers: W.O. 42, 1755-1908 (FHL has some)
- Quarter Books: W.O. 54, 1594-1883
- Records of Officers' Service (whole military): W.O. 76, 1790s to 1800s (FHL has many)
- Royal Military College, Sandhurst: W.O. 99 (records at Sandhurst Military College, Berkshire)
- Campaign Medal Rolls: W.O. 100, 1793-1912
- Medals & Awards; Long Service & Good conduct: W.O. 102, 1831-1902
- Miscellanea Submission Papers: 1803-1914
- South African War Papers: Returns of Officers, NCO's & soldiers, W.O. 108, 1899-1902
- Royal Chelsea Hospital Admission Books - Outpensioners (for long service): W.O. 117, 1823-1913
- Royal Chelsea Hospital Admission Books - Outpensioners (Disability) Records: W.O. 116, 1715-1913
- Royal Hospital, Kilmainham Out-Pensions Records - Admission Books (& some Discharge Books): W.O. 118, 1704-1862
- Royal Hospital Kilmainham Discharge Documents of Pensioners - Out-Pensions Records: W.O. 119, 1783-1822
- Royal Hospital Chelsea Regimental Registers of Admissions - Out-Pensions (includes Militias): W.O. 120, 1715-1857
- Royal Chelsea Hospital Out-Pensions - Discharge Documents of Pensioners: W.O. 121, 1782-1813
- Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst - Register of Cadets: W.O. 151, 1806-1946
- Royal Hospital Chelsea - Prize Records: W.O. 164, 1720-1899
- Pay Master General Army Establishment Retired Pay & General Officers' Pay & Allowance: PMG 3, 1813-1920
- Pay Master General Army Establishment Retired Pay & General Officers' Pay & Allowance: PMG 4, 1737-1921
- Pay Master General - Commissariat Half Pay: PMG 5, 1834-1855
- Pay Master General - Army Establishment; Ordnance, Half Pay, Pensions, etc.: PMG 12, 1836-1875
- Pay Master General - Army Establishment; Miscellaneous Books: PMG 14, 1756-1772; 1797-1861
Did my ancestor receive a pension?
Search the WO 97 records to determine if ancestor received a pension. Search the following: