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ENGLISH & WELSH ROOTS - British Military Records Part 1: The Army
Article posted: 06 Dec. 1999; Global links updated 09 Nov 2005
By: Fawne Stratford-Devai

This issue of English and Welsh Roots is the first article in a series designed to help you find information for ancestors who served in the British Military. The series will not be an exhaustive study of British military records. It is intended to be a beginning point for those who wish to research their ancestors who served in the British military. A complete study of military records would require its own regular column. Military records, military events and military history in general are covered in hundreds of published books and almost as many internet websites. Part one of the series examines Army records and resources.

Researchers looking for extensive information about family members who have passed into the shadows of time will be delighted with the information available for those who served in the British Army. Army records can be quite extensive. The tens of thousands of feet of military records preserved by the Public Record Office (PRO) in England will attest to the incredible volume and complexity of the information.


Before undertaking research in British Military records it is important to know:
  • the regiment your ancestor served in (most military records are filed by regiment or corps).
  • the time period in which they served;
  • whether they were a commissioned officer, a non-commissioned officer (such as sergeants or corporals) or other ranks (such as a private); and more important,
  • when they were discharged (some records are arranged by date of discharge).
To determine the regiment an individual served in, researchers must begin with what is already known about the ancestor. Modern knowledge could be based on information that they fought in certain battle, or wore a certain type of uniform (often from a photograph or family story), or served with a regiment with a funny nickname.

When the British Army began in the 1660s, regiments were most often known by the name of their colonels. Iain Swinnerton authored a very informative article titled Finding his regiment, in the January 1999 issue of Practical Family History [available at major reference libraries or can be purchased from Global Genealogy 613-257-7878] which explains the evolution of British regiments with their many amalgamations and name changes. In terms of nicknames, Iain notes the 14th (King's) Hussars are also known as the "Emperor's Chambermaids" and explains the nickname dates back to the Battle of Vittoria. The problem of amalgamation and nicknames can be very confusing to a beginning researcher. Regimental naming, numbering and nicknames sometimes remain with the regiment long after their formal name or number has changed. For this reason it is important to record all information regarding an ancestor's service in the event that a rather bizarre sounding name is actually the nickname of the regiment.

What If You Don't Know the Regiment?
Simon Fowler in his article Gone for a Soldier: Beginning a Search for Military Ancestors Genealogical Services Directory, page 129 (available from 613-257-7878) offers a couple of very important suggestions for finding the regiment in which your ancestor served:
  • Determine which regiments were stationed near where children were known to be born. Armed with a geographic area and time period, Orders of Battle and Army Lists at the PRO should tell you which regimental units were stationed where during what time periods. (Local newspapers also include information about the activities of local regiments.)
  • Identify cap badges or other symbols which may be seen on any photographs of a soldier in uniform. Military enthusiasts may be able to help you link the symbol or badge with a regiment. (Refer to online resources in this article for websites of such enthusiasts).
Researchers should read the reference above to geographic area and a regiment very carefully. The point refers to geographic location based on place of birth of an enlisted man's children. Not the geographic area the man was living in before joining the Army. This is an important distinction because the regiment your ancestor joined may had nothing to do with the fact that they were born and raised and living in a particular area. Regimental recruiting has its own very interesting history. The connection of a man to a particular regiment may be no more than a lottery. A more extensive explanation of regimental recruiting practices is provided by Iain Swinnerton in his article, Joining the Army (Practical Family History, June 1999 [available at major reference libraries or can be purchased from Global Genealogy 613-257-7878].

An example of other articles written by Iain Swinnerton's for Practical Family History [available at major reference libraries or can be purchased from Global Genealogy 613-257-7878] includes:
  • Cavalrymen (December 1998)
  • Military Museums (February 1999)
  • Medals and Casualty Rolls as a source for family history (March 1999)
  • Family history from Army records (April 1999)
  • Sorting Out Your Soldiers (May 1999)
  • Was your ancestor with the infantry at Waterloo? (September 1999)
  • Officers and gentlemen (November 1999)
It should also be noted that certain categories of men were not allowed to join the Army at different time periods; these included the French, Welsh, deserters, miners and some residents in seaports.


The following list is not meant to provide an exhaustive list of all primary records. More detailed information about Army records is available from the PRO (see PRO leaflets and fact sheets listed below).

The records giving details of regular soldiers' careers during the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are held at the Public Record Office (PRO) in England. Records are often more extensive and readily available for officers. For example, the main records used for Officers are the published Army Lists (beginning in 1754). Information about Officers granted commissions before 1727 are available by using Dalton's English Army Lists and Commission Registers, 1661-1714, George I's Army, 1714-1727 and Irish Army Lists, 1661-1685. These published works are available in the PRO itself, on microfilm through the LDS. Some large libraries and national repositories in other countries also have copies of the lists. The National Library of Canada and the National Archives both have copies of the Army Lists and the pre-1727 lists.

The book Tracing Your Ancestors in the Public Record Office (5th edition, by Amanda Bevan, 1999), includes excellent and extensive information about Army records. The book also explains the types of commissioned officers:
    General Officers: field marshall, general, lieutenant-general, major general. These positions co-ordinated the efforts of the entire army.

    Regimental Officers: colonel (in command of a regiment), lieutenant-colonel, major.

    Company Officers: captain (in command of a company) and his subalterns, lieutenant, cornet (cavalry), ensign (infantry). In 1871 cornets and ensigns became second lieutenants.

    Other Officers: paymaster, adjutant, quartermaster, surgeon and chaplain.
Regimental Records of Officers' Services begin in 1755 and are available in the War Office (WO) records (WO76 and WO25). It should be noted that not all regiments are represented for all time periods. The records of some regiments have been lost over time. The information found in the registers can vary but usually provide the officer's rank, service details and some personal information such as a physical description.

An example of the more common records used by researchers to find enlisted men are as follows:

Regimental Description and Succession Books: Regimental Description and Succession Books are found in the War Office (WO) files (25) in the Public Record Office (PRO). However, microfilm copies are also available at the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in Salt Lake City and on loan to local Family History Centers of the LDS. The dates for the description books cover the period 1778 to about 1878. Not all regiments are well represented in these books for all time periods. The records of some regiments appear to be lost. Only a small percentage of all soldiers are included in these books. Volumes 266 through 688 cover the regular Army regiments.

Some Description Books are arranged alphabetically, other books by date of enlistment. They usually begin with an index, and give a description of each soldier, his age, place of birth, his trade and successive service details. The books can have as many as 39 columns across two pages. Each entry begins with the full name of the soldier, the number of the company in the regiment he was assigned to, his height (at enlistment and at age 24), age at the time of enlistment (in both years and days). The next columns describe the soldier's complexion, the colour of his eyes and hair, the form of his feature (visage), and whether he had any physical marks. Country/town and parish of birth are given. Occupation (if any) outside of the military is noted. Date, place, and period of enlistment are provided (including the name of the person that enlisted the man). Notations of any previous military service and dates of promotion are also noted. Information also included desertion, transfers, discharges, date and place of death (where applicable). The last column includes comments on the man's behaviour and character while in the Army.

It is quite staggering to see how far a man travelled while in the army. The Description and Succession Books are filled with examples of men born in one part of the British Isles, enlisting with a regiment far from home, serving in a variety of regiments across Europe and the far reaches of the British Empire before being pensioned somewhere in England or even Canada.

Muster Rolls: Muster Rolls are held by the PRO. These lists were usually compiled four times a year and are arranged in volumes based on a twelve month period. Although these volumes do not contain as much personal information as the Regimental Description Books, they are helpful in establishing the dates of enlistment and discharge (or death). The first entry in these rolls for each soldier should indicate his age, while the last entry should show his birthplace, non-military occupation, and the date of his enlistment.

There are several series of these Muster Rolls, bearing War Office (WO) numbers 10 through 16. The three most comprehensive are; WO 10, containing Muster Rolls for the artillery for 1708-1878, WO 11, Muster Rolls for engineers for 1816-1878, and WO 12, the general series, with Muster Rolls for the cavalry, foot guards and regiments of foot for 1732-1878.

Picture from book cover of VICTORIA'S WARS (available from Discharge Documents are perhaps one of the most popular classes of records used for researching those who served in the Army. Found at the PRO under WO 97, these discharge documents are for those soldiers discharged with a pension. Most of the papers for those discharged without a pension were destroyed by fire many years ago. Before 1882 there are no complete records for the entire career of a soldier unless he was one of a rather small number that are discharged to a pension. After 1883, discharge records were kept for all men, even if they only served for a relatively short period of time. The important note to remember with discharge records is that you must search the records based on the time period when you believe they were discharged.

Discharge Documents will include the attestation papers (the papers that were filled out when a man enlisted in the army). The papers give place of birth, age at enlistment, occupation before enlistment, and physical description. Also included with the discharge papers will be information about his army career (medals, places served and more). The documents will also note the date and location where a man was discharged (sometimes with a reference to a place or address where he intended to live). After 1883, discharge documents include information about next-of-kin, marriage, children and sometimes, a brief medical history.

Pension Records: The main system used to pension men in the Army was operated by the Royal Hospital Chelsea (London, founded 1681). For Irish Establishment soldiers, the pension system was operated by the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (near Dublin, founded 1679). There are 3 primary groups of records held by the PRO for pension information: the Chelsea Regimental Registers (WO 120); Soldiers Discharged through Chelsea Hospital (WO 97); and, Applications for Pensions for Widows and Children [of officers], 1755-1908 (WO 42).

As noted for other British Army records in the early nineteenth century, pension records are usually organized by regiments. As a result, it is important to know in which regiment your ancestor served.

Chelsea Regimental Registers: Chelsea Regimental Registers are available at the PRO (WO 120) and on microfilm through the LDS Family History Library. The first fifty volumes of these registers cover the period of about 1715-1843 and are organized by the date of admission (to the hospital) within each regiment. The remaining volumes include the years 1845-1857 and note the amount of pension being paid. Like other Army records, the Regimental Registers provide a great deal of information, such as: date of admission to the Royal Hospital in Chelsea; full name, age, rank(s), service, and the rate of pay; town and county of birth, occupation before enlisting, and other remarks. The column labelled "complaint" (reason for hospitalization) most often explains where the illness or ailment or wound occurred.

British Army Pensioners Abroad, 1772-1899 by Norman K. Crowder [currently out of print, Nov. 2005] is an extensive index to the Chelsea Regimental Pension Registers for those veterans who settled abroad with an army pension. Specifically, the book indexes War Office 120 volumes 35, 69 and 70. The dates range from as early as 1772 and as late as 1899. The majority of pensions were granted during the period 1800-1857. This index of almost 9000 pensioners is a very important research tool for anyone interested in Chelsea Pension records.

Soldiers Discharged Through Chelsea Hospital: Soldiers documents are held by the PRO (WO 97) and were created about the same time as the Regimental Registers (they contain very similar information). The Soldiers' documents consist of separate sheets (forms) for each man (not a large Regimental Register). The forms basically offer proof of a man's discharge from the Army and chronicle his service. The information on the forms includes: full name, town and county of birth, date, place enlistment and for what time period, the number of years and days of actual service since his 18th birthday; regiments served in, rank, exact service (in days and years) for each rank and regiment listed. The main reason for the soldier's discharge is listed and other general remarks about his conduct while in the Army; physical description (height, colour of eyes and hair); occupation before enlisting. The documents are arranged by date of discharge.

A computer index to all soldiers (no officers) discharged to pension between 1760 and 1854 (WO 97 files 1-1271) has been created by volunteers from the Friends of the PRO. The index is available for searching in-person at the PRO.

Pension Applications: Beginning in 1708, a provision was made to pay the pensions of Officers killed while in the service and beginning in 1720, pensions were also paid to children and dependent family members. Applications for Pensions for Widows and Children (WO 42) are organized in bundles that have been numbered. Each includes the application for a pension along with the supporting documents. The application for pension benefits included a number of documents and affidavits in order to prove military service by the Officer and to show their legitimate relationship to the deceased Officer. The bundles are filed alphabetically by surname of the officer. The bundle number begin with the number 1 for each letter of the alphabet (for example, bundle 1-203 for the letter A, 1-739 for B, etc.).

The records cover the years 1755-1908. The information found in each bundle can be quite different. However, researchers will usually find some statement of service and certificates or other proof of birth, marriage or death. The Pension Applications records are available at the PRO (WO 42) and on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

For more detailed information about Army records, please consult the PRO leaflet links and other resources listed below:


The Public Record Office's Research Information Leaflets have been developed over the years by members of staff and by generous contributions from researchers. As more information is discovered and new records are accessioned the leaflets are updated. The main A-Z Index of all leaflets provides the researcher with a variety of topics and information. Leaflets relevant to Army records include the following:

Copyright notice: The PRO Records Information Leaflets are subject to Crown Copyright. While you are welcome to print copies of leaflets for your own use you may not copy them for commercial purposes or republish them in any form, including electronically.


While many military records are only available directly from the PRO in England, a great many PRO records have been microfilmed by the LDS and are available in their main Family History Library Catalog. When searching the Family History Library Catalogue, begin with BRITAIN---MILITARY RECORDS. The small sample of entries from the online LDS Family History Library Catalogue are listed to illustrate but a few of the many resources available to researchers on loan to a local Family History Center of the LDS.

A list of the officers of the army... 1779-1878 [Great Britain. War Office (Main Author)]. From the Public Record Office, War Office number: WO 65, numbers: IND 5469-5470, 5476-5480, 5488, 5490, 5492-5495, 5568-5603]. Microfilm of printed volumes, some updated with handwritten changes and additions, located in the Public Record Office (Index included in each volume). This published serial is continued as: The official army list and A list of the general and field officers as they rank in the army. For example, the list for the year 1806 is found on FHL BRITISH Film #896659 Item 2. More than 79 reels of microfilm with some 80 odd film notes noted in the main FHL Catalogue.

Artillery records of services of non-commissioned officers and men consisting of description books, records of service, registers of marriages and baptisms, registers of deceased soldiers, and miscellaneous records of transfers, pension registers of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery, l765-1906 [Great Britain. War Office (Main Author)] Service records contain the name, age, description, place of birth, trade, dates of service and promotion of each soldier, with the dates of marriage and discharge or death. The records are available through the LDS Family History Library on 107 reels of microfilm.

A List of general and staff officers on the establishment in North America, 1755-1782 [Great Britain. War Office (Main Author)]. From the Public Record Office, War Office number: WO 65 number: IND 5604. The manuscript is available on Family History Library (FHL) BRITISH Film #856053 Item 1.

Depot description books, 1768-1908. [Great Britain. War Office (Main Author)]. From the Public Record Office, War Office number: WO 67. Books give physical descriptions of the individual soldiers with their dates and places of birth, occupations, promotions in the service and how they became non-effective. Included in the class are returns of officers' services (with succession lists) of the Gloucester Regiment 1792-1866, which contain particulars as to marriage and children. The records are available through the LDS Family History Library on 9 reels of microfilm.

Officers of the British American Forces placed on half pay and allowances at the conclusion of the American War, 1783. [Great Britain. War Office (Main Author)]. From the Public Record Office, War Office number: WO 65, number 5606. Available on loan from the LDS as FHL BRITISH Film 856053 Item 3.

Royal Canadian regiment of rifles : service documents of soldiers containing particulars of age, birth- place and trade or occupation of enlistment, a record of service, including any decorations and the reason for discharge to pension, 1830-1880. [Great Britain. War Office (Main Author)]. From the Public Record Office. Available on loan from the LDS on 14 reels of microfilm. For example, Volume 782 which covers the surnames Abbotts to Booth and is found on FHL BRITISH Film # 898175.

Registers of out-pensioners of the Army and of the Militia, 1759-1863 [Great Britain. War Office WO (Main Author)]. From the Public Record Office, WO 118. Volumes 36 to 38, 42 and 43 are entry books of pensioners arranged under the date the pension was awarded; they contain dates of admission and , sometimes, of death. Volumes 39 to 41 and 44 provide an index to these Entry books and also to the Discharge Documents of the Pensioners (WO 118). Vol. 13 is a register of the pensioners resident abroad who were transferred to the establishment of the royal Hospital, Chelsea. Available on loan from the LDS on 13 reels of microfilm.

War office registers : regimental description and succession books, including commissions, appointments, descriptions, returns of services, casualties, half pay, pensions, gratuities and etc. (Includes index). [Great Britain. War Office WO (Main Author)]. From the Public Record Office, WO 25. Available on loan from the LDS on 202 reels of microfilm. For example, Vol. 324 3rd Foot 1828-1831; Vol. 325 3rd Foot 2nd Batt. 1807-1810; Vol. 326 3rd Foot 2nd Batt. 1810-1816 and Vol. 327 3rd Foot Depot 1823-1830 are found on LDS FHL BRITISH Film #856013 .


There were many military settlements established by the British Army in the early days of Canada's development. A few of these settlements were established in Eastern Ontario in the days when the province was known as Upper Canada. Records of these settlements are available at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. Microfilm of the records is also available on inter-library loan from the Archives or from the LDS Family History Library on microfilm loan to a local LDS Family History Center. The following items are listed to draw the readers attention to these records and is but a very small sample of the records available:

Rideau Military Settlement (Lanark County) National Archives of Canada records include:
MG 9, D4 1-9: Locations and returns (microfilm M-5505)
MG 9, D8 27 : Registers of locations (microfilm C-4651)
MG 13, WO 12 vol. 12018 to 12033 - Muster rolls of de Wattrville's Regiment (microfilm B-133 to B-118)

Richmond Military Settlement (Village of Richmond):
National Archives of Canada records are found in Record Group - RG 8 C Series, British Military and Naval Records - entries under "Richmond Military Settlement". The PRO has the Regimental Description Book for the 99th (late 100th) Regiment in War Office - WO 25 volume 550 which is also available on microfilm from the LDS.

Enrolled Pensioners Scheme:

By 1846, British Army veterans (enrolled pensioners) were being induced with promises of land grants and cash payments to settle in Canada. National Archives of Canada records related to the settlement of British pensioners and their settlement can be found in RG 9, I C5 volumes 28-29 (1854-1858). The many pay lists included in the records note the former regimental unit the pensioner was discharged from before pension. This information then allows the researcher a link to finding the veterans in PRO records found in the service records (WO 97).

Source: Military Settlements in Eastern Ontario by Norman K. Crowder. Proceedings of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa Conference, 1996.

Great Britain Army Records (1737-1824) at the William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan: The library holds a miscellaneous collection of manuscripts relating to the army of Great Britain, which include the following items:
  • Correspondence and records relating to the Quartermaster General's Office, 1772-1819, dealing chiefly with administrative matters including routes of march, barracks, fortifications, embarkations, recruitment of militia, 9 volumes.
  • 'Establishment of His Majesty's Forces and Garrisons Viz., In Great Britain, Minorca, Gibraltar and the Plantations for the Year 1737,' 76 pp.
  • Army records, 1758-1824. A volume of miscellaneous subsistence and pay warrants and receipts, evidently collected for their autograph interest, signed by British officers serving in North America, 30 pp.
  • Confidential army reports, 1770-1782, from the library of Frederick Lord North (1732-1792), British prime minister during the American Revolutionary War, 58 volumes.

EDITOR"S NOTE: Some of the books listed here are in stock at Global Genealogy, 613-257-7878.

Army Records for Family Historians by Simon Fowler and William Spencer. New edition of this useful guide to using the records of the army at the Public Record Office. Many illustrations of documents. Nicely set out in a larger format than the first edition. 2nd edition 1998, 154 pages.

My Ancestor was in the British Army, by Michael J. Watts and Christopher T. Watt. Includes extensive examples from the authors' research makes this a readable and comprehensive listing for sources for researching officers and other ranks. Covers the period 1660 to World War I. The book does not limit itself to material held by the Public Record Office (brief section on WW1). 1st ed. with addendum 1995. 124 pages.

Gone for a Soldier: Beginning a Search for Military Ancestors by Simon Fowler. Page 129 of the Genealogical Services Directory, 1999.

An Introduction to the British Army: its history, tradition and records by Iain Swinnerton. This 48 page book is part of the Federation of Family History Societies 'Introduction' series. Provides a brief introduction to the British Army. 1st edition 1996, reprinted 1998.

History of the British Army by Charles Messanger. A general history of the British army. 1st edition 1997, 224 pages. (Note: Limited Number printed)

British Army Pensioners Abroad 1722-1899 by Norman Crowder. This books is intended to serve as an index to the Chelsea regimental pension registers of British Veterans who settled abroad with an army pension. They are known as Chelsea pensioners because the Royal Hospital, Chelsea decided on the entitlement and amount of pension to be paid to discharged veterans with disabilities or long service. the hospital in Chelsea was established in 1692 and was similar to the earlier military hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin. 351 pgs/index/list of military units/notes on sources/hardbound.

Regimental Indexes by Barbara Chambers. These books are a series of indexes to the general army musters of circa 1806. The original records can be found in the Public Record Office (WO25), but searching can be difficult. These indexes are a boon to those with suspected ancestors in the army at this time, and also to military historians and medal collectors. Includes piece number for reference to the original documents.
  • Volume 1 : 1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot. 1st, 3rd and 4th Battalions. WO25/909-911. 1st edition 1998, 90 pages.
  • Volume 2: 2nd (Queens) Regiment of Foot. 1st and 2nd Battalions. 3rd (Buffs) Regiment of Foot. 1st and 2nd Battalions.4th (Kings) Regiment of Foot. 1st and 2nd Battalions. WO25/912-916. 1st edition 1998, 72 pages.
  • Volume 3: 1st Life Guards. 2nd Life Guards. Royal Horse Guards (Blues). 1st Dragoon Guards (Kings). 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queens Bays).
  • Volume 4 : 5th (Northumberland) Regiment of Foot. 1st and 2nd Battalions, 6th (1st Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot, 1st and 2nd Battalions. 7th (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot, 1st and 2nd Battalions. 1st edition 1999, 78 pages.
Do I Have Army Ancestors? By Barbara Chambers. This small 12 page booklet deals with earlier army ancestors than many books on the subject. The main subject area is the Army between 1793-1815, and in particular the 1st Foot Guards (Barbara Chambers speciality). A useful little starting guide to early army ancestors. 1st edition 1998, 12 pages.

The Records of the War Office and Related Departments 1660-1964 by Michael Roper. Public Record Office handbook No 29. An extensive list of the records of the War Office that are held at the PRO. 1st edition 1998. 378 pages with some illustrations.

Records of the Militia & Volunteer Forces from 1757-1945 by William Spencer. No. 3 in the series of the PRO's Readers' Guides. Describes the organisation and records of the militia and lists WO classes where each unit's surviving records are to be found in the PRO. Illustrated. 2nd edition 1997, 100 pages.

Militia Lists and Musters 1757-1876, A Directory of Holdings in the British Isles. By J.S.W Gibson & Mervyn Medlycott. In this series, the primary object is to provide precise information on the survival and location of comprehensive or extensive lists of personal names which may be of use in family historical research. As a result, administrative records, or lists with severely restricted numbers of names, such as those listing officers only, are embodied. There is no claim to exhaustive or authoritative coverage of the whole field of records engendered by the part-time forces known as the Militia.

Alphabetical Index to the Royal Military Calendar, 1820 compiled by Norman Hurst. This 20 page booklet is an index to Royal Military Calendar (or Army Service and Commission Book) of 1820. 1st edition 1996, 20 pages.

Roll of Honour Land Forces World War 2 Volume 1: Cavalry, Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps, Reconnaissance Corps, Royal Tank Regt, Brigade of Guards. Realised by J Devereux & G Sacker. Arranged by Regiment and then alphabetically. There is also a name index which is very useful. Details given include name, Army number, Award (if any), Place of Birth, Place of Domicile, place of Death, Date of Death (possibly incomplete), Regt or Corps at September 1, 1939 (if applicable). 1st edition 1999, 316 pages.

The Thin Red Line: Uniforms of the British Army between 1751 & 1914. By D S V & B K Fosten. This 128 page book is a compilation of beautifully drawn pictures of British Army uniforms and a description alongside. A helpful reference book, which can also help researchers recognize uniforms from photographs and pictures. Hardback. Sixth impression 1995.

Discovering British Military Badges and Buttons by R J Wilkinson-Latham. This 88 page guide is designed to help researchers recognize badges and buttons of the army. Very helpful when trying to identify uniformed soldiers in photographs. Part of Shire books 'Discovering' series. 2nd edition 1994.

Military History Shire Publications. Shire Publications has introduced a series of books dealing with British Military History. The books cover a number of topics including airships, old police uniforms, and European swords.

Researching British Military Medals: A Practical Guide by Steve Dymond. This 144 page guide is designed to point researchers to the records available for tracing and researching medals and their recipients. Well illustrated with examples of documents, medals and photos. Includes case histories showing how the research process worked. 1st edition 1999.

Discovering British Regimental Traditions by Ian F W Beckett. This 136 page book charts the history of the British army through the development of its traditions. Describes traditions and customs as well as explaining monuments, dress and more. 1st edition 1999.

Hull Palls: 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th Battalions East Yorkshire Regiment by David Bilton. This 248 page book is an illustrated history of the Hull Palls' battalions, taken from newspaper cuttings and public documents. Appendices are filled with lists of officers and other ranks, gallantry awards, soldiers and officers deaths, court martials and more. 1st edition 1999.

Tracing Your Family Tree by Jean Cole and John Titford. In particular chapter 15.

Your English Ancestry, A Guide for North Americans - revised edition by Sherry Irvine. In particular, chapter 8.


Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth by T. F. Mills: This website, is an extensive catalogue of links designed to make some sense of military history and help you navigate the web. Naval and air forces are not included, with the exception of their more notable land force elements (e.g. Royal Marines, RAF Regiment), and a link or two to main Ministry sites by way of explaining how land forces fit into the overall armed forces structure of each country. There are several thousand links on the site. The focus is generally on manifestations of the British regimental system throughout the world. This website is a must for those in search of an understanding of military records, military history, regiments and military events.

UK Ministry of Defence: British Army Service Records

The British Army : Official website.

Documents in Military History by Hillsdale College. Growing collection of primary sources for military history.

In Search of Your Soldier Ancestor Online leaflet from the Federation of Family History Societies. Online guide to help you begin a search of a soldier ancestor.

Orders, Decorations and Medals: This site is invaluable for assisting researchers in understanding Orders, decorations and medals awarded primarily by British Commonwealth countries.

British Infantry Regiment Name Changes available from the Drake Software website: . This website is very important for understanding British Infantry Regiments following the major reform of the British Army which took place in 1881, masterminded by Edward Cardwell, Gladstone's secretary for war. As well as abolishing the system of purchasing commissions and promotions for officers, Cardwell gave each infantry regiment a county affiliation, basing the regiment in that county for recruitment and training. The table on the website lists the pre-1881 number of the infantry, or Regiments of Foot, and the regiment's name after the reforms.

A-Z of Regiments and Corps: Website contains links to information on the existing regiments and corps of the modern British Army. Following through to a units' web pages often reveals historical information on the regiment including predecessor units and contact information on the regiments' museum and archives.

Military History Research Index: This site is a central registry for anyone to record their military history interests in order to make contact with other researchers.

United Kingdom and Ireland Genealogy (GenUKI) Military History:
Military Records:

Cyndi's List - UK Military:

Imperial War Museum: The Imperial War Museum is devoted to the twentieth century.

National Army Museum: Discover the compelling story of the British soldier in peace and war. See how Britain's soldiers have lived, worked and fought - from the 15th Century to the present day.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea: The Royal Chelsea Hospital is the home of the Chelsea Pensioner. This website contains information on the history of the Hospital and the In-Pensioners, and details of forthcoming and annual events held at, or in conjunction with the Hospital.

Nineteenth Century British and Indian Armies and Their Soldiers: website designed to explore the 19th Century British and Indian Armies and their soldiers. The site presents various 19th Century photographs, campaign medals, and the biographical studies of the soldiers represented by these items. Also offers a commercial research service.

The Trafalgar Roll: This GenUKI website lists the names of 1640 officers and men who served in the various ships of the Fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. The rank of each man and the name of the ship is included. This site also contains a list of British ships at Trafalgar.

Index to the "Civilian War Dead Roll Of Honour" for Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire. Compiled by Brian Pears. This is an index to the Roll of Honour of civilians killed by enemy action in the UK during World War II - listing of nearly 4000 entries relating to Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire. Visit the website at:

List of Officers who have held commissions in the North York Militia and the 4th Battalion (Alexandra, Princess of Wales' Own) Yorkshire Regiment, from 1758 to 1907 by Anji Mungham, available on the GenUKI site:

The Naval and Military Magazine - 1827 - List of names:

The Army Officers Listed in the 1840 Naval and Military Almanac:
Part 1: A to H
Part 2: I to Z

Dock Yard Volunteers from the Army List of January 1851:

The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum: Currently under construction, the website address is:

Baptisms to Military Families at St. Leonard, Hythe Kent 1799, 1813 - 1820 and 1823

British WW2 Veterans Reunions and tracing your Military Ancestors Page by Caryl Williams:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

Trenches on the Web:
target="_blank"> Website devoted to the First World War - an internet history of The Great War.

World War One Document Archive: The website is an archive of primary documents from World War I has been assembled by volunteers of the World War I Military History List (WWI-L).

Orders, Decorations, and Campaign Medals of the British Army 1815 to 1920:

The Royal Signals Museum: The Royal Signals Museum is the national museum of army communications. The exhibits and displays show the part that communications have played in the many wars and campaigns of the last 150 years. The Museum collection is regarded as being of National importance and the excellent Archives are recognised by the Public Record Office

Battles Fought in England, Scotland and Wales: This page is the result of a request to BRITARCH newsletter asking if a list of battles fought in England, Scotland and Wales existed. From the replies the website author received, it appeared that no such list had ever been compiled. Most books on battles only cover the top thirty or forty events. So far the list on this website covers over 275 events.

Wars/Military Mailing Lists - Genealogy Resources on the Internet: Extensive website maintained by John Fuller.

The discussion of records within this article has been little more than a general overview of the more common records; many of which have been microfilmed and are available on microfilm loan through the LDS. British Military records are very extensive. The details they offer researchers about the people who served are priceless. Links to online resources and listing of published and other resources in this article are provided to help researchers locate more detailed information concerning the records, events and historical context of the British Military.

Learning to understand military terminology, military hierarchy, the different regiments and their service can be quite a daunting task. Regardless of how difficult the learning curve may appear, the information available for your army ancestor is well worth the effort. Placing the military records within the historic context of the time period will also add to your family history endeavours by painting a more vivid and meaningful picture of the person you are researching.

Whether you are searching for military records online, in published sources or in other electronic products, please remember there is absolutely NO substitute for verifying the information in the original records. All indexes, databases and other publications should be used as pointers to original records which you must access at some point to ensure the accuracy of your research.

Always remember, your research is the legacy you leave to others - verify all information you find!


source: Public Record Office: Contract Awarded for Digitisation of the 1901 Census Returns for England and Wales.
    1901 Census Project: Latest Update

    A general press release has been issued about the successful outcome of recent negotiations. As promised we can now give users (and potential users) some more details about the project.

    The contract :
    The contract has been awarded to the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). DERA is the largest research organisation of its kind in Western Europe and is a centre of excellence for science, technology and evaluation. DERA has teamed with a number of sub-contractors to undertake this project. The sub-contractor who will undertake the transcription of the data is the Enterprise and Supply Service.

    Charging: key principles
    The basic principle for deciding on the level of fees is that it should be set to recover the full costs of the service. We believe that we will achieve this proper recovery of costs by making the service as inexpensive as possible to maximize its use.

    If the success of the service is such that other income is received than is required to cover the costs of the 1901 census, then it will be invested in digitising the other censuses. We are underwriting some of the costs and have continuing costs of setting up and running the project.

    Charging: levels
    The charges detailed below are indicative only and may well change before 2002. Some are still under consideration but we felt it important to give users some idea of the levels of charges we are proposing for the various searches.

    1. Free index
    There will be free access to a basic index which will allow users to search by name and place. This part of the index can be searched as many times as you like free of charge.

    2. Searches and transcriptions
    To view a transcription of the details of an individual will probably cost about 50p. If you are having difficulty finding an individual then there may be the option of a more advanced search. The details of how this would work are still under consideration. Again we would expect each search to cost about 50p.

    3. Viewing an image
    If you wish to view an image of a page we expect it to cost about 80p. If you have the appropriate facilities at home you may wish to print the image. Alternatively we could provide a copy of the image and post it out. The charge would be in line with the current PRO Reprographics charges for orders by post.

    4. Minimum advance purchase
    The cost of administration makes it uneconomic to charge in very small units so there will a minimum payment in advance for charged searches and images. This will probably be about £5 and will buy you multiples of transcripts, advanced searches or images. For example, having paid the advance charge you would be able to view around ten transcripts. However, anything beyond the first £5 will be simple pay-as-you-go at the cost of each individual transaction.

    Regular users will be able to pay a higher entry charge and then benefit from reduced search and copy charges. The entry charge would be valid for a longer period.

    We are still in the early stages of determining the charging levels and the different types of searches available so nothing is set in stone at this point.

    Access to microfiche
    We will provide access to a set of microfiche of the returns along with the standard finding aids. The location and details for this are not yet finalised but it is likely to be at the PRO site at Kew and on a similar basis to other microform records. In addition we will, as usual, be making microfiche available for sale to local record offices and local studies libraries.

    Market Research and Consultation
    Market research will continue throughout the contract period. We will continue to hold briefing sessions for users and keep you up to date with information on our web site, in the FRC newsletter and on the notice board at the FRC.

    In the year 2000 we are planning to speak to groups at venues up and down the country (at County Record Offices, libraries and Family History Fairs). We will continue to brief the FRC User Group which meets every 4 months. In addition we intend to set up an advisory panel consisting of representatives from those who use the census returns for a variety of research purposes (family history, one-name studies, local and social history).

    Regular information will be published in the FRC newsletter and on the PRO web site ( If you would like further information please contact David Annal at the FRC (tel:0181 392 5303) or email:
Reaction to the news appeared to be mixed..... UK email discussion lists were buzzing with reaction to the announcement of who will be digitising the 1901 census. Many were delighted to learn that a contract had been awarded and the project would then move forward. At the same time, a common message circulated across a number of email lists was based on the press release from DERA, the company awarded the contract. The title to the emails usually read something along the lines of the following:

PRO using inmates to index 1901 UK census!!!

The actual press release from DERA is available from the company's website at:

    DERA Press Release - 18 November 1999

    DERA Technology revamps 1901 Census Returns

    The UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) is making available on-line the Census details of around 32 million individuals living in England and Wales in 1901. Researchers on genealogy, who are the third biggest users of the Internet, will be delighted with this news.

    Census returns are not released for 100 years for reasons of personal confidentiality - the 1901 Census is the next to be released in January 2002. The Keeper of Public Records today announced the appointment of DERA as the prime contractor for the digitisation of the 1901 Census returns.

    Currently recorded on microfilm and comprising about 1.5 million pages, the details on the returns will be turned into an index of individuals with links to digital images of the original enumeration register page. This will be the first time the original images and associated index have been made available in electronic format to a worldwide audience.

    From January 2002, the new DERA digitised system will be accessible on the Internet. Genealogy researchers will also be able to access the service by calling into the Family Records Centre of the Public Records Office.

    DERA in partnership with Enterprise Supply Services (part of the Prison Service), Applied Net Ltd and Comax (part of Amey plc), will find the data input task of the longhand records an enormous one - in 1901 there were no computers.

    Enterprise Supply Services will use the services of inmates to input the data twice (double keying method) with cross-checking software to ensure the best possible level of accuracy.

    Applied Net Ltd will configure the database and create the website that will enable the data to be indexed and searched remotely, and, in view of the large numbers of genealogy researchers, the site will be sized for some 1 million visitors a day over the initial period.


Date Calculation Websites: Ever read a newspaper article and wanted to know the day it was published? Ever tried to find the day of the week a birth date fell on? Here are a few sites for perpetual calendars and for calculating birth dates and other dates:

Birthdate Form: Calculates birthdate from death date and age of death in year-month-day format at Ben Buckner's website:

Calculating Birth Year Based on Census Information at Rose-Anne Cunningham Bray's website:

Calendars from a variety of countries and time periods visit the Time and Date website at:

Search by Keywords to specify year or month/year. Try 9/1752 to see the Gregorian Reformation.

Perpetual Calendar, just change the four digit year to whatever year you want:

Virtual Perpetual Calendars can be found at:

Michael Bertrand's Java Perpetual Calendar can be found at:

10,000 year calendar:

A variety of calendar websites can also be found at Cindi's list:

About Fawne Stratford-Devai
Fawne Stratford-Devai's work on Land Records and early Ontario records is well known in the genealogy community. A published author of several Canadian and UK research books, she has also contributed articles to the Ontario Genealogical Society's newsletter "Families" as well as writing for the online family history newsletter the "Global Gazette". Biography

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