Military Records in the British National Archives

June 17, 2011  - by 
Military Records in the British National Archives

I was able to visit the British National Archives at Kew recently. I used an interesting set of records, War Office of the Commander-in-Chief: Memoranda and Papers, 1793-1870 (War Office Records 31). A military expert at The National Archives suggested using this series of records because they may contain biographical information about an army officer.

I requested the box of memoranda for April of 1794. As I looked through each folder and read the letters in them, I was immersed in the history of the early British military. There were letters from well-known individuals asking for a commission to be bought for a friend, son, nephew, or other relative. Other letters were written by captains or other high-ranking officers requesting promotions for a member of their regiment. Some folders contained completed applications for buying a commission.

After looking through several folders, I found two letters about my ancestor, Paul Doughty. One was dated 25 December 1793 and the other one was dated 22 April 1794, from the Citadel, Plymouth, Devonshire, England. Unfortunately, they did not contain any information on Paul’s place of birth or family members, but one of the letters named him as William Doughty, which could be a clue to finding other records about him with that name. For additional information about my search for Paul Doughty through his military records, please see my blog.

If you had an ancestor who was an officer, the Commander in Chief’s Memoranda records may give you additional clues about him or give you a snapshot of his life while he served in the military.

If you are unable to visit The National Archives personally, they provide a research service as well as a list of independent researchers who can do research at the archives for you. See their website.

For further information about British military records, see the British Military Records article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

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  1. I am looking for my grandfathers military records, he was born in Ireland and joined the british military late 1890 to early 1900. His name is Thomas walsh from kells ireland. I have no idea how to look for them can you help. Thank you . Gabrielle Stetson

  2. By any chance, are there any records posted for the United Empire Loyalists, those who were loyal to King George III, and were in the British military, and had to flee to Canada? My ancestor was a William Thompson (maybe in Butlers Rangers), who landed in New Carlisle, Bonaventure, Quebec, and what information we have is that he was from New York, during the Revolution. Any help, please?