United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records, 1760-1913 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
United Kingdom
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Location of United Kingdom
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Record Description
Record Type Pensioners' Service
Collection years 1760-1913
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
The National Archives

What Is in the Collection?

This collection is an index to military records from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, covering the period 1760-1913. From 1692 until 1955, all army veteran pensions were administered and paid from the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Payments to retired officers, called half-pay, were not considered pensions, so the records in this collection primarily contain information on regular soldiers. Pensions were awarded for length of service, disability, or wounds to most individuals who legally left army service, although sometimes the widows or children of military men received the payments instead.

The records for the years 1760 through 1872 are arranged by regiment, then alphabetically by surname. After the Cardwell Army Reforms in 1873 until 1882, the records are grouped in local units, then organized by surname. From 1883 to 1914, these records are arranged in one alphabetical series.

Timeline and Historical Context

Here are some of the major conflicts that are covered by the same period as the Chelsea Pensioners' British Army Service Records:


  • 1775 – American War of Independence
  • 1793-1802 – British involvement in French Revolution
  • 1795 – British capture of Ceylon
  • 1798 – Irish Rebellion
  • 1803-1815 – Napoleonic Wars, including the War of 1812 in North America
  • 1854-1856 – The Crimean War
  • 1857-1859 – Indian Mutiny
  • 1880-1881 – The First Anglo-Boer War (also known as the "Transvaal War")
  • 1899-1902 – The Second Anglo-Boer War

Collection Content

The index of this collection refers to pension records for the British Army. In certain cases, the pension records may include other documents, such as marriage or birth certificates to prove familial relation, but these are relatively rare.

What Can This Collection Tell Me?

The following lists indicate potential information given in each type of record. It must be remembered that every record may not provide all of the listed information, as these records can vary over time and even between soldiers.

Pension records may include:

  • Full name of pensioner
  • Reason for discharge
  • Name of Regiment
  • Age, occupation and marital status of pensioner
  • Parish, town and county in which born
  • Date and place where enlisted and by whom
  • Notes of any previous service
  • Details of service rendered
  • Length of service in years and days
  • Physical description, including disabilities as a result of service
  • Next of kin
  • Marriage or baptismal certificates if family members were to receive the payment

How do I Search the Collection?

Before beginning a search in these records, it is best to know the full name of the individual in question, as well as an approximate time range for the desired record. When entered into the search engine on the Collection Page, this information provides the quickest, most reliable path to finding the correct person. Of course, other information can be substituted as necessary.

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page to return a list of possible matches. Compare the individuals on the list with what is already known to find the correct family or person. This step may require examining multiple individuals before a match is located.

Image Visibility

Whenever possible, FamilySearch makes images of digitized records available for all users. However, ultimate rights to view images on this website are granted by the record custodians. Due to their restrictions, the images in this collection are not available for general viewing, but can be accessed by registered FamilySearch Patrons at the Family History Library or a family history center. Registration for a free FamilySearch account can be done here.

If preferred, there are other avenues for viewing these records. The original documents are available to view at the TNA (series reference WO 97). The original images are available from findmypast.co.uk. Digital images of selected files from this series are available at TNA DocumentsOnline.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • When you have located your ancestor’s index record, select one of the links in the image box which will take you to the original record at findmypast.co.uk. Make sure to fully transcribe and cite the index entry record for future reference. See below for assistance in citing this collection. Save or print a copy of both images if possible.
  • Use the information which has been discovered to find more. For instance, use the estimated age given in the pensioner record to calculate an approximate year of birth, if that is yet undetermined.
  • Use the information which has been discovered to find the individual in civil records. Particularly useful for research in nineteenth-century England are the England Census and the England Civil Registration records.

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?

  • When looking for a person with a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which individual is correct. Use other information, such as place of birth, age, or occupation, to determine which candidate is the correct person. If listed, a personal title may be a clue to property ownership or occupation, either of which might be noted in other records.
  • Check for variants of given names, surnames, and place names. Remember that it was not uncommon for an individual be listed under a nickname or an abbreviation of their name. See Abbreviations Found in Genealogy Records for some common examples of abbreviations.
  • Vary the search terms. For example, search by either the given name or surname to return broader list of possible candidates which can then be examined for matches.
  • Look at the actual image of the record to verify the information found in the online description, if possible.
  • It is possible that the individual left the army for such reasons as to not qualify for a pension. Unfortunately, corresponding records for those who left the Army for reasons other than discharge have largely been destroyed.

For additional help searching online collections see FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

Citing This Collection

Citing sources correctly makes it easier to refer back to information that has already been discovered; proper citations are therefore indispensable to keeping track of genealogical research. Following established formulae in formatting citations also allows others to verify completed research by helping them find and examine records for themselves.

To be of use, citations must include information such as the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records, if available. The following examples demonstrate how to present this information, and can serve as templates for creating proper citations for both this particular collection and individual records and images within the collection:

Collection citation:

"United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records, 1760-1913." Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2017. From "Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records 1760-1913." Database and images. findmypast. http://www.findmypast.com : n.d. Citing WO 97. The National Archives, Kew, Surrey.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records, 1760-1913.

Image Citation:

When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records, 1760-1913.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.