British Military - What Do I Want to Know?

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What regiment did my ancestor serve in?

Records that would help identify a Regiment:

Was my ancestor an officer?

If my ancestor was an Officer, these are the types of records to explore.

  1. Census records 1841-1911
  2. 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)
  3. Homes Sources:  especially medals & awards, discharge papers, pension papers, journals, obituaries, old letters
  4. 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.
  5. Army Lists and Commission Registers:  Charles Dalton compiled the commissions of officers from 1661 to 1714.
  6. Gentleman's Magazine & Index, 1731-1850:  Lists many officers' commissions; indexes are at the back of each volume (FHL Book 942 B2gm index).
  7. Applications for Pensions for Widows and Children 1755-1908:  (Foreign Regiments included); W.O. 42, pieces 1-51.
  8. Militia Attestation Returns:  whole military (attachments), 1806-1915; W.O. 96, pieces #1-1522.
  9. Regimental Registers of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials of soldiers and their families, 1761-1924: (FHL has birth indexes ohnly)
  10. Chaplain Returns of births, marriages, deaths and burials of soldiers and their families, 1796-1880:  FRC, London (FHL has indexes and records)
  11. Services of Officers on Full Pay:  1828 W.O. 25, pieces #749-779; alphabetical (FHL Book 942 M2sp)
  12. Services of Officers on Full & Half Pay:  1829, W.O. 25, pieces #780-807; alphabetical
  13. Returns of Retired Officers' Services on Half Pay: 1847, W.O. 25, pieces #808-823; indexed (FHL Book 942 M23be)
  14. Registers, Various: Service Returns -- #1 Service Noncommissioned Officers: 1806 (June), W.O. 25, piece #871-1120; indexed.
  15. Registers, Various:  Service Returns -- #3 Discharges (of Noncommissioned Officers): 1783-1810, W.O. 25, pieces #1121-1131; indexed.
  16. Muster Master Generals' Index of Casualties (officers'): 1797-1817; W.O. 25, pieces 1196-1358
  17. Regimental Registers of Pensioners:  Royal Chelsea Hospital 1717-1857, W.O. 120.

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 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. 

  1. Regimental Registers of births and baptisms, marriages and burials, 1760-1924
  2. Chaplains' Returns of births, marriages and burials:[1]1796-1880
  3. Monthly Returns (Station Returns): W.O. 17, 1759-1865
  4. Royal Chelsea Hospital Pension Returns:  W.O. 22, 1842-1883
  5. Royal Chelsea Hospital, Chelsea Registers, etc.:  W.O. 23, 1702-1933
  6. Royal Chelsea Hospital, Chelsea Registers, etc.:  W.O. 25, 1660-1878 (FHL has some)
  7. Establishments for Half-pay:  W.O. 24, 1686-1829
  8. Ireland Commission & Succession Books:  W.O. 35, 1775-1831
  9. Certificates of Births, Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths & Burials, Wills, & other personal papers:  W.O. 42, 1755-1908 (FHL has some)
  10. Quarter Books:  W.O. 54, 1594-1883
  11. Records of Officers' Service (whole military):  W.O. 76, 1790s to 1800s (FHL has many)
  12. Royal Military College, Sandhurst:  W.O. 99 (records at Sandhurst Military College, Berkshire)
  13. Campaign Medal Rolls:  W.O. 100, 1793-1912
  14. Medals & Awards; Long Service & Good conduct:  W.O. 102, 1831-1902
  15. Miscellanea Submission Papers:  1803-1914
  16. South African War Papers:  Returns of Officers, NCO's & soldiers, W.O. 108, 1899-1902
  17. Royal Chelsea Hospital Admission Books - Outpensioners (for long service):  W.O. 117, 1823-1913
  18. Royal Chelsea Hospital Admission Books - Outpensioners (Disability) Records:  W.O. 116, 1715-1913
  19. Royal Hospital, Kilmainham Out-Pensions Records - Admission Books (& some Discharge Books):  W.O. 118, 1704-1862
  20. Royal Hospital Kilmainham Discharge Documents of Pensioners - Out-Pensions Records:  W.O. 119, 1783-1822
  21. Royal Hospital Chelsea Regimental Registers of Admissions - Out-Pensions (includes Militias):  W.O. 120, 1715-1857
  22. Royal Chelsea Hospital Out-Pensions - Discharge Documents of Pensioners:  W.O. 121, 1782-1813
  23. Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst - Register of Cadets:  W.O. 151, 1806-1946
  24. Royal Hospital Chelsea - Prize Records:  W.O. 164, 1720-1899
  25. Pay Master General Army Establishment Retired Pay & General Officers' Pay & Allowance:  PMG 3, 1813-1920
  26. Pay Master General Army Establishment Retired Pay & General Officers' Pay & Allowance:  PMG 4, 1737-1921
  27. Pay Master General - Commissariat Half Pay:  PMG 5, 1834-1855
  28. Pay Master General - Army Establishment; Ordnance, Half Pay, Pensions, etc.:  PMG 12, 1836-1875
  29. Pay Master General - Army Establishment; Miscellaneous Books: PMG 14, 1756-1772; 1797-1861

Was my ancestor a soldier?

If ancestor was a Soldier, these are the types of records to explore.Check the index to Army Lists

Can I find life events or family relationships in military records?

Information found depends on the record. The following records may identifty a:

Birth date and/or place:

  • Muster Rolls
  • Pension records
  • Description books

Death date and/or place:

  • Casualty Returns

Name of a spouse:

  • Regimental Registers
  • Chaplain Returns

Names of a parent(s):

  • Regimental Registers
  • Chaplain Returns

Names of child(ren):

Did my ancestor receive a pension?

Search the WO 97 records to determine if ancestor received a pension. Search the following: