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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Help Researching British Army Officers & Soldiers

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Help Researching British Army Officers & Soldiers

Postby Mark » May 31st, 2011, 2:17 pm

The following are brief guides to researching British army records for an officer or a soldier who served in the British Army up to 1913 (including the Napoleonic Wars period.) These records are varied and plentiful and the vast majority are available at The National Archives. The guides will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists, and if it does where to find it or more information about it.

The National Archives: Looking for records of a British army officer who served up to 1913
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/reco ... lp=rg-3140

The National Archives: Looking for records of a British army soldier up to 1913
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/reco ... lp=rg-3110

The National Archives: Looking for records of a person in a militia
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/reco ... lp=rg-3192
Mark Simner BA (Hons) MSc | Web: http://marksimner.me.uk | Twitter @marksimner
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Re: Help Researching British Army Officers & Soldiers

Postby terry1956 » October 14th, 2013, 11:16 am

Mark don't foeget the london gazzet. Michael
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Re: Help Researching British Army Officers & Soldiers

Postby Jon Lee » December 17th, 2013, 9:37 am

The National Archive's Discovery site is an excellent site though ridiculously tricky to search unless you know the exact War office (WO) series you want to look in ! WO 97 will be his service papers.

FindmyPast is the best website for Napoleonic records but you will have to be very precise with the spelling. Hence to search for an Irish soldier called Treacey, you will have to search separately for Treacey, Treacy, Tracey, Tracy, Trassy, Tressy.


Once you find the correct regiment, get someone to look in the red catalogue binder for WO 25 and make a note of all the record series to that regiment that exist.

They will include Musters, Casualty returns, Indexes to Casualty returns, service returns and Discharge Books/Description books. Also lists of retired officers and deaths and effects (of officers I imagine)

If he survived his service and went to a pension board at Chelsea Hospital or Kilmainham, then you may find his original entry in their ledgers WO 120 and WO 118. These will give details of wounds received.

One last tip that may complete an exhaustive search is that if you register online, you can download medal rolls to search at home, and also discharges from Veterans Battalions as follows. (Great tip: though handwritten, many rolls have indexes in the final few pages so scroll right through and check first - I wish I had discovered this sooner!!!)

Veterans Records
WO 25/605 1st VB
WO 25/608 (2nd late 8th VB)
WO 25/611 (3rd late 8th VB)
WO 25/ 615 (5th late 8th cavalry)
WO 25/ 616 (5th late 8th infantry)
WO 25/ 618 (many Scots)
WO 25/ 619 (7th late 13th VB)
WO 25/ 622 (10th VB)

Finally, be prepared for disappointment - many entries are not where they should be (eg casualties not in casualty returns), but bloody minded determination can still find critical information even if you have previously paid a researcher to look.

Also, don't just look at the obvious blocks (say, under M's in a ledger of a regiment, or under 52nd in a hospital roll) because many get added in at the back/end; or did not attend the boards on the days when most men from the regiment attended enblock.
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Re: Help Researching British Army Officers & Soldiers

Postby Jon Lee » July 13th, 2014, 7:57 am

The excellent WO25 series of description books have actually and amazingly been scanned and indexed by Ancestry but are rather misleadingly filed as

Canada, British Regimental Registers of Service, 1756-1900

even though they have nothing to do with Canada and not all of the men listed even served there!!!

Quite how you ensure they come up in an Ancestry search, I don't know (!) but they are there and are a gem:

eg. for Bartholomew McNaughton of 18th Dragoons:

http://interactive.ancestry.co.uk/3253/ ... turnRecord

http://interactive.ancestry.co.uk/3253/ ... turnRecord

http://interactive.ancestry.co.uk/3253/ ... turnRecord

And just for caution's sake, in the last of the above, he is recorded as Barth and not Bartholomew, hence was not originally picked up in an Ancestry search for Bartholomew.
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