Monday, 22 March 2010

Chelsea Pension records now online

From Find My Past ( via Chris Paton's Scottish Genealogy blog comes some rather exciting news for anyone researching pre-First World War soldiers:


* Most popular records at The National Archives
* In-depth and colourful insight into the lives of ordinary ranking soldiers
* Records include servicemen born in the UK and throughout the world, including India and Jamaica

Today leading family history website launches its most exciting record collection online since the 1911 census - The Chelsea Pensioners' British Army Service Records - in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch.

Known as "WO 97" at The National Archives, these most frequently viewed records are now online at for the first time ever. The collection comprises over 6 million full colour images of the service records of soldiers in the British Army in receipt of a pension administered by The Royal Hospital Chelsea, and who were discharged between the dates 1760 and 1913.

Many of the soldiers listed may have served in some of Britain's most significant wars, including the Battle of Waterloo (1815), the Crimean (1853 - 1856) and both Boer Wars (1899 - 1902). The records only list those soldiers who either completed their full service in the army or who were wounded and pensioned out of the army. The records do not include those killed in action or army deserters or officers. Signatures of prominent officers such as that of Robert Baden-Powell can, however, be found on some soldiers' service records.

Each individual soldier's record consists of a bundle of a minimum of four pages, full of fascinating personal details, and could be up to 20 pages long! The details that can be found in these records are invaluable to family and military historians, providing a rich and colourful story of our ancestors' lives, with a level of detail that is hard to find in any other historical records.

Information the records may list

* Date and place of birth
* Age
* Name and address of next of kin
* Height
* Chest size
* Complexion
* Hair colour
* Eye colour
* Distinguishing features
* Rank and regiment
* Occupation before joining the army
* Kit list
* Medical history
* Conduct and character observations
* Countries where, and dates when, the soldier served
* Date the soldier signed up and date of discharge
* Service history including promotions, campaigns and countries where they fought
* Details of marriage and their children's names, baptisms and dates of birth

As well as being some of the most detailed records available to family historians, the records not only include servicemen born in the UK, but also throughout the world, with many soldiers born in India and even the Caribbean. These records are also invaluable to Irish, Scottish and Commonwealth researchers, as many men that joined the British Army from these countries throughout the centuries did so for a number of reasons; personal or economical. Indeed, almost 18 per cent of the soldiers listed in the records were born in Ireland so the records are consequently a fantastic new resource for anyone with Irish ancestry.

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