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Archiver > ESSEX-UK > 2007-09 > 1189562033

From: Charles Fuller <>
Subject: [Ess] Researching an English Ancestor who was in the Army or Militia
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 04:09:59 +0200


There have been several questions recently about people who were members
of a military (army or militia) regiment. Here's some information for
the 1800's which may help.

1. The book "Tracing your Ancestors in the National Archives" written by
Amanda Bevan, published by The National Archives, ISBN 1 903365 89 9 is
an extremely good guide and contains much more information than is
available on the National Archives web-site. Note that the 7th. edition,
published in 2006, is much bigger than earlier versions and so this is a
better bet. (2nd. edition 114 pages, 5th. edition 305 pages,7th. edition
566 pages.) I recommend that you try to look at a copy - even if you
live outside of the UK, it should be possible to look at it in a local
family history society library, a reference library or possibly at an
LDS family history centre.

2. There was a big difference between a "Militia" unit and an "Army"
unit. Note that a "Militia" unit may have the same name as an "Army"
unit, so you have to pay careful attention as to which is which.
- A "Militia" unit was normally a civil defence unit that consisted of
men conscripted from parishes in each county. (If anyone on the list is
also researching in Suffolk, I will be transcribing the 1810 parish
return for the West Suffolk Militia which I found in a strange place in
TNA. This should be published in Suffolk Roots, and I've promised copies
to the Suffolk Record Office. I have no idea why, but they were marching
to Liverpool.) In times of war, a Militia unit could have been posted
outside of England. After 1837, records for Births, Marriages and Deaths
should appear in the normal FreeBMD indices unless the unit was abroad.
- An "Army" unit was part of the British Army, and would have been
posted wherever it was required. After 1837, records for Births,
Marriages and Deaths will very probably NOT appear in the FreeBMD
indices. FindMyPast has published some of the military BMD indices
online from 1761 onwards.

3. The web-site contains lots of information
about British Army regiments (as well as other countries) and often has
links to individual regimental museums.

4. In general:
- Militia records will almost always be at TNA, Kew.
- Army records will be shared between TNA, local County Record Offices,
and regimental museums. It's very likely that each will hold different

5. "I've found an ancestor on a census return, how do I find out which
regiment and whether he was in the army or militia?".
- The piece description will give you this information. If you are using, look at the line immediately underneath the Ancestry
logo at the top of the page. It should start with "You are here: Search
--> Census --> ...". Remember the name of the right-most text, and then
click on the right-most link (which should be just to the left of this
text). This will take you to a page listing the enumeration districts,
and the right-hand column takes you to the piece description which will
identify the regiment staying in the barracks.

6. "How can I find out details of the records held at TNA Kew for a
Militia or Army unit?".
- Go to the PROCat page
and click on the "Search the Catalogue" button.
- Militia and Army records are most likely to be filed under the
catalogue reference "WO ...".

7. "How else can I search for Army records?".
- Try searching the A2A web-site
- Try searching the appropriate county record office web-site - for
example, Essex has probably published more information on their own site
than is on A2A so take a look at .
- Try the AIM25 web-site as well - . (Part of
the fun of trying to research your family's history in England is trying
to figure out why records relating to the Norfolk Militia for 1591-4
should be held by the University of London.)
- See (2) above.

8. OK, that's today - what about the future?
- Here's my personal opinion (and I'm not trying to be political, it's
simply based on facts I've learned for a major family history project
I'm trying to organise(**)). The budgets of Record Offices are now set
at a level so low that it is almost impossible to film and publish
information (e.g. one of the largest and most popular counties can
create 3 films). This means that, for example, TNA has taken out
partnership agreements with:
o S&N to publish non-Conformist records online - see .
o FindMyPast to publish UK Passenger Lists.
o Ancestry to publish WW1 Pensioner Lists.
So it's very likely that more information held by TNA, Kew will be
transcribed and published by the commercial online sites.

Charles Fuller.

PS: (**) Rather a lot of Baptist records from about 1700 onwards were
not surrendered to the Public Record Office (nowadays called TNA) and
are held at a library which is not open to genealogists. These records
are NOT catalogued in any Record Office or by the LDS and so are
effectively unknown.
I'm trying to get them filmed ...

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