Author Topic: WO97 Service Records 1760-1913  (Read 8672 times)

Offline themonsstar

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WO97 Service Records 1760-1913
« on: July 12, 2008, 01:17:22 PM »
I have made a start on the Attestation & discharge papers for the 63rd of Foot, the box's cover the Battalion from 1850s upto the 1870s, some of the records start in the 1840s.

There are four box's two for the 63rd of Foot & two for the 96th of Foot. The boxs are alphabetically by name.

Service Records
Or Soldiers documents

WO97 records are attestation and discharge papers, often referred to as soldiers' documents, in series which covers the period between 1760 and 1913. Some papers between 1785 and 1813 are in WO 121. They are described in more detail in a Research Guide British Army: Soldiers' Discharge Papers, 1760-1913 at the NA
They are almost always referred to as 'service' records. But as the medals expert John Sly reminds us: 'They are not, they are pension records, specifically Royal Hospital, Chelsea, pension records.
They are copies of documents that were given to a largely illiterate soldiery, specifying the man's name, trade and place of birth, as well as his physical description, forming a proof of his identity and entitlement to draw his pension if he could not sign his own name.

Once this is appreciated it immediately becomes obvious why so few individual records survive: only a relatively small proportion of soldiers were pensioned, either for disability or long service. In particular if a soldier died in service, or deserted and so did not complete his term of enlistment, it is unlikely that there will be a record for him. Researchers should not forget the records for the Royal Hospital in Dublin, Kilmainham, which was operating in tandem with Chelsea at this time, and it was not specifically an institution for Irishmen or soldiers from 'Irish' regiments. It is probably because the Kilmainham records are not filed or indexed in the same way as the Chelsea records that they are so often ignored.

Before 1883 these service records are normally only for men who were discharged and received a pension. From 1883 to 1913 the series also includes soldiers who were discharged for other reasons, such as termination of limited engagements or discharge by purchase.

The types of document that have most commonly survived are, although it is unusual to find them all in a single file:

• discharge forms, which were issued when a soldier left the regiment. The purpose, initially at least, seems to have been to have been proof for the
poor law authorities that the individual was not a vagrant as he passed through the area on his way home or in search of work.

• attestation forms, which are the documents signed by the new recruit.They will tell you how old he was at enlistement, where he enlisted and his
trade before he joined up. There may also be details of next of kin.

• The proceedings of a regimental board and record of service, which was a more detailed record of discharge.

• Supporting correspondence. Occasionally there might be scribbled notes on the application itself.

• Questionnaires of past service, which an applicant for a pension completed if others documents had not survived.

• Affidavits, which out-pensioners outside London made every quarter to state that they were not drawing on other public funds.

Except for the earliest documents, where the level of detail is limited, the documents give information about age, physical appearance, birthplace and trade or occupation on enlistment in the Army. They also include a record of service, including any decorations awarded, promotions and reductions in rank, crimes and punishments, and the reason for the discharge to pension. In some cases, the place of residence after discharge and date of death are also given.

These documents are arranged by discharge date and then by regiment or by surname. The order within individual piece numbers is roughly alphabetical. If you can't find your man then it is also worth looking though the misfiled records to see if he appears there.

With the exception of some records between 1883 and 1913, the records have been microfilmed and are available in the Microfilm Reading Room at Kew. The documents fall into four series:

1760-1854 These documents are arranged alphabetically by name within regiments. Fortunately there is a comprehensive index which is available on TNA's online catalogue (just type in the name of the person you are researching). This index also includes records found in WO 121. There seem to be relatively few for men who enlisted before 1792.

1855—1872 These are again arranged alphabetically by name within a regiment, and it is vital to know the regiment in which a man served.

1873-1882 These are arranged alphabetically by name of soldier by cavalry, artillery, infantry and miscellaneous corps.

1883-1913 The documents are arranged in surname order. Details of next of kin, wife and children are given.

Additional series of service records
If you can't find your man in WO 97 and think that he survived to receive a pension, there are several other places for you to look.

WO116 and WO117 are pension books which contain similar information, but are split into disability and long-service respectively, and are indexed chronologically by date of admission to Chelsea pension. WO120 contains pension books arranged regimentally by order of precedence, then chronologically by date of admission to Chelsea pension.

WO118 and WO119 are records for Kilmainham Hospital in Dublin, WO118 being arranged chronologically by date of admission to pension, giving a numerical key to WO119, which is the equivalent of WO97, but in bound book form rather than loose in boxes. This can be a long process if you do not know the date of admission to pension, and you may need to use the muster books (WO12) to get a date, but it is very rewarding if you find the man you want.
General registers of discharges from 1871 to 1884 are in WO121/223-238. Registers of men discharged without pension between 1884 and 1887 are in WO 121/239-257. Certificates of service of soldiers awarded deferred pensions, 1838-1896, are in WO131.

Two series of returns of service of NCOs and men survive from the early nineteenth century. The first series contains statements of periods of service and of liability to service abroad on 24 June 1806 and are in WO25/871-1120. The second series contains returns of NCOs and men, not known to be dead or totally disqualified for military service, who had been discharged between 1783 and 1810 (WO25/1121-1131). Both series are arranged by regiment and then alphabetically by surname.

Records of service of soldiers in the Royal Horse Artillery between 1803 and 1863 are in WO69. They include attestation papers and show name, age, description, place of birth, trade, and dates of service, of promotions, of marriage and of discharge or death. These records are arranged under the unit in which the individual last served, which can be ascertained from indexes and posting books in WO69/779-782, 801-839.
There is also an incomplete series of registers of deceased, discharged or deserted men in the Royal Artillery (1772-1774, 1816-1873) in WO69/583-597, 644—647, arranged by artillery regiment. A number of miscellaneous pay lists and other records of the Royal Artillery, 1692-1876, are in WO54/672-755.

All of the info is copyright to  The National Archives Kew.
Tel +44(0)20 8876 3444

« Last Edit: July 16, 2008, 10:14:32 AM by themonsstar »

Offline mack

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Re: WO97 Service Records 63rd of Foot West Suffolk 1850s-1870s
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2008, 09:28:50 AM »
good work mate.



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Re: WO97 Service Records 1760-1913
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2009, 02:16:21 PM »
Wonderful research. Please contact me with a view to doing some research for me. I really would like to find out what my did.