Unless your ancestor was an officer, you will need to know the regiment before you start.
- Pre 1913 records are usually kept by the regiment rather than centrally
- If you are tracing an ancestor born after 1837 in England and Wales or 1855 in Scotland, it is quite possible to find a reference to a solder’s regiment on a birth, marriage or death certificate.Therefore civil registration records should be searched as well as the census returns of 1841-1911, where reference to professions and occupations are found.
- Armed forces that kept their own records include: Militia, yeomanry and territorial armies.
- England’s army began as a permanent organisation in 1660. Pre-1847 English army service was usually for life or when they were discharged early for disability.
- Pre-1872 army records are arranged by regiment. Most regiments have published histories that provide information about where the units served and about the battles fought.
If you know the regiment you could access:
- Muster Rolls
- Description Books
- Returns of Service
- Pension Records
- Pay Records
- Continuous Service Engagement Books
- Registers of Service
- Soldiers Documents
To find out more about soldiers before WW1
If your ancestor was an officer, tracing him is rather straight-forward since there is a variety of sources available. The key one is called “Army Lists” and it covers the period from 1702 to the present.
However he British Army did not keep records of individual officers which spanned their entire careers. You will have to look at a number of sources to piece together an officer’s experiences.
For more information on officers before 1913