Friday, 30 July 2010

Chelsea Pension WO97 records - some advice

Ken Nisbet from SAFHS has been in touch to share a tip concerning research in the Chelsea Pensioner records now being made available on In some cases men who received pensions do not appear on the WO97 records and hence do not appear on the web-site because the records were lost, for example those of the 78th regiment of Foot (the Seaforth Highlanders) whose records were lost in a shipping accident. ken points out that fortunately another series of records, WO121, duplicates the information on WO97 and can be found at the National Archives at Kew, but there is no way of noting who appears in WO121 and not in WO97. The WO121 records are also much shorter, usually just two pages in length, and show basic details. ken cites the following example:

Fraser Simon born about 1787 Edderton Rosshire enlisted 25th March 1804 served wiith 78th Foot 24th June 1817. Joined 59th Foot at Fort William Bengal 25th June 1817 served in India till 27th April 1816 discharged to pension 11th May 1826, he was described as being 5ft 6” in height with black hair, hazel eyes and of a fair complexion, although he was a drunkard he was otherwise a good soldier.

In this example the soldier's WO121 record does not mention that he served with both the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the regiment, the actions in which he served, or any details of next of kin, but certainly does provide a great deal of useful infromation which can be further acted upon.

The bottom line is if you can't find them in WO97, try WO121 - some of the missing info may be further reconstructed from muster rolls, attestation papers and other records if they have survived.

(With thanks to Ken)

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)


Audrey said...

You can search the WO 121 records in The National Archives' Catalogue to see if your man is there. Put his name in the 'Word or Phrase' box (allowing for spelling variants, but you can use wild cards), and WO 121 in 'Department or Series Code' and hit 'Search'. I found my great-great-great grandfather that way, then traced him in the muster rolls, which gave me his exact date of birth - not bad for someone who was born in Co Fermanagh in 1785!

Chris Paton said...

Thanks Audrey,