Thursday, 14 July 2011

More military records on FindmyPast

FindmyPast ( has released more military material on its site, in the form of four new databases, noted as follows from its blog

* The 1861 Worldwide Army Index (or The 1861 Worldwide Soldier Index) entailed the extraction of some 245,000 serving soldiers.

* The Paddington Rifles database contains the names of over 8,600 men who served with the battalion from its inception in 1860 until its demise in 1912. It can therefore be a vital tool in providing colour to your London ancestors.

* The Royal Fusiliers Collection 1863-1905 comprises the names of close to 5000 officers and men who took part in a series of British military campaigns between 1863 and 1904.

* The Surrey Recruitment Registers comprises details of approximately 85,000 men who attested for service with a variety of regiments in Surrey between 1908 and 1933.

I've just found my three times great grandfather, Sergeant Alexander Halliday, in the 1861 database, which holds the names of some 245,000 serving soldiers, as listed in the National Archives April-June quarter Paylists held in WO 10 (Royal Artillery), WO 11 (Royal Engineers) and WO 12 (Cavalry, Guards, Infantry and other units) series in the TNA War Office records. I know nothing about this database in terms of whether it was compiled at the time or in a more recent effort. The database is said to hold 98% of names for all other ranks (NCO and below), in other words this is the 1861 census for the British Army in all but name.

In this case Alexander is found under the variant of Holliday, and there are two entries for him from WO12/2088, the first stating him to be a private in the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Foot (Queen's Royals), the second a sergeant, and stationed in Corfu.

Could this be two Alexander Hollidays? In fact, no - I've already been through the muster rolls at TNA, and have established that Alexander spent May 4th-6th 1861 in confinement, and had been demoted to the rank of private from sergeant, reason unknown, though it was recorded as a "military offence". He was promoted to Corporal in November 1862 again, and eventually lost his life, cause unknown in Bermuda in 1866.

The records don't act in the way of a traditional census - no age is given, no birthplace, just rank, regiment and location, but are nevertheless an immensely important addition to the toolkit for those carrying out census research. Once you have identified an ancestor, you may wish to check the Chelsea Pension records (also on FMP), but don't forget the muster rolls and other records not yet digitised at TNA.


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