Thursday, 6 May 2010

Irish ancestors in the British Army?

If your Irish ancestors fought for the British Army between 1760 and 1913, you'll be interested to check out the Chelsea Pension records just released by Find My Past.

The Chelsea Pension records hold details of more than 1.4million servicemen. Of these, 17.6% (nearly a quarter of a million) were Irish. Don't be misled by the term 'pension'. It doesn't necessarily follow that the soldiers were elderly. They became eligible for a pension after just 12 years service or even earlier if they were wounded.

And although the pensions were administered by the Royal Hospital of Chelsea, the great majority of pensioned soldiers were not hospital residents.

These records provide rich detail and colour to your ancestors’ lives at a level that is rarely found elsewhere. There are usually four or eight pages of details per soldier. In addition to regimental details, you might find physical descriptions such as chest size or distinguishing marks such as tattoos. You’ll also see the individual’s signature.

Discharge records may also give details of wives and children, medical history and disciplinary record.

Whereas most military records provide information about officer class soldiers, these records include papers from the ordinary rank and file. Since few Irish soldiers were officers, this collection is particularly pertinent to Irish genealogy research.

The first batches to go online are those covering 1873-1900. These contain the records of 410,000 soldiers.

The rest of the collection will be released as follows:

Records for 1901-1913 (303,000 records), by June 2010
Records for 1855-1872 (65,000 records), by July 2010
Records for 1760-1854 (184,000 records), by April 2011
Records for 1806-1915 (500,000 records), by Nov 2011

When this collection is fully uploaded, Find My Past plan to start scanning the records of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (the Dublin equivalent of the Chelsea Hospital). These date from 1744 to 1863.