You can now search 97,515 records of men who were pensioned out of the British Army between 1873 and 1882 on findmypast.co.uk. We're working in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch on this ongoing project. Here is a breakdown of the records you can find on the site and which are still to come:
|WO97 1855-1872||65,000||400,000||By June 2010|
|WO97 1760-1854||184,000||1.2 million||By July 2010|
|WO97 1901-1913||303,000||2.1 million||By August 2010|
|WO96 1806-1915||500,000||3.5 million||By Sept 2011|
Whereas many other military records provide information about officer-class soldiers, these records relate to ordinary, non-officer class soldiers. This makes it more likely that you will be able to find details about your ancestors. The connection with 'Chelsea Pensioners' is that the pensions were administered through The Royal Hospital at Chelsea. The great majority of pensioned soldiers were out-pensioners and did not reside at the Hospital itself.
What makes these records so special?
The records provide rich detail and colour to our ancestors' lives to a level that is difficult to find elsewhere. There are usually six or seven records per soldier, whereas an individual would only get one line in, say, a 19th century census record. Most of the service records note all of the regiments in which a soldier served, with both start and end dates, ranks attained, and the total service rendered, again in years and days, in each rank and regiment. Service in either the East or West Indies is noted separately.
The reason for the soldier's discharge (illness or wounds) is given, as are remarks on general conduct while in the service, and notations on height, complexion, eye and hair colour, and civilian occupation. The form is dated and signed by both the soldier and commanding officer. In the absence of photographs, these records are an essential tool in providing an insight into what your ancestors actually looked like. These records are among the most popular at The National Archives as family historians and genealogists have realised how valuable they are. You can find more information about these records on our knowledge base page.
The Chelsea Pensioner Service Records are made up of servicemen from all over the British Empire. Below is a percentage break down of where the servicemen were born:
- England = 68.9%
- Ireland = 17.6%
- Scotland = 8.3%
- Wales = 2.2%
- West Indies = 0.6%
- India = 0.4%
- Sark = 0.00073%
Start searching for your Chelsea Pensioner ancestors now.