News / Ask the Expert – missing enlistment papers

Ask the Expert – missing enlistment papers

Our military expert Paul Nixon, pictured below, answers your queries.

From Don McMahon:

‘I am trying to find birth details of my great grandfather born in Ireland, who served in British Army. Details known: Michael McMahon, born approximately 1842. He enlisted in Depot 1st Battalion 9th Regiment of Foot (East Norfolk) on 13 June 1860, in Limerick, Ireland.

I am not able to find details of his enlistment papers. I need to find birth date, parents and place of birth. I hope you can help, many thanks in anticipation.’

Paul says:

‘The 1861 census gives a Michael McMahon aged 20, born at Cork, Ireland. On 7 April 1861 this Michael McMahon was a private soldier, one of 989 soldiers stationed at the Permanent Infantry & North Gate Barracks occupied by the 4th Depot Battalion in Canterbury, Kent. There is nothing on this census return, however, to tie in this man with the 9th Regt of Foot. Of course, it’s worth noting that the Chelsea Pensioners record set is literally just that: men discharged to pension. If Pte McMahon did not receive a pension – for whatever reason – he won’t be in that particular archive.’

Paul Nixon, findmypast.co.uk's resident military expert

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  • Adrian Bruce

    “it’s worth noting that the Chelsea Pensioners record set is literally just that: men discharged to pension”

    Oh Paul – I hope you didn’t mean that. I’m guessing that Pte McMahon _would_ only have appeared if he had been discharged to pension, based on when he joined.

    But in general, 1883 marks a dividing point – according to the TNA research guide: “From 1883 to 1913 the [WO97] series includes soldiers who were discharged to pension and those who were discharged for other reasons, such as termination of limited engagements or discharge by purchase.” (And I’ve got a chap in the FMP data from the 1890s, served 4y of 7y, discharged by purchase)

    Soldiers who died in service should never be in WO97.

    (See http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/british-army-soldiers-discharge-and-pension-records.htm )

  • Edwina

    Hi Don

    A shot in the dark for you. There are a few baptismal entries 1840-1844 for Michael McMahon in Limerick on the IGI website http://www.familysearch.org. Hopefully,if you have been able to obtain his marriage certificate his father’s name should be on it and you may be able to link him in with one of them.