News / Ask the Expert – missing soldier

Ask the Expert – missing soldier

23 August, 2010

Stephen Rigden, findmypast's resident expert

Our expert Stephen Rigden, pictured, answers your questions.

From Chris Hobson in Sheffield:

‘I am trying to find a great great grandfather who was born in 1823. His name was Thomas Woodhouse, born in Sheffield, and he joined the army serving in Ireland, Glerkad barracks Glasgow, Canada and Portsmouth. He must have served 12 years between 1842 and 1854 but I cannot find any trace of him in’s military records.

I think he was overseas in 1841 because his family is not on the census. I also cannot find any record of his marriage to Maria from Lavenham, Suffolk. Can you help please?’

Steve says:

‘Thanks for your question.

If you cannot find your ancestor in the Chelsea Pensioner British Army Service Records, it is worth trying again in future. The reason for this is that we will be adding related series of records over the next months. The first will be Militia records 1806 to 1915 from The National Archives’ WO96 series; while it may not have been true in the case of your ancestor, there was movement out of the army into the militia, sometimes after a break of years, following completion of regular service.

In such cases, it is just possible that records might be with the Militia series WO96 rather than in the Chelsea Pensioner WO97.

We also have plans to add further complementary records relating to the 19th century soldier towards the end of this year and over the course of 2011.

In the meantime, I note from the 1861 census that the recorded details of Thomas Woodhouse’s eldest children then living at home – Thomas, born circa 1843/44 in ‘America British Colonies’, Ann, born 1845/46 in ‘Taranca’ (maybe Tauranga?) and David, born 1852/53 in ‘Glasc, Scotland’ (Glasgow?) – certainly indicate a strong possibility that the family could have been travelling with the British Army for at least a decade.

It is also possible, therefore, that his marriage may have taken place outside the jurisdiction of England & Wales (perhaps in Ireland or Canada). Therefore, if you have not done so already, it is worth searching at least the army chaplains’ and regimental records among the overseas BMD indexes on Please bear in mind that these official records from the General Register Office are known to be incomplete.

Genealogy is sometimes, even often, frustrating and unfortunately there does not seem to be an immediate answer to the difficulties you are encountering at present. The amount of information which is being digitised and made available online, however, is ever-increasing and it is quite possible that what now strikes you as a brick wall could become straightforward to solve in 18 months’ or two years’ time.

Of course, if in the meantime any readers have any ideas, please send them in as usual!’

If you’d like to send your question to Steve, please register or opt to receive newsletters in My Account.

  • Sandra


    Just wondering if you can advise what the link is to ‘ask the expert’. I am registered and I receive the newsletters but I can’t seem to find a link or email to send to, to ‘ask the expert’.

  • jessmoore

    Hi Sandra,

    In our newsletter each month we provide an email address for you to email your questions to Steve Rigden – keep an eye out for it in the next findmypast newsletter, coming your way this Friday!

  • phil

    my grandad william henry dawkes served in the military, but its not possible to find his records, can you help please.

  • Len Cargeeg

    Hi Stephen
    I have been trying to find service details of a James Nixon who served in the British Army during World War One. James was born in Glascow , Scotland around 1884.His father was James, a builder and his mother was Mary Kerney.He was married to Isabella Purves Hastie in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 31st July 1908.
    If you could find out his service details I would be most appreciative.
    Kind regards
    Len Cargeeg

    • Len Cargeeg

      I have located 2258 Sgt James Nixon DCM, Highland Light Infantry.
      His pension file reference was online at the National Archives of Australia Website. I paid the $25 and the 69 page file was put online. Also Lt Col Neil Smith found the File in National Archives in the UK.
      Kind regards

  • Paul Nixon

    Phil, there is a William Henry Darkes who served with the KOYLI during WW1, number 24100. Is thius him?

  • http://findmypast julie from sheffield

    hi chris, i think we may be related my 2x great grandfather was the thomas woodhouse you are seeking i have much more information if you want it