Militia Attestations can be very fruitful sources of genealogical data. They were documents filled in at the time of recruitment and contain much personal data.
This collection contains the names of over 110,000 recruits to militias in Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Northumberland, Suffolk, Surrey, Wiltshire and Yorkshire, and in south and central Scotland; the Irish Origins database contains an index to a further 12,500 men who applied to militias in Ireland. These recruits came from all over the British Isles.
About the Militia Attestations Index
Militia Attestations can be very fruitful sources of genealogical data. They were documents filled in at the time of recruitment and contain much personal data. The collection contains covers over 110,000 recruits to militias in England and Scotland; a further 12,500 recruits are included in Irish Origins Militia Attestations Index 1872-1915.
The index contains the birthplaces of nearly all recruits. While, as one might expect, most recruits to a particular militia were born locally, typically a quarter to a third come from further afield. For example, nearly 10% of recruits to the Scottish militia were born in Ireland.
|Militia||Number of recruits||Period covered||TNA References|
|Cornwall & Devon Miners RGA||1,060||1885-1912||WO96/1323-1325|
|East Yorkshire Regiment||2,627||1886-1905||WO96/304-310|
|Hampshire & Isle of Wight RGA||1,290||1875-1912||WO96/1365-1368|
|West Riding Regiment||4,996||1840-1905||WO96/614-625|
|West Surrey Regiment||9,210||1881-1895||WO96/11-31|
|York & Lancaster Regiment||4,625||1882-1902||WO96/1058-1070|
|Forfarshire & Kincardine RGA||1,970||1881-1915||WO96/1354-1359|
|South East Scotland RGA||1,000||1877-1913||WO96/1423-1425|
|West Scotland RGA||1,890||1872-1911||WO96/1426-1431|
The index records give the last name and first name of the militiaman, place and county of birth, and The National Archives reference.
The original Attestation Papers are very rich, and can tell a great deal about these men and their families. They show the following details:
- name and number
- birthplace (can be anywhere in the world, including America, Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa, as well as all over the British Isles)
- whether British subject
- current place of residence
- where they have lived for the previous twelve months
- present employer’s name
- if an apprentice, name of master, date and place of indenture
- marital status
- number of children under 14 years of age
- whether they have been in prison
- whether they belong to the army or navy
- whether they have served in forces and if they have any pension
- if they were rejected for the services, on what grounds
- number of years to serve
- full description including marks
- statement of services: there are questions regarding service abroad, whether wounded, special instances of gallant conduct and medals; injuries in or by Army service.
- name and address of next of kin (In some instances show the mother, brothers and sisters and their addresses; the addresses can be world-wide.)
The Attestation was filled in at the time of recruitment, and if a man was found to be medically unfit all his details remained on file. So even if your ancestor did not serve as a militiaman there may be something about him in these documents.
The amount of information in the documents varies: some, such as those of William Byrne, have much information about their family on the last page (Byrne has a brother in Plymouth, England, two sisters in Chicago, and three further sisters in Queensland); others, such as those of Joseph Hogan, show no relatives but contain a wealth of other personal information.
Locating original documents
Unfortunately, we are no longer able to offer the online hard copy ordering of militia records as they have not been cost effective. Original extracts can be ordered in person and full details can be found below.
The original documents are held at The National Archives – www.nationalarchives.gov.uk. The index records include the information necessary to find the original records yourself at The National Archives.
The National Archives Reference Number identifies the class – always WO96 – and the box (the number after the slash) within which the attestation papers are stored; eg WO96/1441.
The Sequence Number was generated from the order of the documents within each box at the time the index was created; the documents should all be – more or less – in alphabetical order.
If the document you are looking for does not appear where you expect it, it may be because someone who accessed the documents previously has put the documents back in the wrong order. (The National Archives take a dim view of this, and prefer that even where a document is clearly out of order it be left where it is.)
If you do not find them in this order, then look for them in alphabetical order or at the top of the box.