Findmypast.co.uk has just released a huge index and images of WO96 militia records for 1806-1915. The records are a valuable resource for genealogy research. See below:
“We’ve just published over half a million Militia Service Records, covering 1806 to 1915, in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch. This is the first time these records have been made available online, making it possible to learn about the everyday heroes who volunteered as part time soldiers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The militia was the precursor to the UK’s Territorial Army and, like its modern equivalent, was made up of men who held everyday jobs, but took part in military exercises and on occasions fought for their country. The records colourfully portray what the British militia looked like, detailing the height, weight, chest size, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks of each recruit.
Debra Chatfield, findmypast.co.uk’s Marketing Manager, explains:
“These records provide rich insight into our past and show how the everyday man, such as your local shopkeeper, found himself fighting for his country. In the absence of photographs, these records can help you imagine what your ancestors looked like, containing details which are largely unavailable elsewhere.”
We’ve found a Butcher …
We’ve been having a look through the records and have already found a number of different occupations including shoemakers, woodchoppers, greengrocers, fishmongers, coal miners, butchers and bakers!
Charles Godfrey, for example, was a butcher for a Mr Debron in Oxford. Born in the Parish of Botley, Berkshire, Godfrey volunteered for the militia on 25th July 1887 aged 18. He served with the 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and was recorded as being five feet four inches tall with brown hair and steel grey eyes. Godfrey’s attestation paper also reveals that he had a large mole on his left shoulder.
We’ve also found a baker in the militia records. Charles Howard joined the 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade on 23rd August 1897 at the age of 18 years and three months. Howard had been born in Welshpool, Monmouthshire but had moved to London, working as a baker for a Mr Calland. His service record reveals that Howard had hazel eyes, brown hair and weighed a shockingly light 110 lbs (around seven and a half stone).
William Spencer, Principal Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, commented:
“It took a certain kind of individual to leave a day job as a blacksmith, labourer or barman and enlist as a part time soldier. Although the majority never left British shores, many saw active service with the regular army in places such as South Africa during the Second Boer War. Like today’s Territorial Army, the pre-WWI militia offered a way for former soldiers to continue serving their country and civilians a chance to leave humdrum jobs, earn extra money and enjoy the comradeship such services had to offer.”
…can you find a Candlestick Maker?
Search the Militia Service Records now to see if any of your ancestors signed up! Our own Marketing Executive, Amy Sell has already spotted her great-great-uncle in the records. Unfortunately, it seems he was deemed unfit for the militia on the grounds that he had ‘enlarged glands’ in his neck!””