Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Sources of Military History for the Family Historian

Scotland has had a long Military History and has been involved in many conflicts at home and overseas. However how do we find out about our military ancestors?

Working from the most recent to the earlier records we start from the Second and first World Wars. These records are held by various government departments and the Public Record Office in London. The Scottish Office hold files (1914-18) called HH31 covering recruitment and conscientious objectors. For 1939-45 the files are called HH50 covering evacuation, emergency powers, civil defence, and the Clydebank Raids. Regulations for food appear in the records of Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AF) and photographs of War Savings and Tank Battles of 1918 are preserved in the Records of the National Savings Committee (NSC)

Most of the Records from the First World War were destroyed during the Second World War. However service records after 1918 are held by the Ministry of Defence, CSĀ®2b, Bourne Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex, UB3 1RF

Information relating to garrisons in the 17th century is in the form of Treasury vouchers and is found in file (E28) and there are records published in the accounts of the “Master of Works” done at Stirling, Edinburgh and the Bass Rock 1671-9. For papers covering the 18th and 19th centuries are found in the War Department papers (E886). Also have a look at the files of the Ministry of Works (MW)

Outside of the PRO and the National Archives of Scotland a wide range of information on people and regiments can found at the Scottish United Services Museum at Edinburgh Castle. The Rolls of honour can be seen at the Scottish National War Memorial to be found at Crown Square, Edinburgh Castle. However care should be taken due to the nature of War individual Soldiers can begin in one regiment or battalion and end up in a totally different regiment. Although the system is now computerised it may not be a quick search.

Apart from official sources there is all the Scottish Regimental Museums which hold collections of papers, medals and memorabilia. For addresses see the Scottish Museums and Galleries Guide.

The General Register Office for Scotland hold army returns for Birth, Deaths and Marriages of Army personnel outside Britain from 1881.

However the major source of information is the Public Record Office in London. Holding Operational and service records of the British Army, Army Lists, records of pensions, Court Martials, service medals, award roles etc

Early sources are found in the Register of the Privy Council in pre-Union Scotland. Unpublished accounts 1639-59 (PA15) and Privy Council Papers (PC10-12). Records from the 16th-17th centuries are found in the Exchequer records including salaries, pensions, and army pay in the Treasury Sederunt Books 1667-1708 (E6), Treasury vouchers concerning garrisons, regiments, arms and ammunition, late 17th century (E28), 17th century muster Rolls (E100)and some printed in C. Daltons “The Scots Army 1661-1688) Edinburgh 1909 reprinted 1989.

There are many private papers held at The National Archives of Scotland dating from the 17th century concerning military matters. Including the thoughts of the Duke of Hamilton before the Battle of Worcester in 1651 which ended the English Civil War.

Similarly the National Archives o Scotland hold extensive records for the 18th century from Exchequer Roles and the settlement of soldiers, private papers (GD) covering the Battle of Culloden to the American War of Independence in 1776 and the Jacobite campaigns. These include military Wills. A useful source of information for this period is the “Gibson Guide to Militia lists and Musters (1757-1876) (Federation of Family History Societies) also A. Morrison’s “Some Sources on Militias, Fencibles and volunteers 1793-1830 and is available in the Historical Search Room at the National Archives of Scotland.

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