Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy



This fact sheet provides a general introduction to sources on military affairs in the National Archives of Scotland (NAS). We have published two Military Source Lists: volume one covering military material in private records, and volume two covering government and other records. Further information can also be found in our
publications The Guide to the National Archives of Scotland, Tracing Your
.For information on records on soldiers, see our Family History FAQ on Records
for an ancestor who served in the army.

PRE 1707
Many of the records of central government prior to the union, such as the Registers of the Privy Council, have been published and are an essential source of information on military matters. Army accounts, 1639-59 [PA15] have partly been published in C S Terry’s Papers Relating to the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant, 1643 – 7 (Scottish History Society, 1917). The NAS holds very few records relating to ordinary individuals serving in the Scottish army before 1707. Officers’ commissions can be found in the warrant books of the Secretary of Scotland from 1670 (SP4) and in private papers. Exchequer records [E]:including salaries, pensions and army pay in the Treasury Sederunt Books, 1667-1708 (E6); treasury vouchers concerning garrisons and regiments, arms and ammunition, late 17th century (E28); 17th century muster rolls (E100), some printed in C Dalton’s The Scots Army,

1661-1688 (Edinburgh, 1909, reprinted 1989).
Private Papers [GD]: Private collections are a rich source for military history and can include anything from papers relating to the Scots Guards in France in the 17th century (GD44) to the thoughts of the Duke of Hamilton before the Battle of Worcester, 1651 (GD45). They can be accessed through our Military Source List, Part One, and through our text base, Clio, on-line in our search rooms. For collections still in private hands, consult the surveys of the National Register of Archives (Scotland)
available in both our searchrooms, with some catalogues searchable on computer.

POST 1707
Official army records after the Union of Scotland and England are held by the Public Record Office in London. Among the records held in the NAS are the following: Exchequer records [E]: papers relating to the settlement of soldiers on forfeited estates after the Jacobite rebellion, 1745 (E700-788). Private papers [GD]: (see above) containing anything from the journals of Capt. John Peebles
describing his service in the American Wars of Independence (GD21) to a plan of the order of battle at Culloden (GD61). Material relating to the Jacobite campaigns of the 18th century can be found in our Jacobite Source List.
Wills [CC and SC]: testaments of Scottish soldiers can be found among the registers of the commissary courts, and after the 1820s, in the sheriff courts. A small series of soldiers wills, 1914-1956, is held among the records of Edinburgh Commissary Office (SC70/8)

Many papers relating to the militia, lieutenancy and yeomanry units set up at the end of the 18th century can be found among our collections of private papers and sheriff court records. A useful listing is given in the ‘Gibson guide’ to Militia Lists and Musters, 1757-1876 (Federation of Family History Societies, 1954). A. Morrison’s Some Scottish Sources on Militias, Fencibles and Volunteers, 1793-1830, is available in the Historical Search Room. Records relating to volunteer and territorial forces, 19th -20th centuries, can be found among the Ministry of Defence files [MD]. Militia records are also held by the Public Record Office [] (see Readers Guide no 3, Some Records of the Militia from 1757), local archives and the National War Museum of Scotland [],

While the Public Record Office holds most official documentation, the files of the various departments of the Scottish Office contain the following:
-war files, 1914 -18 (HH31) covering recruitment and conscientious objectors;
-war files, 1939-45 (HH50) covering evacuation, emergency powers, civil defence and the Clydebank
-regulations regarding control of the supply of food appear in the records of the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AF).
-files and photographs relating to the War Savings and Tank campaigns of 1918 are preserved in the records of the National Savings Committee (NSC).
Surviving service records from the First World War (about 60% of them were destroyed in the blitz) are held by the PRO, London. Service records after 1920 are held by the Ministry of Defence, CS(R)2b, Bourne Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex, UB3 1RF.

The Public Record Office holds most papers relating to army barracks. The NAS has the following: Treasury vouchers relating to garrisons, 17th century (E28); in addition to material published in the Accounts of the Masters of Work, building works carried out at Stirling, Edinburgh and the Bass, 1671-9 are in E37; other papers covering the 18th and 19th centuries are in the War Department papers (E886); the Ministry of Works files (MW) contain information on Edinburgh and Stirling Castles
and arrangements for military occupation of a number of properties during the 1939-45 war.

The National War Museum of Scotland, based at Edinburgh Castle, holds a wide range of material on individuals and regiments, including medals and papers, and an extensive library of regimental histories. Rolls of honour displayed at Edinburgh Castle cover all Scottish units and are arranged by regiment. The Scottish National War Memorial, Crown Square, Edinburgh, can provide information on individual
soldiers as long as the regiment is known. Rolls of Honour for land forces in World War 2 have recently been published in four volumes by Promenade Publications, Cheltenham (1999-2000). For information on the burial grounds of the two world wars, contact the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berks, SL6 7DX [] There are a number of Scottish Regimental Museums which hold collections of papers, medals and memorabilia. For addresses see the Scottish Museums and Galleries Guide (Aberdeen University Press).
The General Register Office for Scotland [], New Register House, Edinburgh, EH1 3YT: army returns of births, deaths and marriages of army personnel based outside
The Public Record Office [], Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU holds the operational and service records of the British army, army lists, records of pensions, court martials, service medals and award rolls, records of ancillary services including medical services. See the PRO Readers Guide on Army Records for Family Historians.

The Army List, listing officers and their units from 1754.
Norman Holding, The location of British Army records: a national directory of World War One sources
John M Kitzmiller, In search of the ‘forlorn hope’: a comprehensive guide to locating British Regiments and their records, 1640 to World War One (Salt Lake City, 1988)
PRO Readers Guides – No.2. Army Records for Family Historians (1998)
– No.19 Army Service Records of the First World War (1997)
PRO Handbook – No.15. The 2nd World War – A Guide to Documents in the Public Record Office (1998)
Public Record Office Pocket Guide – Using Army Records (2000)
Michael Roper, Records of the War Office and Related Departments, 1660-1964 (PRO, 1998)

For further information go to NAS

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