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Army - Muster Rolls & Pay Lists Other Ranks & Officers (Military)

Nature of Source

Record of enlistment date, movements and discharge date of all soldiers and officers and not just those discharged to pension. The Rolls were taken each month or quarter but the name of the regiment must be known as a starting point of research. The musters show a record of the presence of each soldier at a particular unit and record the reasons for a soldier's absence such as illness or serving time in prison.

Pay Lists also list the soldiers present at a unit together with their pay details and other allowances. The lists are arranged by regimental number or rank and then by the soldiers' surname. Using both recourses it is possible to follow the career of a soldier.

Knowing which regiment a man served in is of great benefit when researching a soldier's career at The National Archives (TNA). If the person's place of service is known, then the Monthly Returns held at TNA will help in identifying his regiment as the returns show the location of each regiment on a monthly basis. The returns are held in series WO 17 and WO 73 and cover the years from 1759 to 1865. Additionally, the monthly journals United Service Journal and the Naval and Military Magazine (some editions can be found at the Internet Archive or at Google Books) also publish similar information as well as a number of reference books. Alternatively, his will might mention his regiment or possibly the birth certificates of his children. If the person (whether a soldier or officer) married, died or had children at a station abroad, then the Chaplain's Returns (1796-1880) which record such events, provide the regiment's name. The registers are available online at

It is possible to find out what material survives for a particular unit by searching TNA Discovery catalogue with the unit's name.

Service records for all ranks who served after 1920 remain with the Ministry of Defence with each military service maintaining its own record office. The Veterans UK web site provides contact details of where to apply for service records for each of the services.

Where Found

The National Archives (WO 10, Artillery Muster Books and Pay Lists; WO 12, General Muster Books and Pay Lists; WO 16, Muster Books and Pay Lists 1877-1898; WO 54, Entry Books and Registers; WO 68, Records of Militia Regiments; WO 69, Royal Artillery Records of Service and Papers)
The National Archives (WO 128 & WO 129, Imperial Yeomanry South African War)
National Records of Scotland (Scottish Army muster rolls organised by regiment only. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland [NAS] and General Register Office for Scotland [GROS])
National Army Museum/Templer Study Centre (The museum houses a wealth of information on the history and traditions of the Army including officer Army Lists, regimental and campaign histories, soldier's effects records, military memoirs and diaries, regimental and other military periodicals and books and other archives relating to the pre-1914 Army. The museum also holds the enlistment and discharge books for the Buffs, the Middlesex Regiment, and the five Irish regiments disbanded in 1922. See the web site for details of their collections and a series of information sheets for researching army family history)

Period Covered

1713 - 1913

Genealogical Value

Names and ranks of soldiers and officers; Dates of enlistment, discharge or death and details of time spent in hospitals and punishments; Occasionally former occupation, place of birth and age on joining.

Further References

Beckett, James Deuchar (ed). The Beckett Soldiers Index, A-C: Jade Publishing, 2003
Beckett, James Deuchar (ed). The Beckett Soldiers Index, D-G Jade Publishing, 2009
Beckett, James Deuchar (ed). The Beckett Soldiers Index, H-K: Jade Publishing, 2009
(Listing of soldiers from 1793 to about 1854 extracted from TNA series WO 120 and WO 116 and other sources such as marriage registers and medal awards. Arranged alphabetically by surname, forename and regiment including whether discharged at either Chelsea or Kilmainham Hospital. These published editions cover more ground than the Beckett Soldiers' Index available at The National Archives)

Bevan, Amanda. Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives: The National Archives, 2006

Brereton, J.M. A Guide to the Regiments and Corps of the British Army: Bodley Head, 1985

Blank, Dr. Stuart. Researching British Military History on the Internet: Alwyn Enterprises, 2007

Cox. Reginald H. W. Military Badges of the British Empire 1914-18: Ernest Benn, 1982

Farmer, John, The Regimental Records of the British Army: Grant Richards, 1901 (Free download available at the Internet Archive)

Fowler, Simon. A Guide to Military History on the Internet: Pen & Sword, 2007

Fowler, Simon. Tracing your Army Ancestors: Pen & Sword, 2006

Fowler, Simon. Tracing Your Army Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2013

Gaylor, John. Military Badge Collecting: Pen & Sword Books, 2002
Grehan, John & Mace, Martin. British Battles of the Crimean Wars 1854-1856: Pen & Sword Books, 2014

Kitzmiller, John. In Search of the Forlorn Hope: A Comprehensive Guide to Locating British Regiments and Their Records, 1640-WWI: Manuscript Publishing Foundation, 1988

Murphy, Gerry. Where Did That Regiment Go? The Lineage of British Infantry and Cavalry Regiments at a Glance: The History Press, 2009

Paterson, Sarah. Tracing Your Family History, Army: Imperial War Museum, 2006

Pols, Robert. Dating Old Army Photographs: Family History Partnership, 2011

Saks, David. Boerejode: Jews in the Boer Armed Forces 1899-1902: 2010

Spencer, William. Family History in the Wars: The National Archives, 2007

Spencer, William. Army Records: A Guide For Family Historians: The National Archives, 2008

Storey, Neil. Military Photographs and How to Date Them: Countryside Books, 2009

Swinnerton, Iain, An Introduction to the British Army: Its History, Traditions and Records: FFHS, 1996

Swinson, Arthur. A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army: The Archive Press, 1972

The Great War: A Photographic Narrative: Imperial War Museum: Jonathan Cape, 2013

Usher, George. Dictionary of British Military History: A&C Black Publishers, 2006

Watts, Michael and Watts, Christopher. My Ancestor was in the British Army: Society of Genealogists, 2009

Westlake, Ray. The Territorials 1908-1914: A Guide for Military and Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2011
Banks, Arthur. A Military Atlas of The First World War: Pen & Sword Books, 2013
Bridger, Geoff. The Great War Handbook: A Guide For Family Historians & Students Of The Conflict: Pen & Sword Books, 2013
Christopher, John & McCutcheon, Campbell. 1914 the First World War in Old Photographs: Over by Christmas: Amberley Publishing, 2014
Doyle, Peter & Foster Chris. British Army Cap Badges of the First World War: Shire Publications, 2010
Doyle, Peter. Great War British Tommy Manual: The British Soldier 1914-18 [All Models]-Haynes Owners' Workshop Manuals: Haynes, 2013
Doyle, Peter & Foster Chris. Remembering Tommy: The British Soldier in the First World War: The History Press, 2013
Doyle, Peter & Foster Chris. What Tommy Took to War, 1914-1918: Shire Publications, 2014
Doyle, Peter. The First World War in 100 Objects: The History Press, 2014
Forty, Simon. Mapping the First World War: Battlefields of the Great Conflict from Above: Anova Books, 2013
Gregson, Keith. A Tommy in the Family: First World War Family History Tales and Research Tips: The History Press, 2014
Holding, Norman, More Sources of WWI Army Ancestry: FFHS, 1998
Holding, Norman & Swinnerton, Iain. WWI Army Ancestry: FFHS, 2004
Holmes, Richard. Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918: Harper Perennial, 2005
Holmes, Richard. Shots from the Front: The British Soldier 1914-18: HarperPress, 2010
Holmes, Richard. The First World War in Photographs: Andre Deutsch, July 2014
James, Brig. E. A. British Regiments 1914-18: Naval and Military Press, 2009
Paterson, Sarah. Tracing Your Prisoner of War Ancestors: The First World War: Pen & Sword, 2012
Rawson, Andrew. The British Army 1914-1918: The History Press, 2014
Spencer, William. First World War Army Service Records: The National Archives, 2008
Swinnerton, Iain. Identifying Your World War One Soldier from Badges and Photographs: Federation of Family History Societies, 2001

Websites (The National Archives Research Guides: How to look for records of...British Army soldiers up to 1913. This guide will help you to search for British Army records of soldiers who served between the 18th and early 20th centuries and covers the service of soldiers who were discharged right up until just before the start of the First World War) (The National Archives Research Guides: Military and Maritime. Learn how to trace the voyages made by a merchant seaman, find a Royal Marine’s medal record or track the wartime history of an Army regiment) from Pay and Muster Rolls of 37th Foot) (UK Military Family History Online: Links to web sites with online data and information to aid in military family history research) (Online store selling military records from a variety of suppliers) (Veterans UK) (Imperial War Museum Research Guide: Tracing Your Family History. Guides to help you start your research into your army family history explaining what records you will need and where to find them. Subject areas include: Service records; Casualty information; Medal records; Unit and operational histories) (British Military Records: The Army by Fawne Stratford-Devai) (Military Archive Research, by Dr Stuart C Blank) (GENUKI Guide: UK and Ireland: Military Records) (British Military Records by Jay Hall) (The Army Museums Ogilby Trust. Directory of over 140 Army museums across the UK represented by the Trust) (National Archives of Scotland Research Guide: Military Records)

Online Databases (British Army, Worldwide Index, 1841. The Index was created by Kevin Asplin from muster rolls and pay lists between April and June 1841. It includes both British Army and Honourable East India Company servicemen and cover locations such as Sydney, Ceylon, Madras, Honduras, Canada and Malta) (Worldwide Army Index, 1851. The index was created by Roger E. Nixon and provides the names, ranks, army numbers and regiments of other ranks serving in in over 300 regiments serving around the world) (Worldwide Army Index, 1861. The index was created by Roger E. Nixon and provides the names, ranks, army numbers and regiments of about 98 per cent of other ranks serving in the British Army. The data was extracted from The National Archives muster books and pay lists held in TNA series WO 10 [Royal Artillery], WO 11 [Royal Engineers] and WO 12 [Cavalry, Guards, Infantry and other units]) (Worldwide Army Index, 1871. The lists compiled by military historian Roger Nixon and extracted from army pay lists held in The National Archives show 200,000 soldiers who were serving in the British Army at the time of the 1871 England and Wales Census) (Worldwide Army Index, 1851, 1861, 1871. The dataset lists all serving officers and other ranks together with their regimental HQ location extracted from War Office Paylists held in TNA series WO 10, WO 11 and WO 12) (UK, British Army Muster Books and Pay Lists, 1812-1817. The series comprises selected muster books and pay lists extracted from TNA series WO 12 and includes serving men from the Cavalry, Foot Guards and regular infantry regiments as well as special regiments or corps, colonial troops, various foreign legions and troops, garrison battalions, veteran battalions and depots) (British Army Ancestors. The site aims to create a free library of user uploaded British Army soldiers’ photos and to help find out more about the soldier concerned. A search for a name links to service records, medal index cards and other information from Findmypast, The National Archives and Casus-Belli. See the website for a full list of linked sources used) (British Army Service Records, 1760-1939. Search more than eight million British Army documents from eleven different series of records from The National Archives and the Scots Guards. Expect to find officers and other ranks in various Army forms including attestation papers, medical forms, discharge documents, pension claims, and proceedings of regimental boards. The records can tell you when your ancestor joined and left the army, as well as details about where he came from and his military service. The dataset includes records from series WO 128 Imperial Yeomanry, soldiers' documents, South African War 1899-1902. Also from service records in series WO 363 and pension records in WO 364. See website for all the available record series) (1861 & 1871 Worldwide Army Index: Details of soldiers extracted from TNA paylists series WO 10 Royal Artillery, WO 11 Royal Engineers and WO 12 Cavalry, Guards, Infantry and other units) (Paddington Rifles 1860-1912: Records compiled from muster rolls held in TNA series WO 70) (Register of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 including Official Casualty Rolls, Medal Rolls and the Anglo-Boer War Memorials Project) (Napoleonic War Records 1775-1817: Databases include the Army of Reserve 1803 consisting of records of Other Ranks who were part of the 1803 England and Wales Army of Reserve; Regimental indexes 1806 consisting of indexes of regimental records of Napoleonic era Other Ranks from 1806; Foot Guards attestation papers 1775-1817 consisting of records of Other Ranks' attestations to the 1st Foot Guard between 1775 and 1817) (London Volunteer Soldiers, 1859-1955. Service records of part-time soldiers, usually from London, who served with a number of volunteer military units with the British Army) (Mitchell Library Glasgow: Boer War Burgesses. The database details the admission of volunteers from the South African War 1900-1904 as Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow)

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (The Transvaal War Album - The British Forces in South Africa 1899-1900)