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Militia Records (Military)

Nature of Source

Records generated from the county based part-time civilian military force composed of able-bodied males between the ages of 16 and 60. The force was intended mainly for national home defence when the regular army was engaged in foreign campaigns.

The surviving records can be divided between two timeframes, namely before and after the Militia Act of 1757.

After the English Civil War (1642-1651), the raising of a militia was suspended until the Militia Act of 1757. The origins of the militia date back to Anglo-Saxon times when the force was known as the fyrd. The Militia force was re-established by Henry II in 1181 by the Assize of Arms and later the Statute of Winchester in 1285 created Commissions of Array who were responsible for mustering the militia. The role of the Commissions was superseded by the Lord Lieutenant a position established in 1594. Following the formation of the British Standing Army in 1660, the use and need of a militia fell into decline until the Militia Act of 1757 which once again revived the militia. Pre-1757 militia records in the form of Muster Rolls are held at The National Archives (TNA) or at County Record Offices and sometimes amongst private papers. Most rolls are arranged by hundred and then by parish. For a detailed listing of surviving muster rolls held at TNA, County Record Offices as well as published transcriptions and indexes, see:
Gibson, Jeremy & Dell, Alan. Tudor and Stuart Muster Rolls: Federation of Family History Societies, 1989.

Following the Militia Act, the militia remained a standalone county force until the Cardwell Reforms of 1872 which saw the militia attached to the regular county regiments of the army. Finally in 1906 the militia was transformed into Special Reserve Battalions.

The county based Lord Lieutenant had responsibility for raising the force and Petty Magistrates and Parish Constables distributed the Household Forms. This form (schedule A) was given to each household which was completed with details about each adult male. From the forms, the Militia Ballot List (Schedule B) was drawn up showing all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 (lowered to aged 42 in 1762). Those selected for service appear in the Militia Lists whilst those that actually served appear in Attestation (enlistment) Papers, pay books and enrolment lists. The Militia Ballot Lists and Militia Lists are held at County Record Offices whilst the records of those selected to serve are at TNA.

In theory all adult able-bodied males between the ages of 15 and 60 should appear in the lists although the earlier lists only detail those that attended the muster. The wealthy often evaded service and some professions such as the clergy, teachers and apprentices were excluded from the earlier ballots. Also those to poor or unfit were not considered for service. Also consult the 'Posse Comitatus' lists and the 'Levee en Masse' (mass enlistment) lists made in 1798 and 1803/1804 respectively. These were lists of reservists to be used in the event of a French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars which ended in 1815. After the threat of invasion receded, these surveys were no longer taken and militia membership became entirely voluntary. A militiaman could serve between three and five years and thereafter he might have joined the regular army. Many just attended a few weeks training each year.

Other volunteer forces such as the Yeomanry, The Volunteers and the Local Militia can be found in series WO 13 at The National Archives and in records found in County Record Offices and other local collections. The militia was funded from proceeds from the land tax so some references are found in E 182. Militia lists might also be found amongst the parish Overseer Accounts.

Also consult the Militia Relief Orders which provided for the relief of the families of poorer militiamen. The Orders will give the name of the soldier and his wife and occasionally the names of the children and their ages.

Also see
Army - Soldier's Documents (Pension & Service Records) - Other Ranks before 1914

Where Found

Pre-1757 Records
The National Archives (Militia: further research)
County Record Offices
British Library
Bodleian Library (The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford with their holdings including estate records, deeds, rolls and maps. Their activities can be followed on Facebook and Twitter)
Private collections
Post-1757 Records
The National Archives (WO 96 & WO 97, Militia Attestation Papers; WO 68, Militia Enrolment Lists; WO 12, General Muster Books and Pay Lists; WO 13, Muster Rolls & Pay Lists; WO 25 & WO 76, Militia Officers)

Records within series WO 76 are available to download free of charge as part of the Digital Microfilm project or available online at Findmypast.

The name index covering series WO 97 is available at the TNA Discovery catalogue. First select advanced search from the Discovery home page and enter the name being searched. In the ‘Search for or within references’ box type WO 97 and then scroll down to ‘Held by’ and click ‘Search The National Archives’. Finally click the search button. Further filters appear on the search results screen.

County Record Offices (Ballot and Militia Lists, Petty Session records, County Lieutenant records)

Period Covered

1285 - 1924

Genealogical Value

Militia Lists and Ballot Rolls
Names of adult males, parish addresses, lands and goods, occupations (from 1758). Details of his children from 1802.
Service Records
Name, parish address, age, date and place of birth, occupation and rank of militia man. His company and dates of enlistment and discharge.

Further References

Barnes, Michael. Meonstoke & Hambledon Hundreds: Portsdown Regiment1626-1642: Michael Barnes, 2011

Beckett, Ian. Britain's Part-time Soldiers: The Amateur Military Tradition 1558-1945: Pen & Sword Books, 2011  

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

Boynton, Lindsay. The Elizabethan Militia, 1558-1638: Routledge, 1967

Chapman, Colin. Pre-1841 Censuses & Population Listings in the British Isles: Lochin Publishing, 2002 (Preview available from Google Books)

Buy Now on Amazon
Faraday, M.A. The Herefordshire Musters of 1539 and 1542: M.A. Faraday, 2004 Buy Now on Amazon

Gibson, Jeremy & Medlycott, Mervyn. Militia Lists and Musters, 1757-1876 (5th ed): The Family History Partnership, 2013

Gibson, Jeremy & Dell, Alan. Tudor and Stuart Muster Rolls: Federation of Family History Societies, 1989

Norfolk, R. W. S. Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteer Forces of the East Riding 1689-1908: East Yorkshire Local History Society, 1965 Buy Now on Amazon

Oates, Jonathan. Tracing Your Ancestors from 1066 to 1837: Pen and Sword Books, 2012

Roper, Michael. The Records of the War Office and Related Departments, 1660-1964: Public Record Office, 1998

Spencer, William. Records of the Militia and Volunteer Forces: PRO Readers Guide, 1997

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

TNA Research Guide: Militia: further research

The EurekA Partnership
: Various titles containing transcriptions of militia records covering Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire and Worcestershire

Websites (Links to companies and organisations selling genealogy products including militia related material) (TNA Guide: Looking for records of a person in a Militia) (1911 Encyclopedia Britannica: Militia of the United Kingdom) (Hertfordshire Family History Society: The Militia Ballot List Index. Historical & Legislative Background. The indexes are available on a searchable CD. See below for details)
(Militia Musters of 1781 and 1782: Durham, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & Yorkshire) (Lancashire Record Office: Handlist 72: Sources for the history of the militia and volunteer regiments in Lancashire) (UK Military Family History Online: Links to web sites with online data and information to aid in military family history research)

Online Databases (Name indexes for late 19th and early 20th century militia attestations extracted from TNA series WO 96, indexed by Jenifer Edmonds) (Militia Service Records 1806-1915: The records mainly consist of Militia Attestation Papers extracted from series WO 96 held at The National Archives) (British Army Service Records 1760-1920: The collection includes a myriad of Army forms including attestation papers, medical forms, discharge documents, pension claims, and proceedings of regimental boards from 11 different series of records from The National Archives. The dataset includes records from series WO 96 which has militia service records and WO 128 which has Imperial Yeomanry records) (County coverage includes: Lincolnshire, Kesteven Militia Ballot List, 1824; Northamptonshire Militia Lists, 1771. City of York Militia & Muster Rolls 1509-1829. The records show the militia man’s residence and occupation at the time of his service. Men in the militia were usually between the ages of 18 and 45 and served for three years)
(Militia Muster Records for England and Wales, 1781-1782. Names of those who appeared in the militia lists extracted from TNA series WO 13, Militia and Volunteers Muster Books and Pay Lists. Search by name and any relevant keyword or by ‘Corps’, ‘Company’ or the ‘Rank’ of the soldier) (Militia Service Records, 1806-1915 extracted from TNA series WO 96. Transcribed index with images available at findmypast UK)
(Dorset Records: Militia Lists, 1757-1860. Provided in association with the Dorset History Centre) (Warwickshire Militia, 1776-1825, produced in association with Warwickshire County Record Office) (West Yorkshire, Militia, 1779-1826. This collection includes a variety of militia-related records, including township payments to the militia, lists of officers, and lists of eligible men)
(Friends of Devon's Archives: 1715 Militia Assessments and related documents) (Northamptonshire Record Society: Northamptonshire Militia Lists 1777, edited by Victor Hatley. Transcriptions of the lists compiled by parish constables in each town or village, with analyses of crafts and trades for each Hundred) (The Soldier in later Medieval England: Muster Roll Database from muster rolls extracted from Exchequer Accounts, held at TNA in series E 101 covering 1369-1453; Protection Database, taken from the treaty rolls and only showing an intention to serve, held at TNA in series C 67 and C 71 covering 1369-1453; Normandy Garrison Database, extracted from mainly French repositories relating to occupation of Normandy, covering 1415-1453. Guidance notes by Anne Curry entitled 'Did your ancestor serve in the garrisons of Normandy 1415-1450?' and 'Was your ancestor on the Agincourt campaign with Henry V?' are available at the site)
Medieval Soldier Database (Forces War Records: Service records of soldiers who fought in the Hundred Years War between 1369 and 1453, compiled from the English Army Muster Roll and Garrison records) (Cornwall Online Parish Clerks: Muster Rolls database) (Online Parish Clerks: The project is run by volunteers who collect and transcribe parish records for a chosen Parish and make the data available for free online. The range of information covered includes Apprentice Indentures, Census Returns, Parish Registers, Bastardy Bonds, Settlement Certificates & Removal Orders, Militia/Muster records, Directories, Land Tax Assessments, Workhouse/Poor Law records, Churchwardens Accounts, Tithe Apportionments, Wills, Poor Rate Payers, Lay Subsidies, Protestation Returns, MIs, Church Memorials and Hearth Tax records. Old parish maps and photos are often included) (The Men of the Imperial Yeomanry, Lovats Scouts and Scottish Horse in the Boer War of 1899 to 1902) (The Buckinghamshire Posse Comitatus 1798, downloadable PDF file) (Worcestershire Archive Online Indexes: Kidderminster St Mary's Militia 1824-1831) (Royal Lancashire Volunteer Regiment Register of Recruits, 1779 - 1782, downloadable PDF book)

Many lists produced at a local level.

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (Militia Musters and Attestations)
Family History Indexes (Militia Musters Indexes extracted from WO 13, 1781-1782)
(Cornwall Muster Roll 1569; The Devon Muster Roll Of 1569; Dorset Tudor Muster Rolls 1539, 1542 and 1569; The Somerset Muster Roll Of 1569; The South West Muster Rolls For 1569) (Hertfordshire Family History Society: Hertfordshire Militia Ballot Lists. Contains all the Ballot Lists previously released in booklet form, presented in Adobe PDF format, indexed and fully searchable using Adobe Reader version 8 and above. Includes additionally a surnames list of names found in the lists and their location, some further Militia information and the surviving establishments of Hertfordshire Militia men for 1758, 1761-1762 and 1765)