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Search guide: British Military Records

3-4 minute read

By The Findmypast team

5 August 2016

Findmypast is home to over 67 million military records, many of which cannot be found anywhere else online.

Our British, Irish and American records cover your ancestors' activity in all major conflicts from pre-Revolution colonial conflicts to World War II and beyond.

Read on to see some of our best collections and key tips to get the most out of them. And don't miss our webinar this Thursday, Alma Summers and the Great War for some key tips on what you can find in military records.

Findmypast has the largest collection of British military records available online. You can search all of our military records at once here, or you can browse a list of all military record sets here.

Here are some of our favorites:

Find your ancestors from this compilation of 11 different record sets from The National Archives in the United Kingdom. These 7.8 million documents contain officers and other ranks and is the most significant British Army collection available online.

Documents included in this collection include:

The attestation form was completed when the soldier joined the regiment and was updated throughout his military career. This, together with other papers found in soldiers files can help piece together a very detailed picture of an individual.

Some of the medical reports found on attestation forms reveal how tough conditions could be for the men and how they reacted to these conditions.

This search covers all available papers for each soldier, and can be found only on Findmypast.

Search tip: This collection is also available as a browse database, which allows you to easily explore more than one individual in the records. Military historians will find this feature particularly useful.

If your ancestors served in the British navy or marines, this record set is incredibly valuable.

The records in this collection relate to armed forces pensioners from the Royal Navy (seamen) and the Royal Marines (marines). Often at the end of their careers after being discharged, seamen and marines would be awarded pensions.

Her Majesty's Naval Service, of which the Royal Navy and Royal Marines are a part, is the oldest branch of the armed forces in the United Kingdom, dating back to the early 1500s. The extent to which the British Empire expanded and dominated as a world power for several centuries is in large part due to the roll and power of the Royal Navy.

There are two types of pensions awarded by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines:

These records will contain valuable genealogical data as well as information on the pensioner's service.

Search tip: Images may provide additional information such as the amount of the pension being paid, next of kin, or additional remarks noted in the register. Use the previous and next arrows in the image viewer to see all the images associated with your ancestor.

Military historians will be delighted to hear that this collection is also available with a browse feature.

Another collection that can only be found on Findmypast, these 2.5 million records from The National Archives are diverse and varied. The size and the scope of these records make them a fascinating resource for genealogists.

The records not only include military personnel but also civilians, diplomats, missionaries and merchant seamen - all from the wide array of nations that fought against Britain in various conflicts.

The nature of these records varies greatly. In some, you will find lists of the names of prisoners; in others, you will find detailed records of the daily life of the prisoners including physical descriptions of your ancestors.

By viewing the original document you can reveal even more about your ancestor. The image will also help you to put the information into a wider context and understand why your ancestor's name was recorded. Because of the diversity of the documents, you may find more than one record for an ancestor.

Prisoners of war for the following conflicts can be found:

If you have ancestors from Ireland who lived there before the 1920's, you should be able to find them in British military records if they served.

The Irish have a proud (and under-recognized) history of fighting in the British Army and were especially good soldiers and fierce fighters. As the eldest male child often inherited the family farm, second and third sons often faced the choice of immigrating to America or joining the British military.

If your ancestors participated in Irish military activity that opposed the crown, we have records that cover that as well. Our new, never-before digitized 1916 Rising collection details the trials and tribulations of accused participants in the Rising from 1916-1921.

While you will find plenty of Americans in the British prisoner of war records, Findmypast also has Revolutionary War pension files and Civil War Medal of Honor Rolls. And of course, PERSI is a fantastic source for military content throughout American history.