Dating military soldiers
Of limited detail by themselves, tracing a soldier’s career through the muster lists should lead you to a discharge date and would therefore allow you to find a record of discharge – likely to be the most detailed record available if the soldier did not receive an army pension.
Step 3: Search for a record of discharge (see section 7) Most soldiers were not discharged to pension and for those that weren’t the number and detail of surviving records is likely to be reduced.
Both in-pensioners and out-pensioners are often referred to simply as pensioners, or sometimes Chelsea pensioners.
To be eligible for admission as an in-pensioner a man had to be a life pensioner of the army (that is, in receipt of a service or disability pension), aged 55 or more (unless in receipt of a disability pension) and free from the responsibility of supporting a wife or children.
There are various ways to approach this research but the following steps provide a logical order to follow (assuming the soldier did not die in service): Step 1: Search for a pension record (see sections 4 and 5) Step 2: Search for the soldier in muster rolls and pay lists (see section 6) In the absence of a pension record and without a known date of discharge the best place to start a search is in the muster rolls and pay lists.
You will need to know either where in the world he served at any point during his service or at least one of the regiments he served with to make a start.
Most, however, were out-pensioners, receiving a pension administered by the hospitals but not actually residing in them.
More records of disability pensions are available in series PIN 71 but these records are not available online – see section 4 for more details.
Download, free of charge, digital microfilm copies of admission books from Royal Hospital Chelsea for pensions awarded to soldiers for length of service 1823-1913 (WO 117).
The advice here applies to records of non-commissioned officer ranks, which include: The Ministry of Defence website gives more detail on British Army ranks.
For records of commissioned officers see our British Army officers up to 1913 guide.