To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
Manuscript army lists (1702–1752)
Browse the manuscript army lists in WO 64 to trace an officer’s promotions before the published army lists appeared in 1740.
Birth, marriage and death certificates (1755–1908)
Look through the baptismal certificates for British Army officers in WO 32/8903-8920 (1777-1868) and the certificates of marriage, death, burial and the birth of officers’ children in WO 42 (1755–1908). There are index books to these records in the reading rooms at The National Archives at Kew and separate indexes for the French, Swiss, Italian and Greek corps; Loyal American and Canadian corps; and the King’s German Legion.
Officers’ commissions (1679–1914)
Though the records contain scant information on each individual, the commissions or warrants of appointments of an officer are likely to be recorded in several places. Browse by reference or search using keywords such as ‘commissions’, ‘appointments’, ‘warrants’, ‘promotions’, ‘commission books’ or ‘succession books’ in the following series:
- Military entry books (1758–1855) in HO 51
- Submissions for royal approval of commissions, promotions and appointments (1809 and 1871–1914) in WO 103
In addition, use the index found in a private notebook (IND 1/8914) to locate records of commissions in SP 44/164 (1679–1782).
Army Purchase Commission records (1758–1908)
Browse through the various types of records created by the Army Purchase Commission in WO 74. Our catalogue does not yet contain separate descriptions for each piece but the series description provides some detail on the records included. Applications from officers of the British and Indian establishment (c.1871–1891) are in WO 74/1. The papers include certificates of service and related correspondence.
Commander in Chief’s memoranda of appointments, promotions and resignations (1793–1870)
Browse by reference the Commander-in-Chief’s memoranda in WO 31 for personal applications to purchase and sell commissions. The records are arranged by the date the appointment or promotion was announced in the London Gazette.
Secretary-at-War correspondence on the purchase and sale of commissions (1704–1858)
Select records by year range from WO 4/513 to WO 4/520 (1704–1858) to view War Office correspondence on the purchase and sale of commissions. Later volumes may include details of where the officer’s regiment was stationed or his own private address.
Half pay, disability and widows’ pensions (1755–1921)
Officers were not automatically entitled to a pension until 1871. Before then, when officers retired they sold their commissions or went on half pay.
Though there is little genealogical information in these documents, you can search for pension records using this advanced search option in our catalogue. Refine your search by date and try the following keywords and keyword combinations:
- ‘pension’ AND ‘widow’
- ‘pension’ AND the rank of officer
- ‘pension’ AND type of pay such as ‘half pay’
The following series all contain some records relating to officers’ pension. Click on the series codes for more information and to browse by reference/year or to search by the keywords suggested above:
Within the above listed series, the following may prove most useful and easiest to use:
- Registers of the annual bounty paid to officers’ widows in WO 25/3995 (1755–1816) and WO 25/3069-3072 (1815–1856). The registers come with indexes.
- Ledgers of payments of half pay in PMG 4 (1737–1921). After 1841 arranged alphabetically, not by regiment, making it easier to find an officer by name, even if you do not know the regiment.
- Records of officers on half pay in WO 24/660-747 (1713–1809). The records provide an officer’s name, rank and regiment.