WHAT THEY CONTAIN:
Summary of WO 97
Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents
Scope and content
This is the main series of service documents of soldiers (but not officers) who either became in- or out-pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The attestation and discharge documents in this series constitute the most detailed record of a soldier's service. The early part of the series also occasionally contains records of men who bought themselves out of their regiment or who applied unsuccessfully for a pension.
The records usually give particulars of age, birthplace, service (including any decorations), information about physical description, previous occupation on enlistment and the reason given for discharge to pension. Documents after 1883 usually contain fuller particulars, such as next of kin and details of marriage and children.
The series generally does not contain the records of soldiers who died in service or who took an early discharge and never received a pension. These service records would not have survived because they were not required for pension purposes.
The types of document that have most commonly survived are :
discharge forms, which were issued when a soldier left the regiment
attestation forms, which are the documents signed by the new recruit
the proceedings of a regimental board and record of service, which was a later variety of discharge form
a variety of supporting correspondence
questionnaires of past service, which an applicant for an in-pension completed if others documents had not survived
affidavits, which out-pensioners outside London made every quarter to state that they were not drawing on other public funds.
THE STORY SO FAR.....
For anyone wishing to use the information contained within this site, I would like to make it clear that this index has been produced by myself, working from information supplied from the National Archives, and that this index is not the same as the one produced by the National Archives
My aim to transcribe the complete WO97 series from the Public record office PROCAT site is now well underway, with approximately 20% of the indexed files available to view from within this site. I still hear from researchers who are invariably perplexed at how to access and view these files through the PRO's PROCAT site. My attempts to guide anyone through the searching of the PROCAT catalogue usually end in frustration for the unfortunate surfer/researcher. Hopefully, I should soon have a step by step guide page on how to find any WO series of records.
These records are merely an on-line index, as the full records can be seen at the PRO, usually on microfilm. I have been successful in obtaining the full records for 5 soldiers at a time by using the WO97 reference. ie
WO 97/23/88 ANDREW BROWN Born WEXFORD, Wexford Served in 18th Dragoons (Light); 6th Dragoon Guards Discharged aged 45 Covering date gives year of discharge. ... 1788
5 pieces is the maximum number permitted to request photocopies of by postal return. There is a minimum charge of £10 sterling, (payable by secure c/card facility) which in my case was enough to cover the cost(around 3 pages of information for each soldier). plus postage. If the documents to be copied were to cost more than the £10 the PRO will contact you to advise of the surcharge, you can then decide whether or not to proceed with the purchase. It took about 3 to 4 weeks for my records to arrive, though this could be considerably longer at certain times and most certainly if you are ordering from overseas. I used the on-line ordering facility which seemed very user friendly and easy to understand.
I had a slight dissappointment in the actual records, as, in my case, there really was no more information contained within them than what appeared on the actual index. But having heard from other researchers who have ordered the records for their own ancestors, some have had a wealth of personal background and service details outlined, so it may well be worth the effort and small cost of ordering copies.
The attestation and discharge records for soldiers between 1883 and 1913 would seem to contain quite a lot more family detail, and I would say these were well worth checking, however, as these records are still viewed in their original form they are as yet unindexed. They are in alphabetical order by surname, and they can only be viewed (as far as I'm aware) at the PRO in Kew.
If you have a surname thats not too common, it might be possible to apply for copies from a roll of film that contains names which will include the surname you're researching, you might just get lucky and net your ancestor in the trawl! I shall try and put the links to the later papers onto the site to help with this.