Friday, June 24, 2011

Records of Britain's everyday heroes go online at for the first time

The following is from FindMyPast.

  • Over half a million records covering 100 years of the militia - the forerunner of The British Territorial Army - published online
  • Records provide unique descriptions of what your ancestors actually looked like
  • Everyday workers including butchers and bakers fighting for their country
  • The British militia was recruited from all over the world 
Leading family history website, has published the records of over half a million men who served in the British militia, the precursor to the UK’s Territorial Army. The Militia Service Records, covering 1806 to 1915, have been made available online for the first time to coincide with British Armed Forces Day on Saturday.

The records colourfully portray what the British militia looked like, detailing the height, weight, chest size, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks of each recruit. Arthur Wilson’s distinguishing marks included an acrobat and dots tattooed on his left forearm. Similarly, Albert Smith, born in India, was recorded as having teeth that were ‘defective but enough for mastication’.

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager at , comments“These records provide rich insight into our past and show how the everyday man, such as your local shopkeeper, found himself fighting for his country. In the absence of photographs, these records can help you imagine what your ancestors looked like, containing details which are largely unavailable elsewhere. Our easy to use website means you can unearth even more fascinating and detailed information about your ancestors at the click of a mouse.”

Like today’s Territorial Army, the militia was made up of men who held everyday jobs, but took part in military exercises and on occasions fought for their country. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, these typically included shoemakers, woodchoppers, butchers, bakers, coal miners and millers.

Charles Godfrey, for example, was a butcher for a Mr Debron in Oxford. Born in the Parish of Botley, Berkshire, Godfrey volunteered for the militia on 25th July 1887 aged 18. Charles served with the 3rdBattalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and was recorded as being five feet four inches tall with steel grey eyes.

William Spencer, Principal Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, commented:“It took a certain kind of individual to leave a day job as a blacksmith, labourer or barman and enlist as a part time soldier in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the majority never left British shores, many saw active service with the regular army in places such as South Africa during the Second Boer War. Like its modern equivalent, the Territorial Army, the pre-WWI militia offered a way for former soldiers to continue serving their country and civilians a chance to leave humdrum jobs, earn extra money and enjoy the comradeship such services had to offer.”

The Militia Service Records are the only set of their kind available online and have been published in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch. The records show that the soldiers who made up the militia during that period hailed not only from the UK itself, but also from around the world. Some recruits had been born in Italy, Ceylon, South Africa and even as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

David Rencher, Chief Genealogy Officer at FamilySearch added: “The publication of the Militia Service Records fills another critical gap in the family historian’s toolkit. The digitisation and indexing of this rich collection will make it easy to find the regiment an ancestor served with and also when and where he was born. Family historians will quickly realise the value of this information, particularly when the record of an ancestor’s birth has been elusive or impossible to find elsewhere.”

Armed Forces Day
The release coincides with Armed Forces Day which is taking place on Saturday, 25 June 2011.
The day aims to raise public awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, It also gives the nation an opportunity to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families and from veterans to cadets. In 2011 the National Event will be held in Edinburgh, but there are many more events up and down the country being held in support of Armed Forces Day.

Full list of places of birth as recorded in the Militia Service Records:
Channel Islands
East Indies
Isle of Man
New Zealand
South America
At sea
West Indies

Leading UK family history website (formerly was the first company to make the complete birth, marriage and death indexes for England & Wales available online in April 2003.

Following the transcription, scanning and indexing of over two million images, the company launched the first website to allow the public easy and fast access to the complete indexes, which until then had only been available on microfiche film in specialist archives and libraries. The launch was instrumental in creating the widespread and growing interest in genealogy seen in the UK today. has subsequently digitised many more family history records and now offers access to over 750 million records dating as far back as 1200. This allows family historians and novice genealogists to search for their ancestors among comprehensive collections of military records, census, migration, occupation directories, and current electoral roll data, as well as the original comprehensive birth, marriage and death records.

In November 2006 launched the microsite in association with The National Archives to publish outbound passenger lists for long-distance voyages departing all British ports between 1890 and 1960.

In April 2007,’s then parent company Title Research Group received the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2007 in recognition of their achievement. was acquired in December 2007 by brightsolid, the company who were awarded The National Archives’ contract to publish online the 1911 census, which it launched in January 2009.

In 2010 in association with The National Archives launched the British Army Service Records 1760 - 1913.

About The National Archives
The National Archives,, is a government department and an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). As the official archives of the UK government, it cares for, makes available and ‘brings alive’ a vast collection of over 1000 years of historical records, including the treasured Domesday Book.
Not only safeguarding historical information, The National Archives also manages current digital information and devises new technological solutions for keeping government records readable now and in the future. It provides world class research facilities and expert advice, publishes all UK legislation and official publications, and is a leading advocate for the archive sector.
At the heart of information policy, The National Archives sets standards of best practice that actively promotes and encourages public access to, and the re-use of information, both online or onsite at Kew.This work helps inform today’s decisions and ensures that they become tomorrow’s permanent record.

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organisation in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. For over 100 years, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide and operates over 4,500 family history centres in 70 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

About the and FamilySearch partnership
In May 2008 UK family history website and US based FamilySearch ( announced the start of their new partnership after The National Archives awarded them the licence to digitise and make available the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ service records 1760 - 1913, the Militia attestation papers 1806 – 1915 and the Merchant Seamen’s collection of records. The Militia Service Records is the second major project that they have completed together and made available online. created indexes and transcriptions to enable members of the public to easily search the records online, while FamilySearch was responsible for the scanning programme of the historical records on site at The National Archives.

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