Share |

Chelsea Pensioner's Records

Article Date: 
11 June, 2010 - 06:00

In March, FindMyPast.com announced that many of the Chelsea Pensioner records have been digitized and indexed.  This is a big deal because they are the records on anyone who received a pension from the British Army from 1760 to 1913.  At the end of last week they announced that they had added 100,000 records to the collection.  
These records are called the Chelsea Pensioners Records because the administrative office for the Army was located in Chelsea, England, but the records contain information about everyone enlisted in the whole of the British Army who received a pension, whether from England or anywhere else in the world.  An individual qualified for a pension after they had served in the army for twelve years.
     If you have an ancestor that you know, or believe , would have received a pension from the British Army, this will be a great place to search. Before they became available online, the only way to use these records was a trip to the National Archives in England. These records have never been microfilmed.
Up until this project, it was also necessary to know the date your ancestor filed to receive a pension, which made them much more difficult to use.   You can now search by their name only and view a full record from the comfort of your home.  An index to these records has been made possible by a project which included participation from FamilySearch, FindMyPast, and the National Archives.  
The pensioner records often contain richer information, with more detail than  other records.  There are normally between five and twenty documents.  They not only contain information on birth date and birth place, but they also contain a physical description of the individuals who received pensions and in which regiment your they served.  
These records are from a time period before there was photography, so it is a good way to get a “picture” of your ancestor.  There is also an added bonus on many of the records to have the pensioner’s signature which gives it more authenticity and makes it even more real and personal to the individual who is searching for their relatives.
Some of the information you’ll find is very surprising.  For example, there were many young men who enlisted while still in their mid-teens.  Also, there were many records that reported men who were less than five feet tall.  That’s a pretty small stature to be fighting in the Boar War, or World War I.  
There is other information that can give you an insight that you may not have had otherwise.  There is information on the pensioner’s medical condition and their reason for leaving the army.  Also, if your ancestor was in a court case as a part of their service then the actual words of your ancestor may have been recorded in the court proceedings included in these records.   
Another benefit of having access to these records is that they can be extremely helpful in finding other family members.  They contain the address of the individual receiving th pension as well as some family information.  
The records contain information about individuals of all classes.  Whether the individual you are searching for was an officer and nobly born, or a soldier and of the lowest birth in the British hierarchy, if they received an army pension, they will be contained in these records.
The index can be searched for free, however, once an individual is found, there is a fee to see the full transcription or the images.  The fee can be paid in two different ways.  You can pay for each one individually to view each record, or you can purchase a subscription which gives unlimited access to all of the records.
If you have British Ancestry, FindMyPast is probably the best single resource for records of your ancestors.  Besides the Chelsea Pensioners, there are other military records on FindMyPast as well.   
Whether you are looking for your ancestor in military records, census, emigration, or probate records, FindMyPast has a wealth of information that will be of great help in your search.  FamilySearch also has an extensive collection of British records.  So with the combination of FindMyPast and FamilySearch, you will have access to an unbeatable set of resources for doing your British family history.