How to look for records of... Militia
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
1. Why use this guide?
This guide will help you find records containing details of officers and ordinary soldiers who served with the Militia between 1522 and 1907.
For records of the Yeomanry, Volunteers and Territorials see our guide on Volunteers and Territorials.
2. Essential information
The Militia was a part-time voluntary force organised by county. Modern militias were created by the Militia Act of 1757. They became the Special Reserve in 1908.
In 1881, the army was reorganised and militia regiments were attached to units of the regular army, taking on the new regiment’s name in the process.
To search our catalogue for records from a specific regiment, you will need to use the right name according to the date.
To find out which militia regiments were associated to which regular army regiments you will need to look at the Army Lists from 1881 onwards. Each volume has an alphabetical list of regular army regiments and includes details of the militia regiments attached to them.
The Army Lists are available in the reading rooms at Kew.
Please note, where we direct you to online records there may be a charge to view them off site, but you can view them for free at the National Archives in Kew.
3. Soldiers’ records of service 1757-1914
3.1 Documents available online
- search militia attestation papers (WO 96) on findmypast.co.uk (£). Most of these date from the mid-19th century. They are often annotated until the date of discharge so provide a complete service record
- search discharge certificates (WO 97) by name on findmypast.co.uk (£). These cover a few soldiers who qualified for pensions following the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars
- browse and view disability pensions (WO 116) by date through our catalogue
- browse and view long service pensions (WO 117) by registered Chelsea number through our catalogue
3.2 Documents available only at The National Archives
Use the advanced search option in our catalogue to look for soldiers’ records.
Enter a relevant keyword (such as names or regiments), and search within the relevant reference (such as WO 68). You can also enter a date range.
The records listed below can only be viewed at The National Archives, Kew.
- Enrolment books and casualty books (WO 68) 1759-1925. Search using the name of the regiment from before or after 1881
- Muster rolls and paylists (WO 13) 1780-1878. Search by county or by regiment using pre-1881 names
- Muster rolls of some London and Middlesex Volunteer and Territorial regiments (WO 70) 1860-1912. Search using the name of the battalion
- Militia pension registers of the Royal Hospital Chelsea (WO 23) 1821-1829. Search using the name of the battalion
4. Officers records of service 1757-1907
4.1 Documents available online
- Use our catalogue to search and download officers’ service records (WO 76) 1764-1914 by officer’s name or regiment
- Use our catalogue to search registers of militia officers (WO 25) 1812-1824 by regiment. Some are searchable by officer’s name.
4.2 Documents available only at The National Archives
Use the advanced search in our catalogue to look for officers’ records.
Enter a relevant keyword (such as names or regiments), and search within the relevant reference (such as WO 68). To focus your results you can also enter a date range.
The records listed below can only be viewed at the National Archives in Kew.
- Records of militia regiments (WO 68) 1759-1925. Search using the name of the regiment. This is a logical place to start your research as it contains exclusively militia records. However you can find references to militia officers among records of the regular army.
- Royal warrants for establishment of militia (WO 24) 1759-1829. Search using the keyword ‘militia’
- Militia muster rolls and paylists (WO 13) 1780-1878. Search using county or pre-1881 regiment names
- Lists of Commissions (HO 50) 1782-1840. Search using a place name or ‘militia’
- Entry books of commissions, appointments, and warrants (HO 51) 1758-1855. Search using keywords ‘militia AND commissions’, or ‘militia AND correspondence’
4.3 Specific documents
- A register of commissions is in HO 51/136.
- Militia officers’ original commissions (1780-1874) is in WO 43/1059.
- Irish Militia commission books (1794) are in WO 25/118 and can be viewed online
4.4 Other sources for officers
- Annual militia lists from 1794 onwards are available in The National Archives’ library in Kew. Each volume lists all the officers who served that year with any militia regiment. Some have name indexes.
- Lists of officers’ commissions appear in the London Gazette, on The Gazette website.
5. Casualties and deserters (1744-1925)
Search our catalogue using keywords such as deserter AND militia. You can filter your results using the options on the left of the results page.
Alternatively, use the advanced search option in our catalogue to look for casualties and deserters in the record series specified below.
Enter a keyword as suggested, and search within the relevant reference. To focus your results you could also enter a date range.
- WO 68 – casualty lists. Use keyword ‘casualty’
- WO 13 – references to deserters. Use a place or county name as a keyword
- E182 – names of deserters for whom a reward was offered. Use the county name as a keyword
The references below are to specific records that might be useful:
- WO 129/9-11 and WO 108/338 – casualties of the Special Reserve during the South African war
- WO 25/2934, WO 25/2906 and WO 4/591-653 – lists of deserters, including militiamen
In general militiamen did not receive campaign medals. For those that did:
- search and download campaign medal rolls (WO 100) at Ancestry.co.uk (£). They list militiamen who received the Queen’s (or King’s) South Africa Medal or the Queen’s Mediterranean Medal, while serving with the regular army
- use our catalogue to search and download Militia Long Service and Good Conduct medal records (WO 102/22)
7. Muster records: 1522-1649
The militia muster rolls listed all those liable for military service.
7.1 Finding Tudor and Stuart musters
Unlike later musters, Tudor and Stuart muster rolls do not represent a complete census of the male population.
The essential guide to finding muster rolls in The National Archives is Gibson and Dell’s Tudor and Stuart Muster rolls (see further reading booklist).
Arranged by county, and then by hundred, wapentake, lathe and so on, it lists:
- what is held by The National Archives
- what is held by local archives
- what has been transcribed and published
Many publications by local record societies are held by The National Archives’ Library.
7.2 Finding the right district
You can find the right hundred, wapentake or lathe using one of the following sources:
- Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (S. Lewis and Co., 1840)
- The 1851 Census Index to the Names of the Parishes, Townships and Places in the Population Tables (HMSO, 1852)
- Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, 2 vols by FA Young (Royal Historical Society, 1980, 1991)
7.3 What information do the militia musters contain?
It is estimated that, on average, a muster roll for this period is likely to omit one third of the names it was supposed to contain.
The earliest preserved muster roll is from 1522 and is unique in listing:
- the value of their lands
- all males over 16 and the value of their goods
- some 1522 returns also give occupations and the names of lords of the manor. See Cornwall or Hoyle in the Further reading booklist.
From 1523 to 1569 muster rolls list only:
- the names of those liable for military service
- the equipment required of the militiaman
From 1570 only muster rolls (also known as certificates of musters) for ‘trained bands’ (those selected for special training) listed names. All others only listed the total number of men but no names.
7.4 Hard to find muster records
Some musters are amongst other records held at The National Archives. They are not mentioned in the document descriptions so can be hard to find. The documents listed below are known to contain musters.
|Record series or part series||Dates||Printed and online finding aids|
|E 101 bundles 58-62 and 549; E 36/16 to E 36/55a; E 315/464 and E 315/466 and SP 1 and SP 2||1522-1547||Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII|
|SP 1, SP 2 and SP 10||1509-1547, 1516-1539, 1547-1553||State Papers Online (institutional subscription required) and British History Online (£)|
|SP 12 and E 101 bundles 64-66||1559-1603 and 1569, 1573, 1577 and 1580||State Papers Online (institutional subscription required) and British History Online (£)|
|SP 14||1603-1625 (James I)|
|SP 16 and SP 17||1625-1640 (Charles I)|
Some muster rolls have only survived with the private papers of local gentry families who served as commissioners of array or deputy lieutenant – these may be in local archives.
You can try searching our catalogue for a specific person. Use the person’s surname followed by ‘AND’ and then ‘muster’.
A search for “Daniell AND muster” returns the private papers of John Daniell of Daresbury. These papers include musters, commissions, and several muster rolls of the trained band he captained.
8. Records in other archives
8.1 Local militia lists (1758-1831)
Every parish in England and Wales was obliged to create lists of males aged 18 to 45, and to hold a ballot to choose those who had to serve in the Militia.
Two lists were created each year from 1758-1831:
- militia lists (of all men)
- militia enrolment lists (of men chosen to serve)
The lists should provide an annual male census for the local area, giving details about men and their family circumstances. They are held in local archives but the coverage of the country is not complete. Consult Gibson’s and Medlycott’s Militia lists and musters 1757-1876.
Local archives also hold poor law records which can include orders for the maintenance of children of militiamen.
8.2 Parliamentary Papers
Lists of officers were presented to the House of Commons in 1839, 1840 and 1862. Look in Parliamentary Papers (institutional subscription required) for these lists using the references below:
- HC 1839, xxxi, 267 (1839)
- HC 1840, xxx, 253 (1840)
- HC 1862, xxxii, 583 (1862)
9. Further reading
Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.
Also see J Cornwall, A Tudor Domesday: The musters of 1522, Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol iii (1965-1969)