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Soldiers' documents
The records entitled Royal Hospital Chelsea soldiers' documents,1760-1913, are the discharge papers given to men who received a pension. They can be found in the PRO class WO 97. From 1883 onwards the Royal Hospital Chelsea records also include those men who did not receive a pension. Apart from those from the early years they give an account of each soldier's career including his place of birth, age, date and occupation when he joined up, promotions, decorations or discipline received, and when he was discharged. They also include a description of his physical appearance to prevent others using fraudulently. From 1883 they also give details about soldiers' families.

St Caths.com Tip
The soldiers' documents do not include records for anyone who did not receive discharge papers. Your ancestor might well have died before he became eligible for discharge.

These soldiers' documents are the best place to start your search if you know which regiment your ancestor was in. They are arranged by regiment until 1873, when they were still divided by cavalry, infantry, artillery or corps. Luckily there is a database at the PRO at Kew, which covers the period 1760 to 1854. From 1883 the documents are arranged alphabetically by name for the whole Army together.

There is also a series of discharge documents of pensioners from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which complement the soldiers' documents and do not duplicate them. These can be found in the PRO class WO 121.

If your ancestor was Irish, his discharge papers could have been handled by the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. These are held in a separate class, WO 119, at the PRO at Kew. The papers cover 1783 to 1822, when the Royal Hospital Chelsea took over all pensions. There are also separate records for soldiers discharged in the colonies of India, South Africa and Canada, 1772-1899. These can be found in the PRO classes WO 120, WO 69 and WO 70.

 
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