Using the Internet to search for Militia Ancestors
If your ancestors served in the Militia it may seem that trying to trace their careers is significantly more difficult than those men that served in the regular army. But there are some great websites that can help you in your search.
What is the Militia?
The Militia was a part-time voluntary civilian force organised county-by-county, which was formalised by the Militia Act of 1757. The list of able-bodied men that were drawn up under this act can serve as a kind of census. The militia was widely embodied at various times during the French and Napoleonic Wars. It served at several vulnerable locations, particularly the South Coast and in Ireland. The militia could not be compelled to serve overseas, but it was seen as a training reserve for the army, as financial incentives were offered to men who opted to ‘exchange’ from the militia to the regular army.
In general the best advice to trying to find ancestors who served in the Militia is to go local and talk to the local records office, family history society or regimental museum. However there are a number of websites that may also be of use..So, in no particular order here are some good websites to help you in your search.
This is a great place to start your search. Type in Militia to the Genuki search box and you will get 1066 matches. All of which are links to other sites that have Militia relevant information on them. These could be the Militia lists and Musters for Cambridgeshire, or it could be information on Sir John Reresby’s Militia Troop
The National Archives (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk)
As always, the National Archives is a great source of information. Their specific webpage for the Militia is http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=26&j=1 The Archives hold a great deal of information on various aspects of the Militia including soldier and officer papers, commission books, muster rolls, casualties and medal rolls.
Militia Attestations Index (www.originsnetwork.com)
This Index currently contains the names of over 110,000 recruits to militias in Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Northumberland, Suffolk, Surrey, Wiltshire and Yorkshire, and in south and central Scotland; the Irish Origins database contains an index to a further 12,500 men who applied to militias in Ireland. These recruits came from all over the British Isles.
They also have a digital archive of the complete WO96 section from TNA. Available for search and download at £10 per soldier. Or you can use the information here to access the documents in person at the Archives.
As I have already said, the best place to start your search maybe your local records office. Once you have an idea of where/when your ancestor served you can go through the Access to archives and the National Register of Archives to fins records held in local offices. Some of these archives may provide online indexes while others will demand that you visit in person. Many regimental museums will also hold relevant information, and while most offer a visit-by-appointment, many do offer research services. The best place to track down your regimental museum is at www.armymuseums.org.uk