Military records are a great resource for researchers. From 1660 until 1922, the Irish were part of the British Armed Forces and as such records on service are housed in English repositories.
The major branches of the military consisted of the regular army and navy. There were other branches such as the militia, yeomanry, territorial armies, coast guard units, and royal marines. Each of these units kept their own records.
Most officers were from the upper classes and most soldiers came from the poor or lower classes in Ireland and Britain. There was no draft, or it was seldom used, except by the militia. The officers in each parish would decide who would serve in their local militia.
Military records can be difficult to find as most are not indexed. For regular army and navy records, contact the Public Record Office in Kew. The LDS Church also has some records microfilmed.
The army began a permanent organization in 1660. Earlier armies were usually called militias and were raised as needed. Pre-1847 British Army was usually for life. Some soldiers were discharged early for disabilities (often by age 40). Army records before 1872 are listed by regiment. Records from 1872 to 1882 are listed alphabetically by type of troop. Post 1882 records are arranged in single alphabetical order.
The earliest surviving Navy records are from 1617. There are ships logs dating back to 1673 but usually they do not contain genealogical information. Until 1852, enlistment in the Navy was informal and lasted only from the time of the ships commission, about three years. Seaman often served in the Navy and Merchant Marines. After 1853, most seaman enlisted for the rest of their careers.
Records from the 20th C. are confidential. Some information may be obtained from the next of kin if sent in writing to: Army Records Centre, Bourne Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex UB3 1RF, England. Naval records can be obtained through the Ministry of Defense, Main Building, Whitehall SW1A 2HB, England.
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