News Release: Historical Wills of Scottish Soldiers Go Online

Photo of Private Andrew Cox of the Highland Light Infantry killed in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, aged 22. Photo courtesy of National Records of Scotland
Photo of Private Andrew Cox of the Highland Light Infantry killed in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, aged 22. Photo courtesy of National Records of Scotland

Historical Wills of Scottish Soldiers Go Online

The last wishes of Scottish soldiers at the Front: The National Records of Scotland release Soldiers’ Wills from WW1, WW2, the Boer War, Korean War and other conflicts between 1857 and 1964

The wills of 31,000 Scottish soldiers are being made available online by the National Records of Scotland as part of commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The poignant documents include the last wishes of 26,000 ordinary Scottish soldiers who died in the Great War.

The new records contain the wills for ancestors of some famous Scots. For instance, John Feeley, the great-great-grandfather of the Paisley musician, Paolo Nutini, is included. Private Feeley served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and died of wounds sustained during the Battle of Arras on 23 April 1917. Feeley left all of his property and effects to his wife, Annie, who lived until 1964.

Will of Andrew Cox in his own handwriting leaving everything to his mother - Elizabeth Cox. Image courtesy of the National Records of Scotland
Will of Andrew Cox in his own handwriting leaving everything to his mother – Elizabeth Cox. Image courtesy of the National Records of Scotland

Researchers at the National Records of Scotland have also discovered the will of Andrew Cox, the uncle of Dundee-born actor, Brian Cox. A rope-worker before the war, Private Andrew Cox served with the Highland Light Infantry and was killed in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, aged 22 – sadly, his body was never identified. Like many unmarried soldiers, Andrew Cox left all of his possessions to his mother, Elizabeth.

The records are drawn from all the Scottish infantry and cavalry regiments, as well as the Royal Artillery, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Army Service Corps, the Machine Gun Corps and other units, and a few who served in the Royal Flying Corps and the RAF. Almost all the wills were written by soldiers below officer rank, but some wills for commissioned officers are also included.

In addition to the wills from the Great War, there are almost 5,000 from Scots soldiers serving in all theatres during the Second World War, several hundred from the Boer War and Korean War, and wills from other conflicts between 1857 and 1964.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in the Scottish Government, said: “These small but powerful documents are a testament to the sacrifice in wartime made by thousands of Scots, not only the soldiers themselves, but also their families and loved ones.”

Tim Ellis, Registrar General and Keeper of the Records of Scotland, said: “We are privileged to be marking the centenary of the start of the First World War by making these remarkable records available. They give us a unique insight into the service of Scottish soldiers during the First and Second World Wars, but also in other conflicts before and since.”

Annelies van den Belt, the CEO of DC Thomson Family History, who enable the ScotlandsPeople website on behalf of the National Records of Scotland, said: “We’re very pleased to add this new set of records to the ScotlandsPeople site. These fascinating documents make for poignant reading and we’re sure that anyone who views the wills will feel a strong emotional connection to those who lost their lives in these conflicts.”

The Soldiers’ Wills are available at www.ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk, at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh, and at local family history centres in Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Hawick and Inverness.

Worldwide Indexing Event – Mark the Date – Sunday July 20, 2014

 

FamilySearch Indexing page where you can learn how to index and find a project to interest you
FamilySearch Indexing page where you can learn how to index and find a project to interest you

Worldwide Indexing Event

FamilySearch is hosting a Worldwide Indexing event with a goal of reaching 20,000 participants involved in one 24 hour period. The period is from Sunday July 20, 6 pm (MDT – Mountain Daylight Time) to Monday July 21, 6 pm (MDT). Participants will be encouraged to work on projects from their native language and world region but you do have the freedom to choose where you want to get involved.

FamilySearch has accomplished some impressive indexing goals. The whole of the US 1940 Census was indexed. Since then the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Community Project completed the indexing of over 75 million records.

The One Billion record milestone was reached in March 2013. As of Tuesday May 20, 2014 a total of 1,162,470,188 records have been indexed. This is an impressive number that continues to grow. If you want to check out the current total you can do so at https://FamilySearch.org/indexing. 2014 has been designated as the Year of the Obituary and so far over 17 million names have been extracted and indexed from obituaries.

Don’t wait to the last minute to get involved. Go to https://FamilySearch.org/indexing and find a project that interests you and get involved. Do some practicing before the July 20, 2014 Indexing Event. There is a new indexing program coming soon with no software to download, you can index anytime you are connected and you will soon be able to index from your tablet.

Share the news about this Worldwide Indexing Event and get involved.

WWI Soldiers – Online records – pt3 case study William Henry Milner

Ancestry search results for William Henry Milner in WWI 'Pension Records' WO364 - note multiple options, with at least two being the same soldier.
Ancestry search results for William Henry Milner in WWI ‘Pension Records’ WO364 – note multiple options, with at least two being the same soldier.

British Army WWI Pension Records – “Unburnt Series” – WO364. This set of records is incorrectly called the pension records for they are not pension records in the classic sense. After the destruction of many of the Army records during the Second World War the War Office needed to find a way to supplement the records that had survived in what is now WO363. An appeal was made to other government departments that might hold records of service. The largest collection, but not only collection, came from the Ministry of Pensions – thus this collection is commonly known at the British Army WWI Pension Records or the “Unburnt Records

The records typically relate to regular soldiers serving in the army prior to the war who were discharged at the end of their service, those receiving a war pension who had since died or whose claims were refused, or men who later claimed a disability pension from either wounds or sickness. The collection does not include soldiers who signed up for the duration of the war unless they received a pension on medical grounds since such a soldier was entitled only to a gratuity upon demobilization.

The image shows part of the results of a search for William Milner. I am looking for the William Henry Milner from the Hundred of Hoo in Kent with 8 pages in the file. This is a good example though of the problem with landing pages which I touched on in the first blog posting in this series. An algorithm was used to find the attestation papers and discharge papers in the file. However, in this case there are two sets of attestation and discharge papers for the one soldier in the file. The entry below, again William Henry Milner does not show a place of birth, but is actually the same soldier and this can be confirmed from the details in the files.

1892 Attestation Form for William Henry Milner into Royal Artillery
1892 Attestation Form for William Henry Milner into Royal Artillery

Let’s examine some of the pages in the file and see the value of what is in the records.

William Henry Milner, No. 93560, attested on 18 October 1892 (yes 1892), joining the next day the Royal Artillery at Dover, Kent. At the time he was 20 years 8 months, born in the Parish of the Hundred of Hoo in or near the town of Rochester, Kent. This is all on Army Form B. 265. At the time he is 5 ft. 6 ¼ inches, weighs 126 lbs, with a chest measurement of 35, expanding to 36. He has fresh complexion, brown eyes and hair and by religion is a Bethel Congregationalist.

 

Military History Sheet for William Henry Milner showing service in England, India and Aden
Military History Sheet for William Henry Milner showing service in England, India and Aden

Thankfully William has a Military History Sheet in his file. This shows that he was home (i.e. serving in England) from 18 Oct. 1892 to 8 Feb 1894. He then went to India from 9 Feb 1894 to 11 Dec 1896, then on to Aden 12 Dec 1896 to 29 Mar 1901. Back to England from 20 Mar 1901 to 20 Apr 1902, then went onto active reserve being finally discharged 17 Oct 1904. He served a total of 12 years but only had 9 years 185 of pensionable service. The same form shows that his next of kin was his father Henry Milner, Isle of Grain, Kent. However the form also shows that he married Elizabeth Lorden on 6 Nov. 1901.

So why is William’s record to be found in WO364 for World War One? The simple answer is he attested again on 25 November 1915 into the RGA – Royal Garrison Artillery as a gunner with a regimental number of 7491. He is by now 43 years 403 days old, and living at Lower Street, Leeds, Kent. The new attestation form mentions his earlier discharge after first period limited engagement. His religion is Wesleyan. His next of kin is his wife Mrs. Elizabeth Milner of Lower Street, Leeds, Kent. This form adds to their marriage date of 6 Nov 1901 the place of Lower Stoke, Kent. They also have two children Ruby born 14 Aug 1902 in Gillingham, Kent, and Violet Grace born 20 Apr 1914 in Leeds, Kent.

WWI Discharge Papers for William Henry Milner
WWI Discharge Papers for William Henry Milner

William was discharged from the army on 16 Dec 1916 as medically unfit. His cause of discharge is described – “originated 1900 in England. Suffered from bronchitis every winter since 1900. Is frequently laid up. Has a severe bronchial cough, + for his age, is much debilitated. Eyesight weak. Not result of, but aggravated by military service. Permanent. Prevents ¼.” He was admitted to pension on 6 Dec 1916 and awarded 5 shillings per week. On 11 July 1917 his award was increased to 8s. 3d. and 2s. 9d. for two from 4 Apr 1917 to 16 Jun 1917, then 50 Pounds gratuity. The gratuity is 25 pounds for permanent disability and 25 pounds for 10 years of service.

Some points to note. Because William Henry Milner did not during WWI serve overseas he will not appear in the medal rolls. He did not die in service so will not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves website. This may be the only mention of his WWI service. However, he was in the army prior to the war and therefore when a search in WO97 Soldiers documents for pre WWI soldiers his records of service are found there.

Searching for a soldier is always a matter of exploring what records may have been created by your soldier and searching to find which of them may have survived.