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Royal Artillery 1855-1876

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Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby Jep » Tue Oct 28, 2014 5:33 pm

My 2 x great-grandfather, John Morrish Sanders POTTER (1837-1923) enlisted in the Royal Artillery as John Potter in Tiverton, Devon on 17 May 1855. He gave his age as 20 years (3 years older than he actually was). I have his original discharge papers stating he was discharged on 15 August 1876 at Athlone, Ireland, having served 13 years and 2 months abroad. His final description is of 701, Gunner, a groom by trade. His conduct was fair and he was in possession of a good conduct badge, the Indian Mutiny Medal and a third class school certificate.
Whilst John was in Deesa , India in December 1867 he married Margaret BLYTH (nee DEDRIDGE) the widow of Alfred Hunt BLYTH also in the Royal Artillery. Margaret had married Alfred Hunt BLYTH in Finsbury Middlesex in 1862 in Finsbury Middlesex. According to family lore John POTTER had been Alfred’s batman, but I have been unable to corroborate this.
Margaret was 6 months pregnant when she married John Potter, her daughter baptised Elizabeth Blyth was born in March 1868 in Deesa India. The child died in July 1869 in Deolallee India but under the name of Elizabeth Potter.
The 1871 census shows John Potter in Aldershot Barracks – unmarried and in 1881 census he is back living in Cullompton Devon, a widower.
My questions are:
When and where did Alfred Hunt Blyth die?
Would a wife travel out to India with her soldier husband and live in barracks with him?
When and where did Margaret Potter die?
Where would I find more information regarding service records for John Potter and also Alfred Hunt Blyth?
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:20 am

For their service records, see http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/britisharmysoldierupto1913.htm and http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/british-army-soldiers-discharge-and-pension-records.htm

However, service records were not kept in this era for soldiers who died in service. Service records were only kept for those who were discharged if they were in receipt of a pension. Such papers are, in theory, on FindMyPast. However, for all sorts of reasons the Royal Artillery is somewhat different and I would recommend you start by reading the TNA notes. I don't think the situation is different re the actual papers but there seem to be more ancillary documents for the RA.
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby Sylcec » Wed Oct 29, 2014 1:04 pm

1) Alfred Blyth's death - surprised not to find this in either FamilySearch or FindMyPast. FIBIS timed out on me, but suggest you also look there for an announcement of his death.
2) The family "Batman" story, suggests that Alfred Blyth would have been of a higher rank ? an officer (Adrian will probably be more knowledgeable on this point), but if he was a Commissioned Officer, however junior, then he will appear in published army lists. If you have not already got it, suggest that you also purchase the marriage certificate for Alfred Blyth(e) to Margaret Dearidge which will give information about Alfred's occupation and/or rank & regt at the time.
3) Yes. About 100 men of a Regiment (senior NCOs and soldiers with longish service) were able to take their wife "on the strength" - not sure how this number converts to Artillery Brigades.
4) See 1) above - same sources apply to Margaret's death, which may well have been in India.

The discharge papers that you describe having for John Potter, sound very much like what you would find in the contents of the service record that is issued when a man retires to pension.
Good hunting! Sylvia
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 1:37 pm

For further information on wives, see http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=82&t=463

I thought that only officers had a batman - if so I am not sure how plausible it is that an officer's widow marry an enlisted man????

Sent from my GT-I8190N
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby Jep » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:12 pm

I have the original marriage certificate for Alfred and Margaret's marriage in 1862 - when he is a soldier in the Militia. Later he is a bombadier. So I think the family tale that John Potter was his batman is a bit of a fallacy.
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby Sylcec » Sun Nov 02, 2014 2:21 am

Yes, I think you are right - one of those family stories that has changed and grown as the years passed. However, it does seem likely that the men knew each other and could well have served in the same Artillery company in India.
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby Jep » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:50 am

Yes. I really would like to find out exactly when and where Alfred Blyth died because the date of birth of Elizabeth Blyth (his daughter) and the fact that John Potter married Margaret Blyth when she was about 6 months pregnant raises an eyebrow! Also the fact That when Elizabeth died aged just 1 year is registered as Elizabeth Potter!
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby Sylcec » Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:24 am

I'm afraid that you may be out of luck. The first port of call for bmd records of British & Europeans in India are the India Office Records held at the British Library. These have been indexed on both Familysearch and FindMyPast which also has digital copies. However, and that is a big HOWEVER, neither is a complete set of the IOR records (regardless of what they claim) and the IOR themselves are estimated to be no more than 70% complete - they are themselves COPIES of records made in India.

For those serving in HM Army, it is sometimes the case that the bmd event has been registered through official channels - HM Chaplains Indexes, Regimental & Army Indexes have all been digitised and available to search on Findmypast - if an event is found, then a certificate can be ordered from the General Register Office at Southport.

The last port of call are the Army Muster Rolls at Kew - but as your men were in the R.A. this is frankly "too hard" unless you know the Brigade and Company.

Incidentally, when little Elizabeth died, she would certainly have been known by the surname Potter - I don't think there is any mystery here.
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Re: Royal Artillery 1855-1876

Postby Jep » Tue Nov 04, 2014 10:17 am

Thankyou for your help and advice!
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