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Army Deserter 77th Foot 1836

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Army Deserter 77th Foot 1836

Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:54 pm

Please can anyone advise me where I can go for additional information about this family member.

He is Charles Philip MATHEWS (only ever known as Charles), born in St James, Westminster, probably in late Jan or 1st Feb 1815, the son of Peter MATHEWS, a Revenue Officer, and his wife Sarah HAMMOND. Unlike their 5 daughters, Charles has proved difficult to trace, and now I may know why.

This morning I found a record on Find my Past (source Manchester & Lancs FHS) showing that a man who is pretty certainly him, was a Deserter from the 77th Foot in 1836. The record shows Charles MATHEWS (correct sp. with only one T), born St James 1815, deserted, aged 21. He was a Clerk (correct). The date given in the summary is 25 June 1836; it is unclear whether this is the date he joined up or when he deserted.

There is no further information on the record.

I have searched on Ancestry and FMP, in the National Newspaper Archive and in National Archives, but I can find nothing further about Charles and the Army. Please, where might I find more information? What would have happened to him as a result of his actions?

I had failed utterly to locate a man who was unequivocally Charles in 1841; I have 4 possible candidates (inc. 2 clerks) in London. In 1851, he is lodging in Bradford with his wife Eliza (who is a Scot, possibly from Argyll). He was a Clerk. In 1861, he was living in Old Pye Street, Westminster with Eliza and his unmarried sister (which confirmed the identification), again working as a Clerk. I have failed to find a marriage to Eliza, and I cannot be sure whether or not they had children - I have found none. He almost certainly died in York Street Workhouse in March 1871 (though he might also be the man on the Census in Marylebone, with the exactly identical identifying particulars). His widow was living with a 7 year old child, a 'Granddaughter', Ellen, but I have found nothing to identify Ellen either. Eliza died in the early 1880s.

Frustrating or what!!!!

What I really want to do is find out more about Charles in the Army, and about the consequences of his actions. Is there anything more to find? I would also love to identify his marriage to Eliza. Any help would be gratefully received.
Brummie on Exmoor
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Army Deserter 77th Foot 1836

Postby brunes08 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:25 pm

Have you tried the National Army Museum? The site is on or you can e-mail enquiries on You can see on the site the whereabouts of the regiment. In 1834 it had just returned home from a long spell in Jamaica but was getting ready to go to Malta and Corfu in 1837. If Charles had been to Jamaica he most probably would have enlisted when quite young and may not have liked being so far away from home. If he enlisted when the regiment returned, perhaps he had second thoughts.
Last edited by brunes08 on Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Army Deserter 77th Foot 1836

Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:31 pm

Thank you, I will try that.

Yes, I found the posting schedules, and my husband suggested the same idea you had. My problem is that I don't have the faintest idea when Charles actually joined up. It might have been when he was quite young, or he may have quite recently joined. His being posted abroad might however explain where he married, as I cannot find it in England, Wales or on Scotland's People.
Brummie on Exmoor
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Location: North Devon

Re: Army Deserter 77th Foot 1836

Postby AdrianB38 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 6:42 pm

Detailed personnel records for deserters were not kept in that era. You need to read some detailed books on the sources that remain - it's not the sort of thing that can be definitively covered in a post.

Your major source will be to go to Kew and look at the Muster Book & Pay Lists for the 77th. Usually (?) these are compiled for each quarter and if you track him back in them, you may find interesting stuff and should certainly find when he joined the 77th.

Casualty records may be compiled whenever someone goes off strength. Sometimes these give a birth place.

Description books may contain a rough description compiled for precisely this sort of event. Again, if it exists, it might record his birthplace.

Fundamentally, it's pot luck and nothing is guaranteed beyond the Muster Books and even there sometimes people aren't in the book that you expect - e.g. sometimes they are in the Book for the depot, not the regiment.

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