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Royal Artillery service records 1880s

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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:21 pm

Well, 18798 is going to live in Chatham and was actually born in Prescot, Lancs, according to the Army. And his trade is a cooper.

To get this, go to Discovery's Advanced Search on http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/advanced-search and enter just "wo 116/161" in Any of these references. Please note the space after the WO - it was ages before I remembered to do that consistently. You should get 6 results, which appear to be either all of WO 116/161 (for free) or WO 116/161/1 thru /5 inclusive, which are dated subdivisions that you have to pay for. Well, now - which shall I choose? :)

If you go and check out the freeby, it actually splits into 2 PDFs but as Ancestry did tell us that he was discharged in January, we'll just get the first, I think!

Then you want frames 14 and 15 (looking at the LED numbers at the top of each page of the PDF.

You may note that he spent 8y in India, but basically these 2 lines are it as far as his service records go, so far as I can see. I think I remember reading that if you find an entry in one of these books, it means that the detailed papers (as per WO 97) tend not to exist.

So that means finding him in the Muster Books & Pay Lists and working backward. And now the only snapshot that we appear to have for him is this discharge and I'm not totally certain where he finishes his service - it says "Completed service with 2 Bde [Brigade]" and I'm not sure if "Scottish Dn RA 1 Bde" [Scottish Division? Royal Artillery 1 Brigade] refers to him or the guy above. So it may take some time for you to find him....
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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby ianbee » Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:30 pm

Brilliantly done, Adrian!
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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:50 pm

AdrianB38 wrote:... And now the only snapshot that we appear to have for him is this discharge ...

That's not true is it? We know he's in Dunbar in April 1881 so he'll be in the Muster Book & Pay List for that... err ... it may not be easy to identify that MB&PL but given the lack of clarity over those 1 Brigade and 2 Brigade references, it may be easier than looking for him at the time of his discharge. You may need to stare vaguely in hope at the catalogue entries in Discovery for the Royal Artillery MB&PLs in 1881 before it begins to make possible sense. As I said before, an instructor or similar stationed with the militia is likely (but not certain) to be in some sort of depot book, not a standard Brigade book for regular soldiers on garrison duty.
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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby hassamal » Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:15 pm

Mighty thanks to all who have responded so far to my original query. I have looked through the postings and can see that 2053 Henry James [or John] Mercer is definitely not my great grandfather. It's a pity, as you have plenty of information on him.

Adrian seems to have identified my Henry Mercer, 18798, though the Prescot birthplace is a nuisance; I was hoping mine was one born actually in Liverpool. There are far too many Henry Mercers in and around Liverpool and, as I don't know that area, I find it quite a job unpicking one from another.

I now want to work my way through the postings properly and follow up the suggested links, as well as see if I can identify the Henry Mercer born in Prescot. I'll post a further reply in, hopefully, the next 24 hours.

Again, my thanks to all.

Andrew
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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby AdrianB38 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:17 pm

Prescot might mean the parish rather than the town. The parish, like many Lancashire parishes, contained a number of churches and chapels. See https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Prescot,_Lancashire_Genealogy

People often give the nearest big town so Liverpool is almost too easy a name to give, and even Prescot parish might be quite loose.

Sent from my MotoG3 using WDYTYA Forum mobile app
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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby hassamal » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:58 pm

I have downloaded WO 116/161 following Adrian’s careful instructions and this Henry Mercer is definitely my great grandfather (the address in Chatham is near to that of his wife’s mother). In terms of finding him in the Muster Books & Pay Lists in WO 16, I have stared at the National Archives records for 1881, but it seems I need a Brigade number before I can look up a Depot Battery. Perhaps the place to start would be 2nd Brigade Depot in 1888?

As he spent 8 years in India between 1862 and the date of his marriage in 1879, it seem likely he was stationed in India at the time of the 1871 Census. This would account for not being able to locate him in 1871. However, I understood that the army compiled census rcords for those serving abroad and I’m wondering if they have a particular location. I could perhaps get his Brigade number in 1871.

If Henry Mercer was 42 in January 1889 and had served 27 years, he would have been about 15 years old when he joined up in January 1862. Presumably, therefore, he would have learned to be a cooper in the army, and I would be interested in knowing how a cooper progressed to being a battery sergeant major. Being a cooper doesn’t seem to me a front line role.

In terms of identifying Henry Mercer’s birth registration, between 1846 and 1848 there are five births of a Henry Mercer registered in West Derby and one in Liverpool (in 1848), the last being the one I’d hoped to prove is my great grandfather. There is a Henry Mercer birth registered in Prescot in 1850, but there seems to be enough of an age difference between him and the Battery Sergeant Major (42 in 1889) to leave open the possibility that the Battery Sergeant Major was born in Liverpool in 1848. Just. I now need to check the 1851 Census records to see which of the Henry Mercer births between 1846 and 1848 I can discount.

Thanks again to both Ian and Adrian.

Andrew
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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby AdrianB38 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:49 pm

According to http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/census-records/, "The 1911 was ... the first census where the army overseas was enumerated; previously there was only a headcount".

Re Cooper - maybe that was the trade that he was learning before he joined up? Because yes, intuitively, I don't see that the RA had a huge need for coopers.

If I look in the Discovery Catalogue at WO16 - the class for Muster Books from 1878 - restrict the from-dates and to-dates both to 1888 for his final year, and search for artillery and Scottish, then it is just 1st Brigade, with the Depot book in WO 16/697, apparently along with 10 Battery. But since I'm not convinced I understand the page, then another search on artillery and "2nd Brigade" (in quotes to make it one phrase) suggests that 2nd Brigade's Deport Battery book is WO 16/859. (Actually, searching WO16 for Artillery and Depot seems an even better search!)

That's the sort of thing to do. And I could be quite wrong and he's not in the depot book but in somewhere else, in which case you may need some creative thinking and extensive searching.

Good luck.
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Re: Royal Artillery service records 1880s

Postby hassamal » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:57 am

Adrian,

My task for today was to find out about army censuses overseas, but you beat me to it. Many thanks for that. I remember seeing a census return for troops in India, but that must have been for 1911.

Thanks too for confirming my next step. If I manage to trace my great grandfather in the muster lists, I'll add a further post to this thread. I already know more about him than when I posted my original query.

Best wishes,

Andrew
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