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Finding a deserter...

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Finding a deserter...

Postby amcallaghan » Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:43 pm

My gg.grandfather was born John Blyth in Markinch, Fife, Scotland in 1851 & changed his name to John Law and married in this name in 1880 in Lanarkshire. He apparently told his children that his name change was because he deserted from the army & that "Law" was his mother's maiden name. The baptism & census records show this is very possible, with a John Blyth being born in 1851 in Markinch to Andrew Blyth & Margaret Law.

Can anyone suggest how I could discover if he really was a deserter? Were lists kept or published? What would have been the punishment if he had been caught? Was deserting at this time (1870s?) common?

Many thanks ... Ann
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Re: Finding a deserter...

Postby Sylcec » Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:33 am

Almost certainly records were kept and efforts made to track down deserters. The following is an extract from a brief guide to Courts Martial and Deserters on The National Archives website:
Code: Select all
10. Deserters

There are registers of deserters, 1811-1852, in WO 25/2906-2934. Until 1827 they are kept in three series: cavalry, infantry and militia (the latter up to 1820 only). After 1827 they are arranged by regiment. These registers give descriptions, dates and place of enlistment and desertion, and outcome. There are registers of captured deserters, 1813-1845, in WO 25/2935-2951, with indexes up to 1833 in WO 25/2952, WO 25/2953, and WO 25/2954. Deserters who surrendered themselves under proclamation, 1803-1815, are in WO 25/2955. On capture, some deserters were sentenced to imprisonment on the Savoy hulk: there are unindexed registers for the hulk, 1799-1823 (WO 25/2956).

Local newspapers and (for 1828 to 1845) the police newspapers Hue and Cry and the Police Gazette carried details of deserters, giving name, parish and county of birth, regiment, date and place of desertion, a physical description and other relevant information.

There is plenty more info on TNA website, this is link to above: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/army-courts-17th-20th.htm
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