Researching British Military Ancestors
This guide focuses on resources available at the Toronto Reference Library. Most of the resources listed are available through the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, located on the second floor.
Questions to think about before beginning:
- To what branch of the military did your ancestor belong (army, navy, militia, etc.)?
- In what type of unit did your ancestor serve (cavalry, infantry, etc.)?
- Was your ancestor an officer or an enlisted soldier?
In order to locate records, it may be necessary to know your ancestor’s regiment. For advice on determining the British Army regiment, see:
- Kitzmiller, John M. In search of the “forlorn hope”: a comprehensive guide to locating British regiments and their records (1640 - WWI) Two volumes.
Searching the Library Catalogue
Many different subject headings apply to military sources, so keyword searches may be most effective. Choose keywords from the name of a place, the name of a conflict, and/or the name of an armed forces division. Lists of participants will have the subheading Registers. Lists of casualties will have the subheading Registers of dead.
Suggested Subjects and Keywords
- Great Britain. Army. [Name of regiment]
- [Name of conflict] – Registers of dead – Great Britain
Armed Forces Lists
These publications list commissioned officers, not enlisted men.
- The Air Force list Holdings: 1922-2007
- Army list: for November, 1918 4 volumes.
- Hart, Henry George. Hart’s annual army list Holdings: 1839-41, 1843, 1846-47, 1850-51, 1853-1909; 1911-1915
- The India list, civil and military Holdings: 1768-1945
- The Indian Army list Holdings: 1912-1938 (incomplete)
- A List of the officers of the army and of the corps of royal marines, on full, retired, and half-pay Holdings: 1754, 1756-61, 1763, 1765-74, 1776-1801, 1803-1834, 1836-43, 1845, 1848-49, 1852-53, 1857, 1859, 1863
- The Monthly army list Holdings: 1814-1939 (incomplete)
- The Navy list Holdings: 1815 -present (incomplete)
- The New army list Holdings: 1840-1909 (incomplete)
- The Official army list [quarterly] Holdings: 1882, 1887-1888, 1910, 1912
- The Quarterly army list/Half-yearly army list/Army list Holdings 1913-2003 (incomplete)
Handbooks and Guides
- Ascoli, David. A companion to the British Army 1660-1983
- Christensen, Penelope. Researching English occupations – defence services
- Fowler, Simon. Army records for family historians
- Fowler, Simon. Tracing your army ancestors
- Prechtel, Johann Ernst. English army and navy lists
- Swinnerton, Iain. The location of British Army records 1914-1918
- Watts, Michael J. and Christopher T. Watts. My ancestor was in the British Army: how can I find out more about him?
- Wilson, Eunice. The records of the Royal Air Force: how to find The Few
The following bibliography, available at the Special Collections information desk, has been annotated to reflect the Toronto Reference Library’s holdings:
- White, Arthur S. A Bibliography of Regimental Histories of the British Army
Registers of Dead
- Devereux, J. Roll of honour: land forces, World War 2 Two volumes
- Hobson, Chris. Airmen died in the Great War, 1914-1918 : the roll of honour of the British and Commonwealth air services of the First World War
- Ruvigny and Raineval. The roll of honour: a biographical record of members of his Majesty's naval and military forces who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 Two volumes
- Soldiers died in the Great War, 1914-1919 Microfilm G7866
Additional Print Resources
- Bonner-Smith, D. The Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815 Three volumes
- Crowder, Norman Kenneth. British Army pensioners abroad, 1772-1899
- Dobson, David. Scottish soldiers, 1600-1800
- Deserter Index 1828-1840: an index to soldiers of the British Army regiments, Royal Marines & the Honorable East India Company's Service who deserted their units & whose names were published in the Police Gazette between 1 January 1828 & 31 December 1840
- Prisoners of war, British Army, 1939-1945 : alphabetical nominal registers (including number, rank, p.o.w. number, regiment or corps and camp location details) listing over 107,000 British Army prisoners of war of all ranks held in Germany and German occupied territories
- Sutherland, Stuart. His majesty’s gentlemen: a directory of regular British Army officers of the War of 1812
For further assistance, contact:
Humanities and Social Sciences Department, 2nd Floor, Toronto Reference Library: 416-393-7175