ON THE RECORD
Records of more than 460,000 men who fought during the Napoleonic Wars, including troops at the Battle of Waterloo, have been added to Ancestry
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Family historians with forebears who served during the Napoleonic Wars could benefit from a major new record release.
Genealogy website ancestry.co.uk has digitised a large number of muster books and pay lists held in series WO 12 at The National Archives, providing information about thousands of men who joined the British Army at the turn of the 19th century.
Searchable by details such as name and regiment, the records can reveal information regarding each soldier’s rank, movements and wages, plus the dates of their admission and discharge.
Although some of the material dates from as far back as 1779, the majority of records within the digital collection concerns members of the Cavalry, Foot Guard and infantry regiments of the line between 1812 and 1817.
Crucially, this means it includes men who fought at the Battle of Waterloo, which saw the British Army defeat Napoleon’sp troopsp on 18 JJune 1815. Analysisy of the collection also shows that the year of the battle was a peak periodid ffor enlistments,li withih more thanh 250,000 men joining in 1815 alone.
Among the Waterloo veterans within the record set is Scotsman Charles Ewart, who served with the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons. Although very little is known about his early life, the solider achieved somewhat legendary status due to his heroic actions on the battlefield.
One account from his contemporary Sergeant Major Cotton describes Ewart as “...a man of Herculean strength”, while another story claims that the skilled swordsman was capable of beheading his enemies with a single stroke.
However, despite his military prowess, searching the pay lists shows that Ewart received a modest wage of 15 shiillings and sixpence each month – roughly equuivalent to £ 47.10 in today’s money.
Military historian and author Phil Tomaselli said that the records would be useful to family hisstorians, as long as they used them carefully.
“These muster lists are the only records that namme every man in the army at a given time and aree invaluable for researchers who know they hadd an ancestor who served during this period,” he told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. “TThey will also give monthly snapshots of where he was and any promotions or periods in hospital that occurred.
“Great care must be taken, however, as there is llittle that will help identify where a man came froom or his age so, with many common names listted, you can’t assume that any individual is youyour relative without more evidence.”
These are the only records that name every man in the army at a given time
FrenchF h cuirassiersi i charging a British square during the Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815
TheTh mustert rollsll recordd th thousandsd of f men whoh enlistedli t d