Thursday, June 16, 2011

Military Records at The National Archives in England

I got the opportunity to visit The National Archives at Kew this year. While I was there, a military expert suggested that I use the War Office 31/15 records, Office of the Commander-in-Chief: Memoranda and Papers, 1793-1870. The National Archives catalog gives the following description of these records:

"The Commander in Chief's memoranda of appointments, promotions, and resignations, filed with the original applications for the same, including applications for exchange, and covering letters of commanding officers, Army agents, etc. The papers occasionally include statements of service, certificates of baptism and the like."

I knew that my ancestor, Paul Doughty, had been promoted from an Ensign to a Lieutenant in April of 1794. The person at the Reference Desk at Kew gave me WO 31 box 15 to order. There were two boxes for that time period. I began looking through each of the folders in the first box that contained correspondence and promotion forms. There were letters from many well-known individuals asking for a commission to be bought for a friend, son, nephew or other relative. Other letters were written by Captains or other high-ranking officers requesting promotions for a member of their regiment.

About 2/3s through the box I found a folder with two letters in it. One was dated 25 December 1793 and the other one was dated 22 April 1794, from the Citadel, Plymouth. Captain John Campbell was requesting that his Ensign, Paul Doughty, be promoted to a Lieutenant. Unfortunately, it did not contain any information on his place of birth or family members. His original commission as Ensign in 1783 may have included that kind of information but the letters at The National Archives began in 1793.

There was one clue to be found in the letters. Captain Campbell mentioned William Doughty instead of Paul Doughty. Now I need to go back to the microfilm at the Family History Library for his regiment and see if there are service papers for a William Doughty since there weren't any for a Paul Doughty.