1851 Worldwide Army Index

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Whilst census returns have revealed many long-lost souls there was still the matter of many thousands of British (English, Scottish, Welsh & Irish) subjects who remained unaccounted for. Some of them would have been merchant mariners or Royal Navy subjects away on the highs seas or folk who simply upped and emigrated. A great number were army personnel.

Compiled from musters contained in WO 10-11-12 Series War Office Paylists held at the National Archives, Kew, the 1851 Worldwide Army Index lists all officers and other ranks subjects serving in the January-March quarter of 1851 together with their regimental HQ location. The index is effectively a military surrogate for the 1851 census taken on 30 March 1851. Also included are recruits, boy soldiers, bandsmen and civilians working in the armed forces as clerks, pension recruiters and suchlike. Colonial regiments which invariably had numbers of British subjects are also included.

The index consists of almost 250,000 records. Other ranks are indicated by army number, rank, first and last names, regiment and HQ location. The index is augmented by an additional 11,000 lines of notes indicating detachments, attachments, units recruits will likely join and so on.

The index also indicates regiments a man may have previously served in. For example 2879/40F 2171+35F 2239 allotted to Pte Joseph Green whilst serving in the 60th King’s Royal Rifles with No 2879 also indicates that he previously served as 2171 with the 40th Foot and No 2239 with the 35th Foot.

Colonial regiments which invariably had numbers of British subjects are also included.

Many thousands of men of the British Army were serving overseas in far flung parts of the British Empire over many decades of the 1800s. Many of those serving in 1851 could well have been born as early as 1810 whilst others who joined in the census year might well have continued their service as late as 1872, exceptionally 1877.

If a male subject cannot easily be found in the 1851 census then he may not be where expected; or in Ireland (where there is no 1861 census equivalent); serving in the navy or abroad. There is a high probability that he was serving in the army.

This index has been compiled through the hard work of Roger Nixon. This work is greatly appreciated as it provides the most comprehensive record of the men who served in the British Army around this period.

The 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 Worldwide Army Indexes are also included in Forces War Records collections. Please consult the relevant index introductions prior to searching.


Records in this collection are likely to include the following:

  • Firstname
  • Surname
  • Army Number
  • Rank
  • Regiment or Corps
  • Battalion or Company
  • Intended unit for recruits
  • Regiment location
  • National Archives Reference

Please be aware that due to the way we collate, and cross reference our databases, some records will contain more information than that listed above.

Original Source: Reproduced courtesy of Roger Nixon

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