Tag Archives: chelsea pensioners

Francis Howlett GEERING – soldier and hairdresser

16 Aug

The latest batch of British Army Service Records released by findmypast.co.uk included one I had been waiting for, the service record of my first cousin five times removed Francis Howlett GEERING. The term “first cousin five times removed” doesn’t really describe the relationship very well, I prefer to think of him as the grandson of my 5x great-grandparents James and Ann GEERING of Hailsham, Sussex.

This latest batch of records covers the years 1760 to 1854, and I already knew from The National Archives website that Francis had served with the British Army between 1838 and 1852, so all I had to do was be patient and bide my time until this particular batched arrived.

What intrigued me most about Francis was his occupation after leaving the army. In the 1861 census Francis is living in Dewsbury, Yorkshire with his wife and their first child, his occupation is recorded as “hairdresser and tobacconist”. The hairdresser part of this seemed quite bizarre to me, after almost 14 years as a soldier how did he end up as a hairdresser? Had he learnt his trade in the army? Had he been the regiments hairdresser?

The one thing that hadn’t occurred to me was that he might have been a hairdresser before he enlisted, but sure enough when he joined the 52nd Light Infantry on the 19th November 1838 he gave his occupation as hairdresser. This explains why he became a hairdresser after he left the army, but raises the question of why he joined up in the first place?

Was he running away from something? I will probably never know, but perhaps it is significant that when he left the army he settled in Yorkshire rather than returning to his birthplace of Lewes, Sussex.

His service record does make interesting reading, although he was punished at 15 times for being drunk (including one instance recorded as being “Drunk in the streets of Montreal”), over almost 14 years service that is not really that bad a record.

During his service Francis spent a total of seven years and four months overseas, two years in the West Indies and five years and four months in North America. He was discharged in 1852 after he had been found unfit for further service, the reason given was that he was suffering from “Cachexia Syphiloidea the result of Syphilis, contracted in Nov 1849″.

Findmypast.co.uk gives non-football fans something to look forward to the World Cup for

11 Jun

UPDATE 16/06/2010:  Findmypast.co.uk have changed the instructions for free access, check out their website for latest details, and make sure you are registered before the 18th June.

I am definitely in the non-football camp, sure I would like England to do well, but I won’t be getting excited about the upcoming World Cup. However, findmypast.co.uk have given us non-football fans something to look forward to.

Findmypast.co.uk have today announced that for the duration of the England matches (starting 30 minutes before kick-off) access to their records (except Living Relatives searches and Memorial scrolls) will be free. This means you will be able to access their great collections, including the 1911 census and their growing Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records collection.

All you need is to be registered with findmypast to take advantage of this great offer, then book your seat in front of the computer for the first England match on Saturday evening. By my reckoning free access should start at 1900BST and according to the announcement should last for three hours.

British Army Service Records 1760-1913 on Findmypast.co.uk

16 Mar

The first chunk of Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760 to 1913 have been released on Findmypast.co.uk today. The records released today are a small part of the whole collection, covering men discharged in the period between 1883 and 1900.

Findmypast.co.uk have provided some useful resources for understanding these records, which is just as well. Even the words "Chelsea Pensioners" are a bit misleading, they were not necessarily residents of The Royal Hospital at Chelsea, but received a pension that was administered by the hospital.

Like any database it is important to know what is and isn’t included, why would a soldier be in this collection? For example, according to the website it "doesn’t contain the records of soldiers who died in service or who took an early discharge because they didn’t receive a pension."

Having used these records in their paper form I can safely say that they are real goldmines of information, of course the contents do vary from soldier to soldier, but they contain detailed descriptions of soldiers along with relationship information (next of kin), not just details of their army service.

The records are not that different from the WW1 Service Records (1914-1920) previously released on Ancestry.co.uk, expect of course the condition and the fact that the vast majority have survived.

For my own research I know there will be several relations contained within this release, although I am in no rush to get their details yet. It is another database that I will need to check regularly as I go through my family history, like I already do with the WW1 Service Records. I am sure lots of previously unknown soldiers will turn up, filling in some gaps in my database.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 117 other followers

%d bloggers like this: