The Royal Hospital Kilmainham was established in 1681 to house sick and veteran troops from the British Army. These records contain discharge documents of almost 20,000 men serving on the Irish Establishment in the period 1783-1822. Over 50% of the records are those of Irishmen.
The records form part of the WO (War Office) series of records held at The British National Archives. These British Army records from The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, were repatriated to Britain in 1922.
It’s worth noting that pension records do not just relate to older men: soldiers were eligible for a pension after 12 years of service so relatively young men could be pensioned out.
What can these records tell me about my ancestors?
These records provide rich information about your ancestors. The information listed varies, but the records tend to hold a lot of detail and will usually include a combination of the following:
- Date and place of birth
- Height and chest size
- Hair and eye colour
- Distinguishing features, including tattoos and scars
- Date of attestation
- Rank, including a record of any promotions
- Date of discharge and reason for it
- Medical history
- Conduct and character observations
Timeline and historical context
The following are some of the major conflicts that fall within the same period as these records:
1775 – American War of Independence
1793-1802 – British involvement in French Revolution
1795 – British capture of Ceylon
1798 – Irish Rebellion
1812 – Anglo-American War of 1812
1803-1815 – Napoleonic Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815
Glossary of Terms
Attestation - refers to the date of the creation of the document, in this instance the date of discharge or grant of pension.
Fencibles - army regiments raised in the United Kingdom and in the colonies for defence against the threat of invasion during the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars in the late 18th century. Usually temporary units, composed of local volunteers, commanded by Regular Army officers, their role was, as their name suggests, confined to garrison and patrol duties, freeing the regular Army units to perform offensive operations.
Militia – originally created as a domestic peacekeeping/police force, could also be used to augment regiments on foreign service.
Regiment of Foot – most of the records relate to regiments of foot, infantry regiments which were reduced or increased in size as required.
Yeomanry – A British volunteer cavalry force organized in 1761 to serve as a home guard and later incorporated into the Territorial Army.