Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Searching for WO, ADM & AO collections

When doing research on your British ancestors, especially those that served in the military prior to the Great War of 1914-18, you may come across references that point you to documents that start with WO, ADM or AO. These are collections that are held at The National Archives (TNA) at Kew in England. WO stands for "War Office", ADM for "Admiralty" (AKA Navy), and AO is the "Audit Office".

To search the TNA site to find where the reference has come from you need to go to the Discovery Catalogue. From the main TNA web site page click on the "Discovery - our catalogue" button to bring you to the "Discover our collections" page. From there you can type in the reference that you are looking for. For example, maybe you came across an index transcription in the "1861 Worldwide Army Index" on Findmypast that says that the National Archives reference is "WO12/8358". To look for where this index entry came from type in "WO12/8358" (without the quotes) into the search box in the middle of the screen. If everything is working properly the result for that search will be the "78th Foot 1st Battalion". If you click on that link you will find out more about that record set along with whether it has been digitized (and can be downloaded) or not. If it hasn't been digitized you have the option of placing (and paying for) an order to get what you are looking for.

Sometimes these collections are also held in other archives.  For example, the AO12 and AO13 collections pertain to the claims made by the Loyalists in the American War of Independence. They can be found on microfilms at Library and Archives Canada.

Fortunately some of these collections have been indexed and/or digitized and made available through sites such as Findmypast and Ancestry. Some of the collections along with which record set they came from are listed below.


1861 Worldwide Army Index
  • WO10 (Royal Artillery) pay lists
  • WO11 (Royal Engineers) pay lists
  • WO12 (Cavalry, Guards, Infantry and other units) pay lists
British Army Service Records 1760-1915
  • Militia service records 1806-1915 (WO96)
  • Chelsea Pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913 (WO97)
  • Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents 1760-1887 (WO121)
  • Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents, foreign regiments 1816-1817 (WO122)
  • War Office: Imperial Yeomanry, soldiers' documents, South African War 1899-1902 (WO128)
  • Royal Hospital, Chelsea: documents of soldiers awarded deferred pensions 1838-1896 (WO131)


UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Registers of Soldiers Who Served in Canada, 1743-1882
  • Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Registers & Service Records, 1760–1882. WO97
  • Registers of pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, 1713–1868. WO120
Canada, Pension Applications For Widows and Family of British Military Officers, 1776-1881
  • Officers’ Birth Certificates, Wills and Personal Papers. WO42/52–63
Canada, British Army Regimental Rolls of Non-commissioned Officers and Soldiers, 1806-1892
  • Depot Description Books [1768-1913]. WO67/7–20
Canada, British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, 1795-1850
  • Commissary General of Musters Office and successors: General Muster Books and Pay Lists. WO12/11960–11967, 11972, 12018–12033, 13295
Canada, Loyalist Claims, 1776-1835
  • American Loyalist Claims, 1776–1835. AO12 and AO13
Canada, British Navy Ship Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, 1757-1836
  • Navy Board, Ticket Office, and Admiralty, Accountant General’s Department: Ships’ Pay Books. ADM32/254
  • Naval Establishment, Lake Ontario. ADM32/254
  • Royal Navy Ships’ Musters (Series 1). ADM36/15490, 17229
  • Royal Navy Ships’ Musters (Series 2). ADM37/5000–5002, 5631–5632, 5638, 5640–5643, 8602–8605, 8607
  • Royal Navy Ships’ Musters (Series 3). ADM38/2294–2303
  • Yard Pay Books. ADM42/2147–2202, 2233

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