What Price Glory? Soldiers’ Effects Register goes online


Soldiers’ Effects Register entry for my relative killed at First Battle of Ypres (National Army Museum/Ancestry.com)

Earlier this month Ancestry.com made the “UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929″ database available online. Those of you who subscribe to Ancestry.co.uk or have “World” memberships with other Ancestry websites can now search 872,395 records containing details on money owed to the kin of British soldiers who died in service between 1901 and 1929.

Digitized and indexed from the original National Army Museum records the data is searchable by name, date & place of death, name of regiment and regimental number. The registry entries can provide valuable information to those of us researching soldiers of the First World War. The image above shows the register entry for my great grand uncle Edward Henry Dobson who died at First Ypres on November 9, 1914.

The earliest Soldiers’ Effects Registers provide more details than those in the latter years of the war. Edward’s entry included two new pieces of information about my great grand uncle, his date of enlistment (Nov. 18, 1912) and his trade on enlistment (news vendor). It also revealed that his mother Sophia (my great-great-grandmother) was his sole legitimate heir and was entitled to all monies owed to his estate by the government. While widow or mother were the most common heirs there are also many entries which show monies being divided up amongst brothers and sisters. Edward, with eight siblings, chose to leave his effects entirely to his mother.

The register shows an initial payment of £6 5s 9d followed by a second payment of 1s 6p several months later. The final payment of £5, his War Service Gratuity, was paid out in 1919. The amounts paid out were dependent on years of service and 20-year old Edward, an Old Contemptible with two years of service, would have been entitled to more than new recruits who died during the first year of the conflict. Regardless of the amount received it did little to compensate families for the loss of a son, father or brother. In today’s money Sophia received just over £1000 for the death of her son.

These new records are also helpful for differentiating between soldiers with the same name. For many years I’ve been researching another great grand uncle named Alfred George Harris. He disappeared from the records after the 1891 England census and I often wondered if he served and died with the Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War. An Alfred George Harris with regimental number 32929 died at Bloemfontein on June 20, 1902 but the next of kin listed in the Soldiers’ Effects register confirms this soldier was not my relative.

The Soldiers’ Effects Register does not include soldiers who died while serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Force however many Canadians served and died as a member of the Imperial forces and as such they will be included in this database. Canadians who flew in the Royal Flying Corps or Royal Air Force may also appear in the register and to date I’ve found entries for one of two Canadian airmen I’m researching.

If you have an Ancestry subscription that includes access to UK records I highly recommend you have a look at this database.

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