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On the marriage record (from Pallot's Marriage Index via Ancestry.com) of my 4th great grandparents Jane Courtenay and William Hobbs at Truro St Mary, Cornwall, England in 1798, William is recorded as being a "soldier Somersetshire Militia".

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Is it likely that I will be able to uncover any records of the Somersetshire Militia related to William Hobbs' service in it?

I suspect the records below may be my best bet but they do not appear to be online and some links at http://apps.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/subjectView.asp?ID=O40492 appear to be moving/broken.

Scope: 1758-1866: 1st Somerset Regiment of Militia records

Repository: Somerset Heritage Centre

Record Reference: G279 link to online catalogue (broken)

NRA catalogue reference: NRA 4320 Somerset RO misc

I am also interested in learning about any campaigns that the Somersetshire Militia may have been engaged in around that time.


As an update I have found an internet source titled The Family History of Alan & Trisha THATCHER that says:

Pay and Muster Rolls for 1798 - first regiment of Somerset Militia. Colonel Earl Poulett's regiment. Major Philip Staples' company. Company at Helston in April 1798. William describes as a Private in stationary quarters 30, earning 1/- per day. John Hobbs in same company.

Some background that may or may not be relevant:

It appears Jane was christened in St Austell, Cornwall on 23 Jan 1774:

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NJYQ-C92 : accessed 23 Sep 2014), Jane Courtenay, 23 Jan 1774; citing St. Austell, Cornwall, England, reference yr 1767-1812 p 20; FHL microfilm 246829.

I am not yet confident that I have the correct christening for William. I have a current leaning towards the one below on which his mother's name is given as Betty Hobbs (no father mentioned), and William and Jane named their second daughter Betty.

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J9PK-Z8C : accessed 23 Sep 2014), William ... Hobbs, 12 Mar 1762; citing Ditcheat, Somerset, England, reference Item 21; FHL microfilm 1526603.

William and Jane's wedding is also recorded as "England Marriages, 1538–1973 ," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NV96-NBS : accessed 23 Sep 2014), William Hobbs and Jane Courtenay Or Courtney, 23 Apr 1798; citing Truro,Cornwall,England, reference ; FHL microfilm 236528.

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Militia records tend to be split between county record offices (ROs) and The National Archives (TNA) at Kew. I am unsure of the basic difference between these two sets of records but suspect that records of recruitment will tend to belong in county ROs as militia recruitment was a county responsibility - the Lord Lieutenant usually. Whereas when they were embodied (i.e. put into uniform for service or exercises) records seem to end up with the rest of the Army in the War Office records, i.e. WO classes at TNA.

Particulars of the Somerset militia records can be found in "Militia Lists and Musters, 1757-1876" by Jeremy Gibson & Mervyn Medlycott as highlighted by Jan Murphy. The bulk of those records are to be found at the Somerset Heritage Centre (i.e. the RO for Somerset).

TNA has Militia returns for Somerset under the WO 13 references. However, these tend to be quite sparse in genealogical detail as they comprise muster rolls and pay-lists so have names but little else that would indicate if any William Hobbs is yours.

On this basis, you should probably prioritise the Somerset records first.

Links and references -

  • TNA has a militia research guide.
  • A2A is being replaced by the TNA Catalogue. However the TNA Catalogue includes that G279 reference that doesn't work. Until A2A is killed off, I recommend you use A2A and enter the words "Somerset Regiment of Militia" into the "All these words" - you could try it as a phrase but you can't guarantee the order of these terms.
  • Somerset Archives catalogue apparently has issues.

A2A and the Somerset catalogue probably give roughly the same results. A potential point of confusion is that reference DD\SLI at Somerset seems to actually be a code for the Somerset Light Infantry (SLI) as the militia ended up under the SLI's wing so I'm unclear at whether I'm looking at references and descriptions for items for the Somerset Militia or the SLI. Or both.

According to A2A, the G279 reference is in fact an acquisition code, not a catalogue reference. I have entered an error report for the TNA Discovery Catalogue highlighting this issue.

As for where they were if they were actually embodied (i.e. called-up), I found that searching newspapers gave a good sample of locations for the Cheshire Militia - I guess it depends on how well-behaved your Somerset guys were.

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In the case of my husband's grandfather, we found a muster roll online about the WWI members on a website created about his unit by the Vietnam veterans. I think it's safe to say that it's less likely that you will find an equivalent roster for someone who served in the 1790s, but never say never. There's no telling what you might be able to find about the Somersetshire Militia until you look, so ask instead "how might I find more information?". It's not wrong to consider that fewer records survive from that period than they do for the modern day, but don't let that consideration block you from performing your search.

Since the links for all the archives are changing, I'll write out the path I took; if the individual links fail, perhaps this will leave enough clues that someone following after can find a similar path. If individual pages move or change, older versions may be available via the Wayback Machine. Starting with a Google Search for "Somerset Militia" --

Museums and Archives

The website of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust offers a sub-page on Ancestor Research which says:

It is recommended that once an individual's regiment or corps has been identified a researcher's initial approach should be to the appropriate regimental or corps museum, details of which may be obtained from the museum pages.

Their Somerset Military Museum page refers the reader to the museums page on the Somerset County Council Website; a link in the sidebar goes to the Somerset Miltary Museum page, which advises that the Museum's own website is still being written and will appear in future. This page has contact information for the curator of the museum and for the Somerset Archive and Record Office at the Somerset Heritage Centre.

The County Council's site also has subpages about the Somerset Heritage Centre and the Archives, and a link to the Archive's own site: Somerset Archives and Local Studies. The front page has a caution about the online catalog and a link to work-arounds on the Catalogues and Indexes Page, plus a link to the Library Catalog.

The left-hand sidebar has a link to research guides, with Army Records (PDF) near the top at the list, and A Guide to Our Indexes (PDF) near the bottom.

For a general list of other useful sources for army research see the website of the Somerset Light Infantry Archive.

Books found on via the Library Catalog can be searched for in libraries near you, via WorldCat; older titles might be available in their entirety on The Internet Archive or on Google Books.

  • a search for 'su:England, Somerset Military history.' at WorldCat turns up documents published in 1642! so there's no telling what might be added in future.

Books

Forums

  • Brit-Gen has a sub-forum Military-Army under Occupations; there are some threads in the archive about the Somerset Militia from a slightly later time period.

Websites

  • Wikipedia has no article, but a search for Somerset Militia yields hits for articles that mention the militia.

One caution: a search on Google Books also found hits for a "Somerset Militia" in the US Army, so a search in this particular time period will not be easy. Adding "England" to the search won't necessarily screen out the American unit because the books will mention England as an adversary.


On the secondary question about whether these records would have detail that would be of genealogical interest, I searched for 'militia' in the A-Z records list at FindMyPast. The only records they have so far are Plymouth Militia records 1625-1831. In the section titled "Key Facts" they say:

In some cases the documents also include details of payments to wives who are unable to support themselves while their husband serves with the militia.

So it seems possible that some people looking for militia records could get a 'lucky dip' and find records that include the solder's spouse.

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You mention ‘I am also interested in learning about any campaigns that the Somersetshire Militia may have been engaged in around that time’.

It appears clear from the list of Campaign Medals on Ancestry that Private William Hobbs of the 40th Foot was awarded the Waterloo Medal in 1815 and the First Military General Service Medal in 1848 with 3 Bars or Clasps: Vimeiro, Talavera and Busco. It should be noted that he would have to have been alive in 1848 in order to have claimed the Medal.

WILLIAM HOBBS Born BATH, Somerset Served in 40th Foot Regiment, Somerset Militia discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C8752615

Reference: WO 97/562/123
Description: WILLIAM HOBBS. Born BATH, Somerset. 
Served in 40th Foot Regiment; Somerset Militia. Discharged
 aged 34. 
Date: 1803-1817. 
Held by: The National Archives, Kew. 
Legal status: Public Record(s). 
Language: English. 
Closure status: Open Document, Open Description 

You might also care to note that following 1815 Waterloo Medal William Hobbs, 40th Foot Currently on Ebay seller jimbobbrewin (2102)

  • @PolyGeo should we edit this reference to eBay once the auction closes to point to the closed auction, or edit it? "Currently" isn't going to be 'current' for very long. – Jan Murphy May 3 '18 at 22:37
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    @JanMurphy I've not yet commented or voted on this answer because I'm pretty sure that this is a different William Hobbs, and that there are about four of them whose records are difficult to separate. From genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/11998 I think mine was not born in Bath, and had left military before Waterloo on 18 Jun 1815 because his daughter Jane was baptised 18 Dec 1815 at Truro St Mary with William's occupation given as labourer. I agree that the eBay reference would be better as a comment due to its temporary nature. – PolyGeo May 3 '18 at 23:03
  • Well it is the correct regiment and there is only one person listed for the regiment in the correct name. What is the problem? – sean007 May 8 '18 at 16:06
  • There is evidence that my ancestor served in the 1st regiment of the Somerset Militia but I think that is a different regiment to the 40th Foot. – PolyGeo May 13 '18 at 12:04
  • You do not appear to make any distinction between the Militia and the Army. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militia_(Great_Britain) – sean007 May 15 '18 at 15:53

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