The February 1995 issue of Suffolk Roots published by Suffolk Family History Society contained an article by E Lummis highlighting the usefulness of the new index to the soldiers documents held by the National Archives of the UKat Kew in class WO97. The sample list of names in the article included a John CATCHPOLE of FRESTON of the 7th Dragoons regiment, enlisted 1804 and discharged in 1814 aged 28.

This John CATCHPOLE is a son of my oldest known CATCHPOLE ancestor’s      George and Sarah (nee PAYNE) CATCHPOLE who lived in Tattingstone and      Freston.

On a recent visit to Kew I took the opportunity to look up the WO97 document. For this period they are held on microfilm in the microform reading room at Kew. It is a self-service system like the census room  however films are returned to the desk rather than returning them yourself.

WO 97 / 28 tells us that John CATCHPOLE, labourer, was a private in Captain Keanes’ troop. He was born in Freston, Suffolk, and that he enlisted at the age of 18 years and served in the regiment for the space of ten years and eight days, but “in consequence” of a diseased liver which resulted from a bad fever in 1812 was discharged to pension.  It also gives a description – twenty-eight years old, Five feet seven  inches tall Brown hair, blue eyes and fresh complexion.

With information gleaned it was possible to try several other War Office  sources. WO 120/20 (Chelsea Regimental Registers) again on microfilm and  organised by regiment (which is why it would have been much harder to  start here). John CATCHPOLE, age now given as 30, service as 10 1/12th  years, at pension rate 9 pence. The complaint, where born and occupation  are the same as before. In the Admission column it is marked “See  Report”, “Dd 2.12.38”, “D.21.366” the meanings of  which remain unclear, 2.12.38 looks like a death date but no death  certificate is recorded at the Family History Centre for John CATCHPOLE in  1838/39.

Finally I looked at the regiment’s pay lists also held at Kew in class  WO 12 to trace in more detail where he served. In this instance they show  he was stationed at Ipswich Barracks and enlisted 25th July 1804. John  received 13 pounds 8 shillings as bounty for enlisting and 2 pounds 6 shillings 1 pence worth of equipment, and the recruitment party received 1 pound 18 shillings for their efforts.

Without the WO97 index created by the Friends of the National Archives of the UK all the  above would have been very difficult. It was not known from any other      source that John served in the army and even if I had guessed that during  the Napoleonic Wars he might have done so I still wouldn’t have known the regiment.

Copyright Ó Marcus Bateman 2004

Based upon an article published in the August 1997 edition of Suffolk  Roots, published by Suffolk Family History Society.