Monday 2 January 2012

Guest Post - Scottish WW1 Pensions Appeal Tribunals

An irregular feature of the old Scottish GENES blog was a series of guest posts that I published on all sorts of subjects concerned with Scottish family history. I will hopefully be adding some more this year to British GENES, but in the meantime, here is one of my fave posts from Tunji Lees, following a meeting we had last year in Perth. 

If you would like to make a guest post for British GENES, do drop me a note - the only requirement is that it involves something of interest to those who wish to carry out their family history research! 
Over to Tunji...!

I've recently discovered a great, little-known source for people researching the service of their First World War ancestors in Scotland. There are a set of post-WW1 pension appeal records held by the National Records of Scotland ( The records are catalogued under the reference PT6 and contain the pension application records of 1000s of Scottish soldiers -and next of kin of soldiers (usually widows) - who suffered from injuries sustained in the war, or died after the war due to injuries. These appear to be the Scottish equivalent of the PIN26 series for England and Wales (which, unlike the Scottish PT6 series, is indexed). Whereas the PT26 series appears to only be a selection of the disability pensions awarded to English and Welsh soldiers after the First World War, the Scottish PT6 series appears to be complete. And as you'll see below, the Scottish records are also quite detailed.

The applications are organised in boxes alphabetically by month, from November 1919 (reference PT6/1), to December 1932 (reference PT6/288). That's about 29 meters (or 95 feet) of pension records! There are also records from the same series covering post-WW2 disability pension applications, however seeing as they are closed for 75 years, the first set (those from 1945) will only be available in 2021.

It doesn't appear as if any genealogists are aware of the existence of these records, as they aren’t mentioned in the NAS publication Tracing your Scottish Ancestors, or in any guides to tracing WW1 ancestry that I've read, although they're a fantastic source of information on Scottish army ancestors.

Because most WW1 service records were burnt during WW2 (surviving records from record series WO363 and WO364 are indexed on, it can be difficult tracing your ancestor's service during WW1. In fact, they say you only have about a 30% chance in finding a record of your ancestor's service. Hopefully, these set of applications can raise that chance to at least 40% or 50%.

If you think your ancestor might have suffered from a disability due to the war, or died in the years afterwards, then I would strongly recommend consulting them. Many of the applications were actually rejected, so even if you know your ancestor didn't receive a disability pension, it's still possible there's a record of him applying for one. It's not clear to me whether these only cover army soldiers, or for other services also.

I've summarised the information that a typical pension file will include here below: (the layout on the actual applications is different)

General information
-Name of the soldier (+ name of the applicant, and relationship to soldier, if not the same)
-His address
-Pre-enlisting occupation
-Employer before the war (on later applications only)
-Employer after the war (on later applications only)
-Insurance society (on later applications only)

Military information
-Rank & unit
-Service no
-When first attested
-When discharged
-Reason for discharge
-Details on pre-war service (if applicable)
-Details on service 1914-1921 (when and where he served, and in what units)

Information on application
-Date of the hearing and in which courtroom it was held (the hearings were held at 3 Parliament Square, Edinburgh)
-Disability from which the man claimed to be suffering
-Whether the appeal was allowed or disallowed (many were in fact disallowed)
-If allowed, how much the applicant received, and whether he got a lump sum or a fixed rate, and for how long

Each file also has some information on the soldier's medical history. From around 1923, the application files start to get thicker and thicker, some having up to 10 or more pages of medical history, detailing the medical condition of the soldier throughout, and after, the war, as well as his date and cause of death if he died. Some of the files also include correspondence relating to the application.The application records are held off-site, and will need to be ordered 24 hours in advance.

Occasionally, I've come across a file which had not been filed under the correct letter within the box, and once, I came across a file that had been filed in the wrong box.

I believe these records have great potential for being a useful source for WW1 family history research. The problem with them however is that, without an index, it can be very time consuming looking for a pension record unless you know exactly when it was applied for.

I hope someone will see fit to digitise or at least index them. Perhaps this could be a project for a genealogy society, or a commercial website (findmypast?). I can't see the NRS indexing or digitising them any time soon, as I know they're already quite busy with digitising valuation rolls, and other records.

Tunji Lees is a keen family historian who at the age of 21 resides and teaches in Austria, but who has already spent considerable time in France, Belgium, Yorkshire and Nigeria.

He has a deep interest in his own Scottish ancestry, and is an active participant on the ScotFamTree forum.
(With thanks to Tunji)


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