National Records of Scotland holds a wealth of military records from many conflicts dating back to the start of the seventeenth century. As these records sometimes reach us in a disorganised state, our archivists catalogue them to make them more accessible to the public.

We recently began a project to catalogue First World War Pensions Appeal records. This project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, will catalogue and conserve fascinating documents that have until now been an untapped resource for many genealogists, medical historians and other researchers.

This series contains the pension appeal applications for around thirty thousand Scottish servicemen who suffered from injuries sustained during the war, or who died afterwards from associated illnesses and conditions.

Before cataloguing began, searching these records was very difficult. The appeals are organised in 288 boxes, arranged alphabetically by month from November 1919 to December 1932. This means that, in order to locate records, you must first know when a claim was heard by the Appeals Tribunal. As this information wasn’t recorded anywhere, researchers have had to trawl through hundreds of records!

We began cataloguing work before Christmas and have now reached the milestone of 1000 records. Over the next two years, we’ll add these records to a custom-built, publicly accessible database. We’ll also re-house them in specially designed folders and boxes, and will highlight conservation issues.

Once completed, our new database will make searching the Tribunal records much easier, as it is searchable across all the fields, including those listed below:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Age
  • Service Number
  • Regiment and Rank
  • Medical Conditions
  • Notes of interest

We’ll also add Medical Subject Heading Codes to each record to describe the medical history of each applicant. These are commonly used by medical historians, as they standardise terminology.

Although we’ve so far only dipped a toe in these records, we’ve already uncovered some visceral and poignant personal stories.

The records are currently closed to the public for cataloguing but we hope that after the project is complete, we can help to ensure that the stories and sacrifices of Scotland’s First World War servicemen are not forgotten.

Lynn Bruce & Olivia Howarth

Project cataloguers, WW1 Pension Appeals Project

National Records of Scotland

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