The Royal Hospital Chelsea often get requests from people researching their family history, wanting to know whether anybody in their family was ever a Chelsea Pensioner.
Looking on their website there is a dedicated page that you can visit on Tracing Ancestors who were Chelsea Pensioners:
All of us in Britain are aware of the scarlet uniformed ex-servicemen and women who are known as Chelsea Pensioners, but do we know how far back in history their ranks go?
Perusing the website we can learn that from 1692 until 1955, all Army pensions were administered and paid from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is why all Army pensioners tended to be known as Chelsea Pensioners.
It seems that there are two categories of Chelsea Pensioner:
The In-Pensioner: refers to those who surrendered their Army Pension and were admitted as residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The Out-Pensioner: those who lived ‘Out’, in the UK or abroad and received their pension in cash from agents around the country. All records for Out-Pensioners are held by the National Archives at Kew. The Royal Hospital Chelsea website suggests that If you find details of an ancestor in a Census other than the institution one for the Royal Hospital Chelsea it is a definite indication that he was an Out-Pensioner.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea has an archive that includes some but not all records of In-Pensioners from 1871 to the present date. Records that are pre-1871 are held at the National Archives at Kew.
If you think your ancestor may have been a Chelsea Pensioner then for advice on how to use the Royal Hospital Chelsea Museum Archive services and for more detailed information on what materials that they hold, you can download their advice sheet here. If you have any further enquiries about a Chelsea Pensioner that think appears in your family tree then you can contact them on: