Could my third-great-grandfather have joined the army at age 13?

+4 votes
Hi. I am trying to source and confirm information regarding my third-great-grandfather Edwin Edwards. My family tree has him born in 1831 in Tiruchirappalli aka Trichinopoly, in Madras (now Tamil Nadu), India. I have found a baptismal record for him a couple of months after the birthdate I have, and also his death record in New Zealand indicates that his age was such that he was born about 1831. So far, so good.

However, I also found on the FamilySearch website that the Edwin Edwards who was born in Tiruchirappalli was in the British Army in 1850 in Ireland. I have done some other research on military records and found that the soldier of that name and service number was also part of the same regiment as early as 1844. (I also found out that the regiment was in Madras from 1822-43 before returning to the UK.)

So the name (Edwin Edwards) and location (Madras) lines up. Perhaps Edwin joined the local army regiment in Madras and went to the UK (where his family was presumably from, given his name) with them. The problem is, the age doesn't seem to line up - 13 seems very young to be a corporal in the army. I also did some cursory (Wikipedia) research that suggested the British Army recruited people from age 17 in those days. Then again, I have seen on Hornblower episodes that quite young children were in the 19th-century navy, at least!

So I am trying to figure out what's going on. Could he really have joined the army at such a young age (perhaps giving  a false age)? Or was he actually at least a few years old when he was baptised in 1831? Or are these actually two different people? (perhaps it was a mix-up on the part of the FamilySearch member to tag that military record to my ancestor?)

Any information, advice, or other help figuring this out would be greatly appreciated.

There is more detail on all of this (as well as sources) on Edwin's page, linked here.

(There is also a bit more family tree information on FamilySearch, linked from the Wikitree page. It's partially sourced.)
WikiTree profile: Edwin Edwards
in Genealogy Help by Caleb Day G2G4 (4.9k points)
I have just added some links in the research notes regarding information behind paywalls on some other websites. If anyone has a membership to FindMyPast or MyHeritage and feels like accessing the birth/baptism records for me, I would be extremely grateful!
Caleb: I have checked the reference at MyHeritage. This is merely a bunch of family trees that, in addition to the birth record from 1831 that you already have, only reference other familysearch,, and Wikitree family trees/profiles. Thus, nothing additional of value here.

My counter-question to your original query would be - would a corporal stationed in Cork, Ireland, in 1850 be in the right place to marry someone in Renfrewshire, Scotland? Even though you haven't found anyone else named Edwin Edwards in family trees, the name (especially without middle names) seems to me to be sufficiently common that a person in Ireland and a person in Scotland can be expected to be two different people unless there is evidence otherwise (for example a notation "Corporal" or "from Cork" or "from Madras" in the Scottish marriage record).
Excellent point C-H. I decided to buy the marriage record, and yes he is in fact named as a soldier of the 41st regiment on the marriage register. So there is a link between the Edwin in the regiment and my ancestor. And apparently a link between the Madras-born Edwin and the same regiment (as his father John was in the regiment as per the other response below). But still doesn't necessarily prove there aren't two different Edwin Edwardses linked to the regiment.

Thanks a lot for your help! And thanks a lot also for looking up MyHeritage for me.

2 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
From the British India Office Births and Baptisms on FMP there are the following births/baptisms for

John and Jane Edwards, Private HM 41st Regt.

Edwin (no middle name) b 28th March 1831 Quilon, baptised 24 May 1831 Trichinopoly

John b 17 March 1830 Arnee, Madras, baptised 11 April 1830

William b 9 February 1829 Arnee, Madras, baptised 18 February 1829

Plus Burials

2 June 1830 Arnee John son of John and Jane Edwards HM 41st Regt

3 June 1830 Arnee Jane daughter of John and Jane Edwards HM 41st Regt
by Anonymous Baker G2G6 Mach 3 (35.3k points)
selected by Caleb Day
Awesome, thanks so much! So the Madras-born Edwin's father John was in the regiment, at least...
+4 votes
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
There are many records for Edwin Edwards on Ancestry, but if they have a middle name/initial it seems to be included. So it appears more likely Edwin without the middle name/initial is a different person.
Thanks a lot Marion!
Actually you have got me thinking about the middle name Arthur for Edwin Sr. Certainly Jr had that middle name, but I'm starting to doubt whether Sr had it. It is on FamilySearch but I can't see it listed on any sources (including FamilySearch's sources for his name). So I think I will remove the middle name (after I added it a few days ago).

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