Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Chelsea Pensioner records - Caleb Robert Fitzhenry

The documents from the War Office series 97 have just been digitised on Findmypast. They relate to men pensioned out of the British Army. They did not have to be resident at the Chelsea Hospital to qualify for a pension - most were "out-pensioners".

There are three Fitzhenrys in this series (so far - not all the series is digitised yet). Here's the first one from a family that I don't think we have featured so far.

Caleb Robert Fitzhenry was a native of Killyward, County Donegal. He signed up for the Royal Irish Rifles on the 23rd May 1894 in Dublin at the age of 19 and 11 months. At the time he was a grocer's assistant.

However he only spent 260 days in the Queen's service, buying himself out in February 1895. All the time was spent on "home service", first in Newry and then in England in Chichester and Brighton.. A note underneath the discharge date "Certified that the sum of £12 has been refunded to Mr J L Fitzhenry on account of purchase money of discharge of Pvt C R Fitzhenry" Belfast 12.11.1900

His next of kin was named as his father Robert Fitzhenry of 34 Denny Street, Tralee, County Kerry and it listed his brothers as William, Samuel, John and Walter.

His medical record was unremarkable - he had one hospitalisation for blisters on his foot caused by his boots. At the time of discharge, his officers noted that his "Habits were regular, and his conduct was good"

So why did Caleb qualify for a pension (short service, no active duty, no chronic illness or disability), and why did his family get his discharge purchase money refunded 5 years after he left the army? More importantly, what had happened to Caleb that he couldn't receive it himself?

Other information that may relate to Caleb.
In the 1880 Donegal Town Street directory, a Robert Fitzhenry is listed under the merchants and traders section as variously a hide and leather merchant, a boot and shoe merchant, a woollen draper and a haberdasher. Perhaps this is Caleb's father before the family moved to Tralee.

In the International Genealogical Index (IGI) there is the birth of
Foster Caleb Fitzhenry
born 24 May 1874 in Donegal, Ireland
to Robert Fitzhenry and Catherine Laird
Batch number C701559, Year 1874, Source call number 0255901)
If this is our man (an it seems highly likely despite the extra name Foster), then he enlisted the day before his twentieth birthday.

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