The militia had its origins in Anglo-Saxon times, and was raised for home defence only. It was active ‘called out’ during periods of war, for example during the Tudor and Stuart periods and in the late 18th and early 19th centuries during the Seven Years’ War and Napoleonic War.
Recruitment was organised through the County Lieutenancy. County and parish officials drew up milita lists, often annually, of those eligible (men over 18) to serve in local defence forces. We hold few such lists which is unfortunate as they also noted:
A ballot was then held, from which a muster of men was selected by lot. Those selected had to serve in the militia unless they could pay a substitute. Their names were recorded in militia enrolment lists. These lists are described on our online catalogue as muster lists, muster rolls, or muster books. Best survivals of these lists, and other militia records, can be found under catalogue prefix Q30 (covering 1833 to 1904) and 44M69/G5 (covering c1588 to 1640).
After 1831, the authorities were no longer able to enforce a ballot and henceforth those who served in the militia did so on a voluntary basis