WWI Soldiers – Online Records – pt1 Introduction

Attestation Form for Attestation form  for Albert William Alfred Milner from Leeds in Kent who  in 1914 joined the 8th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment - one page from a soldiers file in WO363 the 'Burnt Series'

Attestation form for Albert William Alfred Milner from Leeds in Kent who in 1914 joined the 8th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment – one page from a soldiers file in WO363 the ‘Burnt Series’

World War One Soldier’s Records

The easiest way to access the records that have survived for WWI soldiers (not officers) is on Ancestry.com. There are two collections entitled – British Army WWI Service Records 1914-1920 and British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920. Let me explain what the difference is between the two collections before we get into examples in later posts.

British Army WWI Service Records – “Burnt Series” – This collection is in WO363. The War Office records repository was on Arnside Street, Walworth and on 8 September 1940 there was a fire. The majority of the records in the repository were either totally destroyed or badly damaged by fire and water. What survived is approximately 25% of the original quantity and is now at The National Archives, in Kew. There are theories but it is not clear what records were at Arnside Street, or how they were arranged. The fire though was a major disaster for those researching WWI soldiers. Typically the files are for men killed in action, those who died of wounds or disease without being discharged from service, were executed, discharged without pension, or soldiers who were demobilized at the end of the war. The collection includes Regulars, Territorials, New Army volunteers and conscripts.

The contents of the files vary greatly but may include attestation papers, discharge papers, medical records, disability statements completed on demobilization, casualty forms, and regimental conduct sheets.

British Army WWI Pension Records – “Unburnt Series” – After the Second World War the War Office needed to find a way to supplement the records that had survived in what is now WO363. An appeal was made to other government departments that might hold records of service. The largest collection came from the Ministry of Pensions – thus this collection is commonly known at the British Army WWI Pension Records or the “Unburnt Records” – currently in WO364. It is important to understand that even though Ancestry.com calls these the Pension records they are not ‘pension records’ in the classic sense, just that the majority of the records came from the Ministry of Pensions. The records typically relate to regular soldiers serving in the army prior to the war who were discharged at the end of their service, those receiving a war pension who had since died or whose claims were refused, or men who later claimed a disability pension from either wounds or sickness. The collection does not include soldiers who signed up for the duration of the war unless they received a pension on medical grounds since such a soldier was entitled only to a gratuity upon demobilization. The original arrangement of the records when received from the Ministry of Pensions by the War Office is unknown, but the records have now all been alphabetized.

The WO364 records contain some anomalies. The records include some soldiers who were discharged as early as 1875, long before WWI. There are files for British men serving in the South African Infantry of Australian Imperial forces who were discharged in Britain.

These original records in these two groups occupy 44,000 boxes of material, much of which is too delicate to be handled. They have all been filmed producing 15,000 reels of microfilm. These films are available for use at The National Archives and at the Family History Library, but care is needed as all the names are not in alphabetical order, due to the number of cameras used in filming (WO363) or four different alphabetical sequences (WO364) . However, searching on Ancestry.com is so much easier, but again care is needed to ensure you have the correct soldier and all the records for that soldier.

What is not included in either set of records is information for any other rank who saw service after 1920, or any officer after March 1922, or who left the army before these dates but were recalled or re-enlisted for service in the Second World War.

Important Search Reminder – It is important to understand how these records have been put online. The pages of a file were first microfilmed in the order they existed within the file. They have then been digitized. An algorithm was then created to search for the attestation papers (joining) or discharge papers (leaving). Making a search then tells you how many pages are in a file, and when viewing an image will generally take you to the attestation or discharge page. This is the landing image and may or may not actually be the first image in the file. In examining the file you need to move back and forth reading earlier and later images in the supposed sequence to see if additional pages actually refer to your ancestors.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Military, WWI

Book Review: Counting People – A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians by John S. More

Counting People: A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians by John S. More

Counting People: A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians by John S. More

Counting People: A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians. By John S. Moore. Published by Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK www.oxbowbooks.com. ₤17.95. US Distributor: Casemate Academic, 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateacademic.com. $35. xii, 247 pp. Index. Softcover.

The book’s introduction states that it is written for undergraduates and postgraduate students wishing to study local populations, and for those people interested in history who want to know more about the number of people in a particular area at some time in the past, how and why that number changed over time, what jobs these people had, the structure of their society, and its constituent households and families. As family historians this includes us and this book is certainly worth reading and using.

The introduction suggests reading the last chapter first, which I did. This chapter on researching, writing and publishing gets the reader thinking about the research process, with good questions to be asked along the way to get organized and get results. It is also designed to get the reader thinking about what end result is desired – article, monograph or book, for that will help determine where to look, how and why. The questions raised here help the reader focus their reading in the other chapters to meet their specific needs.

The book is targeting English demographers, those who want to work with population numbers, but that should not stop family historians using the same sources, though some will just contain just numerical data, still helpful, most are derived from and use personal or family data, and thus contain names. The first two chapters outline the problems and questions to be addressed in researching a specific geographic area (parish, village, town, or county) and the principal methods and sources to be used in addressing these questions. The remainder of the book is divided into three periods looking at the problems and sources to be used. The first period covers the Middle Ages from 1066 through to 1525. The second period is from 1538 to 1837 when parish registers are the main source for English population history. The final section covers 1801 through the present, when the census returns provide a reliable outline of demographic developments, obviously expanded from 1837 with reports from the Registrar General.

Professor Moore assumes no expertise exists apart from a genuine interest in the subject. This means that the specifics are well explained. This might be how names or numbers are recorded in the records and how they need to be modified to get to population figures, appropriate for a demographer. For the family historian the author explains what it took to get on the list in the first place – specific age or income levels, land ownership, eligibility for military service, etc. The book provides a detailed description of what records were created, why and most importantly where to find the records and whether they may be in print or not. The latter is especially important as many of the original records will be in Latin, and on this side of the Atlantic it is easier to access print materials than to personally go look at the originals – though there are risks with that approach. Each chapter has extensive endnotes providing access to primary and secondary sources. Professor Moore practices what he describes with a case study for Frampton Cotterell in Gloucesterhire, providing estimated population figures from 1086 through 1801. This highlights the many sources that do exist for many communities within England.

The section of book that I really appreciated was the extensive (57 pages) partially annotated bibliography. This in itself is divided into seven numbered sections: 1 – Introduction to local history; 2a – handwriting, 2b – language, 2c – dating, 2d – computing and history; 3 – Anglo-Saxon England; 4 – Domesday England; 5 – Medieval England, 1135-1525; 6 – Early Modern England 1525-1750; 7 – Modern England, 1750-2011. Each of period sections is subdivided into: sources; countryside; towns; population; economic and social developments. The bibliography does not claim to be a comprehensive listing of all printed sources or studies based on these sources, but some of the sections, e.g. local assizes, manorial records, feet of fines, lay subsidy rolls, are quite extensive. I have already been through this bibliography looking for sources I want to find and have ordered through inter-library loan.

This book will expose the family historian to many resources, some of which will be familiar. I will guarantee though that you will find sources here that you have not heard of, or used. This will be especially true for those researchers who have traced back into the Colonial period and are now jumping the Atlantic and wanting to know what records are available to go back into the Early Modern or Medieval period in English research. This is certainly a book worth exploring.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, England

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Grave Commission part 3

Option to filter a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Option to filter a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

In the last post we started to discuss the search options for the advanced search screen of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org.  We discussed ways to search  on Surname and Forename, so please do have a look at the last post. Let us take a closer look at some of the other search options and what they mean for your searches, and why you may want to use them.

Country – use this if you know where your ancestor is commemorated. France is not a good choice as there is hundreds of thousands who died there. But if you know that your ancestor died and is commemorated in Argentina, then you are in luck as there is only two options.

Cemetery or memorial – this is useful if you want to get a sense of context, or possibly see who else might be remembered in that location. If you start to type a place and there are multiple options a list will appear. For example, searching on Thiepval brings up four options, selecting Thiepval Memorial and searching on that location shows that 72,338 individuals are memorialized on this one memorial. These are the people for whom no identifiable remains were located to be buried. Corporal Robert Finnegan discussed in the last post is one soldier named on Pier 4D, face 5B.

War – this limits your choice to the First or Second World War

Date of Death – starting and ending – allows you to define a period in which your ancestor died, or to determine how many others died on a given day, possibly indicating if he died in a major battle or in a quiet time. For example, a search for the names of those who died on the 1 July 1916 names 18,708 individuals and obviously does not include those who died from their wounds over the following days. This was the worst day in British military history if you did not already know that.

Served with – lists the forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and South Africa. Be very cautious here as people from the United Kingdom may have served in any of the colonial forces, and many from the colonies did serve in the United Kingdom forces.

Served in – identifies the branch of service – army, air force, navy, merchant navy, civilian war dead and miscellaneous. The last category may need some clarification for this includes: munition workers, Red Cross members, Voluntary Aid Detachments, canteen workers, army cadets, ambulance drivers, war correspondents, etc.

Rank – as you start to type in this field a list of options appears from which to choose.

Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 names from WWI

Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 names from WWI

Service number – this search may be useful if you have this number from another source, such as a medal roll and want to identify where he is buried or memorialized.

Regiment – can be used to narrow a search, or used with dates to put a death into context. Again when you start to type a list of options appears. For example, searching on the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for the 1 July 1916 shows that there were 833 deaths in this one regiment alone on this day.

Secondary Regiment – should be used with caution as the majority of records contain nothing in this field.

Awards – this enables you to identify those individuals who were awarded a medal (such as the Victoria Cross), or were Mentioned in Dispatches. Returning to the 1 July 1916, with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and identifying Victoria Cross recipients we identify Eric Norman Frankland Bell of the 9th Battalion. The descriptive citation is provided, adding more color to the day Robert Finnegan died, for the 9th Battalion preceded the 11th Battalion out of the trenches moving towards the German lines.

Additional Information – can be any term but it would need to appear in the additional information part of the database. It might, for example, be used to identify others from your ancestor’s village or street.

There is a lot of material in this database and some experimenting with the search options will narrow your options to find your ancestor, at the same time additional information can be gleaned to put your ancestor into context.

Comments Off

Filed under England, Family Research, Finnigan, Ireland, Military, Scotland, WWI

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 2

Finigan, Finnigan, Finegan, Finnegan

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website search for Fin*g*n

In my last posting I did a simple search to find my dead soldier – John Croudace. In this blog posting we are still working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org website but let’s examine the advanced search options a little more closely. To find the advanced search you can either choose it from the simple search box on the home page, or you can select “Find War Dead” from the tab bar. Either way you end up at the same advanced search box. Note that you only need one entry in any one box to do a search.

Let’s start with the first and second boxes for surname and forenames as these are the most commonly used. You can type in any surname and search. The default for the forename is initials and I on the first pass leave the space below blank. Only if I get too many options do I insert an initial. Inserting an initial will pick up the entries in the database that use only an initial as well as those forenames beginning with that initial.

With surname it gives you exactly what you ask for, there is no sounds like or Soundex option. However wild cards are allowed. So let’s look at an example and see what difference it makes. I want to search for the name Finnigan, but did the army spell it this way, or with one “n”, or did they substitute an “e” for the “i” in the middle. If searches are made on these variations, limiting it to WWI we get the following results:

Finigan 2
Finegan 9
Finnigan 63
Finnegan 27

John Finnigan Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Details for J Finnigan, son of William Finnigan of 7 Back Hammond Street, Newcastle-Upon- Tyne

This gives me a total of 101 options. However, I prefer to get all my results at once. So searching on “fin*g*n” picks up all these and a few more for a total of 105. The additions are the names – Fingleton and Finighan. The results are presented in batches of 15 names.

With these numbers of results I tend to scan all to see if any are a likely possibilities, for remember you are also looking to trace the cousins, as almost every family in the United Kingdom was impacted by the war. In this search one entry jumped out at me on the first page – Finnigan, J – buried in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (St. John’s Westgate and Elswick) Cemetery. Looking at the details in the illustration he died 10 July 1916 and most importantly he is described as the son of William Finnigan, of 7 Back Hammond Street, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. A supposition, later confirmed, was that John Finnigan was wounded on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and that he was wounded severely enough to be evacuated back to England. He actually died on the transport ship returning to England, and was buried in his home town.

Details for Corporal Robert Finnegan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on Thiepval Monument

Details for Corporal Robert Finnegan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on Thiepval Monument

John was a private in “C” company, 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Interestingly John has a brother Robert, and when the rest of the list is examined there is a Robert Finnegan, who is a Corporal in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, killed on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. In this case though there is no data entered in the additional information section. From this source alone I cannot confirm if this Robert is or is not the brother of John.  He is, but other sources are needed to confirm that.

In the next blog posting I will discuss some of the other search options, why and when you might want to use them.

Comments Off

Filed under England, Family Research, Finnigan, Ireland, Military, Scotland, WWI

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 1

Home Page fro Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website with simple search box in upper right.

Home Page for Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website with simple search box in upper right.

I said in an earlier posting that this year I was going to have a special focus on World War One research. I have had a couple of postings mentioning new resources, but now I want to start explaining how to use the existing resources to trace your World War One ancestors and to put them into context.

Let’s assume your ancestor did not survive the war. The place to start is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that the 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten. The Commission is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of those members of the Commonwealth forces who died. It therefore cares for cemeteries and memorials in 23,000 locations, in 153 countries. One of the sad parts of these numbers is that for many the person in the grave is unknown, and for many on the memorials no identifiable remains have been recovered.

Don’t lose hope though. For the family historian the important resource provided is the index to the 1.7 million who have died in the two wars. There are 1,059,642 names from the WWI and 649,489 names from WWII.

Let’s start here by defining for this database what period is being searched when WWI is selected. The first day deaths are recorded is the 4 August 1914 with four deaths, while the last day for recording WWI deaths is 31 August 1921 when 24 deaths were recorded in England, India and South Africa. Remember that the war began on 28 July 1914 with Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war with Serbia. England declared war with Germany on 4 August 1914 and so four members of the British Armed Services lost their lives on the first day of the war. England declared war later against Austria-Hungary on 12 August 1914; against Turkey on 5 November 1914; and against Bulgaria on 15 October 1915.

Let’s jump right in and do a search, partially because that is what most people are going to do. From the home page you can do a simple search using: surname; initials; service; and war. For this illustration I am doing a search on the name Croudace, and I choose WWI. I have seven results listed, and this is definitely one of the benefits of an unusual surname. In this case I can examine all seven results by selecting the surname on each line in turn.

John Croudace - Northumberland Fusiliers son of Andrew John Croudcae and  Jane Croudace

Search results for surname Croudace on Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website

The soldier I actually need is John Croudace.  The results shown are in a standardized format. What you hope and pray for is data in the Additional Information field for without it you may or may not be able to positively identify your serviceman or woman. In this case we learn that John Croudace is the son of John and Jane Croudace, of 14 Bentinck Street in Newcastle-on-Tyne. I have John with his parents (A.J. – Andrew John and Jane Croudace) and siblings at this address in the 1911 census. I have my serviceman.

Details for John Croudace of the Northumberland Fusiliers, son of John and Jane Croudace

Details for John Croudace of the Northumberland Fusiliers, son of John and Jane Croudace

The standardized data fields are: name; rank; service number; date of death; age; regiment/service; grave reference, and the cemetery where buried or the memorial where his name is inscribed. There may also be the valuable additional information. The additional information was drawn from the soldiers paperwork where they often, but not always, named parents, or wives. This is especially valuable as many of those documents were destroyed by fire during World War II. I will come back to what has survived of these records in a later post. There can also be extensive information with photographs on the cemetery where the person in buried.

Presentation Memorial  Certificate  for John Croudace.

Presentation Memorial Certificate for John Croudace.

In the upper right corner of the casualty details box is a button for – view certificate. This is a very nice certificate to print to remember your serviceman or woman, and to insert into your research files. Please note that one key piece of information is missing from the certificate which would be vital if you are planning on visiting the cemetery or monument. What is missing is the grave reference number, or the panel number of the memorial.

We will take a closer look at this website in the next blog posting.

Comments Off

Filed under Croudace, England, Family Research, Ireland, Military, Scotland, WWI

Book Review: Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors – A Guide for Family Historians by Mike Royden

Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Mike Royden

Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Mike Royden

The posting of this review comes as a result of a specific question following one of my recent lectures at the Dupage County Genealogical Society Conference.

Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Mike Royden. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK. www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. ₤14.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishing, 1016 Warrior Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026. www.casemateathena.com. $32.95. Australia Distributor: Gould Genealogy & History, P.O. Box 119, St. Agnes SA 5097.  www.gould.com.au. AUS$44.95. 2010. 260 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Royden is a well-known writer-lecturer and authority on the history of the city of Liverpool in Lancashire, England. That knowledge, experience and advice comes through clearly in this research guide. This book is so clearly focused that it is a must for anyone with Liverpool connections.

The book is divided into two sections; work and economy; society; plus appendices. The book begins by describing the development of the city, beginning with its fishing village origins. It did not begin to develop until after 1647 when it became a free and independent port no longer subject to the Port of Chester. Rapid expansion occurred in the 1660s and 1670s with the expansion of the town, development of local industries, the discovery and development of local salt deposits. Then during the eighteenth century it rose to prominence because of the transatlantic slave trade, along with its growing importance as a port and center of shipbuilding. Until around 1700 Liverpool remained one township within the parish of Walton but land enclosure and land development was changing the rural agricultural area, but the town boundaries did not start to expand until the 1830s, while the close by towns of Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port did not exist yet. The geographical isolation of Liverpool within England changed during the industrial revolution with the development of roads and turnpikes, the construction of canals and in 1830 the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway.

The second section focusses on society by examining: housing development; poverty; health and charity; religion and migration; education; and the experience of war. In the process of examining these subjects Royden identifies the history and records of the local institutions and organizations that impacted the lives of our ancestors. No matter at what level of society, what ethnic or religious group your ancestor belonged to he or she will have been influenced by these institutions and local organizations. This book puts everything into local context and directs your research.

What makes this volume different and even more valuable, from other regional guides in this series, is the very frequent and extensive guides to further research and reading attached to every topic discussed in the book. Inter-library loan will give the reader access to most of these resources.

The book concludes with six extensive appendices (71 pages): a research guide – pulls together information on the familiar family history records we search; a listing of archives, libraries and local study centers – providing contact information and identifying their primary holdings; web resources – identifies local history links, local photography sites, and locally focused forums and message boards; other useful organizations and resources – describing purpose, meetings, publications and contact information; museums and heritage centers – contact information and descriptions of holdings ; and recommended reading. It should be noted that even though the recommended reading list is very extensive and arranged by topic making it easy to use, it is not comprehensive and that the relevant section within the text should also be read as often additional recommendations will be made.

Comments Off

Filed under Book Reviews, England, Liverpool

Discover English Parish Registers – My new book

Discover English Parish Registers I’m pleased to announce that copies of my latest book – Discover English Parish Registers are now available in both print and electronic formats. It is published by Australian publisher Unlock the Past. You can purchase the e-book here for AUS$7.95 and the print copy here for AUS$17 includes GST.

Here’s how the book is described by the publisher. One note to North American readers – it’s written appropriately in the Queen’s English.

English parish records are a fundamental source for English research. In this detailed guide, family historian Paul Milner explains how and why the records were created, beginning in 1538, what the records look like and what information they contain. A well-illustrated case study, with plenty of twists and turns, shows why care is needed to trace back in time from one generation to the next. The guide continues by explaining how and where to access the records (online, microfilm, originals or in print) and concludes by explaining what to do when you can’t find your ancestors in the records.

Here is a practical guide that will help the beginner to avoid mistakes in climbing the family tree, yet the depth and details are here to assist the experienced researcher in understanding how to get the most from parish registers. This publication is a definitive guide to English parish registers that you will wish you had when you first started your research.

Comments Off

Filed under Book Reviews, England, News, Where is Paul?

Book Review: The Wills of our Ancestors – A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Wills of Our Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Wills of Our Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

The Wills of Our Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians. By Stuart A. Raymond. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK. www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. ₤12.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishing, 1016 Warrior Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026. www.casemateathena.com. $24.95. Australia Distributor: Gould Genealogy and History, P.O. Box 119, St. Agnes SA 5097, Australia. www.gould.com.au. AUS$34.95. 2012. xviii, 199 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Almost every book on English research highlights the need to examine the wills of our ancestors. But the devil is in understanding the details and there are lots of them. Mr. Raymond gives us an easy to read detailed guide to understanding and using the wills and associated records of our ancestors.

This book focuses primarily on English and Welsh probate records from the medieval period through to 1857, although the post 1857 wills, along with the parts of the British Isles are discussed, but in less detail. The book’s introduction discusses the value of probate records, what has survived, their origins (separate meaning of will and testament and how they got combined after 1540), probate law, along with their limitations and biases, plus a community case study. That is all in the introduction.

There are separate chapters addressing: who could make wills and why they made them; the probate process; what is likely to be found in the will (and why it needs to be treated with care); the contents, value and limitations of inventories; other probate records (litigations, act books, commissions, administration bonds, probate accounts); plus where and how to find the probate records. The book continues but with less detail on the post 1857 wills, and probate records from around the rest of the British Isles. There are a number of other groups of records outside the church and civil courts that contain probate materials and these are each addressed giving the researchers alternative sources.

There is an excellent further reading section that provides an annotated bibliography of books about the probate process, records, and guidebooks but also identifies published collections of probate records arranged by counties, and specific locations within the counties. The problem is that the listing is not complete and you might not know that unless you read everything because in the annotated section for the book by Gibson and Churchill it states – “This volume also lists numerous indexes, both published and unpublished, which are therefore not listed in the present volume” (p.109), although some of the publications in Gibson and Churchill are included here.

The appendices include: summary lists of pre-1858 probate courts, arranged by county, which can be complicated and the author makes no claim for total accuracy; guidance of where to find assistance with handwriting and Latin; a glossary of terms found in probate records; Latin glossary; and a very useful listing of legislation affecting probate.

Pen and Sword have hit another home run, with another great addition to their family history series. This book will be of value both to the beginner and the more experienced researcher.

Comments Off

Filed under Book Reviews, England

Digital Microfilm at TNA – changes coming – Army Lists as example

Digital Microfilm at TNA, currently Free, but changes are coming

Given my last post about the indexing of WWI war diaries, I was in this post going to explain how to download the war diaries that had already been scanned and were available as part of The National Archives website. I had downloaded war diaries in October 2013, but I can’t do it now. I thus spent the week learning a little more about what is happening regarding digital images at TNA.

Firstly, I learned that the war diaries are in the process of being digitized at a higher quality. They will then be repackaged, improved and put online again. I suspect with a different fee structure.

I also learned by reading the minutes of the TNA User Advisory Group that changes are coming to the Digital Microfilm currently available online for free. It is the Army Lists in WO 65 that are specifically mentioned in the minutes. I confirmed by contacting a committee member that changes are coming. Specifically WO 65 will be removed, repackaged and put online for a fee. Nothing was disclosed about what the repackaging what look like, what the fee would be, or when this would occur. It was suggested that if I wanted copies of the Army Lists for free that I should do it soon.

To get to the complete list of Digital Microfilm click here. This will take you to a description page and a long list (getting shorter) of digital microfilm that you can download free from a variety of record groups. Scroll to WO 65 – Printed Annual Army Lists. The published army lists begin here in 1754 with WO 65-1 and end chronologically with 1878-79 WO65/163. However, at the end of the chronological lists are an additional five films of British American Half Pay lists and Foreign Corps. What is different about these printed Army Lists is that they are the ones that were actually used by the War Office. These volumes are annotated, often indicating changes for you to look for in the following year.

The published annual Army Lists is often the first primary source you will use to reconstruct the promotions for any Army Officer.  It is thus a valuable source. I am not suggesting that you download every volume available. These can be very big files. What I am suggesting is that you may want to consider downloading the volumes for any specific period in which your ancestor/s may have served. In addition to that I am also downloading sample volumes from other periods so if I later find or suspect another family connection I can dip into the lists for free. I understand that there will be a charge in the future.

Have a look at the rest of the digital microfilms to see what others may be of interest to you and get them now. Some of them are fully indexed in the Discovery catalog – WO 76 – Records of Officers Services. As an outsider this would be another obvious one for a commercial partner to index, slice and dice and of course then charge you to access the record.

Have a look at the Digital Microfilms, which are currently free and see what might be beneficial to your research.

Comments Off

Filed under Archives and Museums, Military, News, officers

WWI: Operation War Diary – Your Help Wanted

Operation War Diary - Joint project between TNA, IWM and Zooniverse to index WWI Diaries

Operation War Diary – Joint project between TNA, IWM and Zooniverse to index WWI Diaries

WWI: Operation War Diary – Your help wanted

Operation War Diary is a new joint project between The National Archive (providing the documents), the Imperial War Museum (providing the historical expertise) and Zooniverse (providing the technology community software) is recruiting citizen historians to index these war diaries. The project is online at www.operationwardiary.org.

During WWI each unit kept a war diary. There are over 1.5 million pages within these diaries telling the stories of what was happening on any given day during the war. This is where you have the opportunity to put your soldier into context. The diaries originated as a result of Field Regulations Part II issued in 1909 and reprinted in 1913, stipulating the purpose of the war diary and how the diary was to be completed. However, every diary is different. The goal of this new project is to “classify each page of every diary”.  Indexing the war diaries will reveal questions about: military activity; people; weather; army life; and casualties.

The website provides a Field Guide to the diaries with examples of the different pages – cover, diary, orders, signal pads, reports and other documents (e.g. maps) and lists what is hoped will be tagged and indexed on each of these pages. There is a 10 minute tutorial on how to tag and index, which is very good. You will need to register first and then you can start tagging. Currently 31 diaries are online in various levels of completion. The site states that eventually everything from Operation War Diary will be available to everyone free of charge.

The stated purpose is to “classify each page of every diary”, however on the About Us page is states that The National Archives has digitized the war diaries of the units under the command of the British and Indian cavalry and infantry divisions on the Western Front. This makes me wonder if other Fronts such as Gallipoli or Mesopotamia will be included later. Personally I hope so as I have a soldier dying at El Kut in Mesopotamia and I would like to read that war diary.

There is also a discussion section where images can be posted of problem pages, help requests, or exciting finds. This is a very active section, for example 12 images with questions posted within the last hour.

I have read some war diaries in the past, but logging in and starting to tag the data really helps you appreciate the depth of details that are here about the lives of our soldier ancestors. The process was simple, fun and educational. If you have WWI ancestors, come join us in this worthwhile project.

Comments Off

Filed under Military, News, WWI