Atlantic Crossings

World War One Ancestors

by Phil Westwood

Over 5 million people served in the Forces from the British Isles. War Memorials in almost every City, Town and Village in the UK record the names of the many who didn't return.

Researching ancestors who fought in the First World War is time consuming but rewarding. Some research can be done on line but a visit to the Public Record Office will be necessary.

This article describes the most straightforward records to research The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a searchable database of those who died in World War One

this gives the name, number, where born, where enlisted, when died, where buried, next of kin regiment and number.Further information may be available from the Commission write including details if known - full name , rank, unit, date of death, age, place of death, home Town to casualty.enq@cwc.org.

The World War One Genealogy Forum is worth visiting to share information and expertise

Research will be made easier if you know your Ancestors full name and Regiment. Are there any surviving documents or medals ? Any official letter from the Army is likely to note the Regiment. Medals have the Regiment inscribed on the back.All Officers were awarded medals in the First World War, an alphabetical index at the Public Record Office will show name, rank, number and Regiment.

The First World War dead are listed in "Soldiers died in the Great War" or "Officers died in the Great War" available on CD Rom and microfilm at the Public Record Office and published by the Naval and Military Press. Entries are by Corps and Regiments divided into Battalions then alphabetical order. The information includes place of birth, place of enlistment, whether died in action or of wounds if known, where death occured and any medals awarded

Nearly all service records are now at the Public Records Office. Only 40% of service records survive as many were destroyed by enemy action in World War 2. Contents of service records vary, they are often not as comprehensive as people think. They follow the persons career and include at least the following information and sometimes more - place of birth, age on enlistment, next of kin, promotions, medals awarded and various other letters and documents.

This article has described the most straightforward records to resource. Other sources are available but are often incomplete. To persue the subject in greater detail it would probably be necessary to use the services of a researcher.

Few families were untouched by death in the First World War. In recent years in the UK the custom has been revived where on the Anniversary of hostilities ceasing on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month Towns ,Cities, schools and shops remain silent for two minutes to remember those who fought and died.

<< Atlantic Crossings

Additional Articles

  • Newspapers in Family History Research
  • United Kingdom Census Returns
  • National Records at the PRO

    Philip Westwood runs a genealogical service enabling Americans and Canadians to research their English Ancestors. For more details view his profile.

  • What's New in Genealogy ... Today!
    click to view original photo