Many of us will find that we have a male ancestor who has served in the British Army at some point during their lives. A smaller percentage of our women forebears will also have served the country but before 1949 women are found primarily as nurses, or in the auxiliary corps, and not in the Army as they could be today.
I recently set out to look for one of my ancestors and where I began searching for him depended on whether he had been an officer or a regular soldier as the records of ‘Officers’ are generally quite separate from the sources for those soldiers of the ‘Other Ranks’.
A second consideration, to take into account, was his dates of service.
In a lesson that I am including in my Family History Researcher course I will be covering some of the key resources that a person may want to use in their research. Some of these records are available online, while for others you will have to visit the National Archives (TNA) in person at their address in Kew.
TNA have an ongoing project to make scanned copies of their documents available via their online catalogue and so it’s well worth checking whether the information that you are looking for has been digitised before making a special visit.
I read some time back that it is recommended by various military historians that once an individual’s regiment or corps has been identified a researcher’s initial approach should then be to the appropriate regimental or corps museum.
I found my ancestor served in the 17th foot Leicestershire Regiment joining in 1864 as an Ensign, or junior officer and so I paid a visit to Leicester.
You can find details of these regimental and corps museums on the Army Museums Ogilby Trust’s website at:
On another visit to The National Archives I took the opportunity to take a look at their copies of Hart’s Army Lists, while there, and in the 1866 edition on the pages to the 17th Foot, The Leicestershire Regiment I found the entry for my great-great grandfather Ensign Edward A Massy Hay, 31 May 64.
For those who want to search the Army lists online then TheGenealogist has made this possible at their website having added a useful range from 1661 to 1940.
I have decided to reopen the membership to a second tranche of students now. So if you want to join my Family History Researcher course – aimed at beginners to intermediate researchers of English and Welsh family history – then click the image below.
IWM & brightsolid partner to create digital platform:
Lives of the First World War
Just heard this news from brightsolid…
IWM (Imperial War Museums) and brightsolid, the online publishing and technology arm of publishing group DC Thomson, are working in partnership to create Lives of the First World War – an innovative and interactive digital platform to mark the First World War Centenary.
Lives of the First World War will hold the stories of over 8 million men and women who served in uniform and worked on the home front. It will be the official place for communities across the world to connect, explore, reveal and share even more about these people’s lives.
This innovative platform will bring fascinating records from museums, libraries, archives and family collections across the globe together in one place. The team behind Lives of the First World War are working with national and international institutions and archives to make this happen.
Over the course of the centenary, Lives of the First World War will become the permanent digital memorial to more than 8 million men and women from across Britain and the Commonwealth – a significant digital legacy for future generations.
The platform will go live later this year, in time for the start of centenary commemorations from summer 2014. Further information, including a short film about Lives of the First World War can now be found at www.livesofthefirstworldwar.
Diane Lees, Director-General of IWM said: “The Imperial War Museum was established while the First World War was still being fought to ensure that future generations would understand the causes and consequences of the war and to remember the men and women who played their role.
“Now that the First World War is outside living memory, we are the voice of those veterans and the custodians of their stories – which we can now tell through Lives of the First World War. We will be encouraging people of all ages, in all communities to join us in this project to actively remember these men and women.
“I am delighted that IWM will be working with brightsolid. Their focus on innovation, their specialism in telling stories and making history accessible along with their international reach makes them our perfect partner on Lives of the First World War.”
Chris van der Kuyl, Chief Executive of brightsolid, said: “We are proud to be working with IWM to create a digital memorial that will be an enduring and fitting tribute to the men and women of the First World War. I am sure that as the centenary approaches, members of the public will deepen these stories by uploading their own content in order to create a rich narrative tapestry for every man or woman whose life was shaped by the War.
“The UK has an incalculable wealth of historical archives. Institutions like IWM are world leaders in making those records available online to millions of people worldwide. We are only beginning to realise the cultural potential of these archives.”
brightsolid’s partnership with IWM consolidates its position as a private sector partner for leading public institutions digitising historical archives. The Group recently launched the British Newspaper Archive in partnership with the British Library, embarking on a project to digitise, and make fully-searchable, up to 40 million historic pages from the national newspaper collection over the next 10 years and has previously delivered the highly successful 1911census.co.uk project in partnership with The National Archives (TNA). In addition, brightsolid is the private sector provider for ScotlandsPeople, a partnership with National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon that serves an integrated online portal for Scottish genealogy records dating back to 1538.
Lives of the First World War will be a part of IWM’s extensive programme to mark the First World War Centenary. IWM’s programme includes new First World War Galleries at IWM London (opening summer 2014) and a major temporary exhibition at IWM North. IWM is also leading the First World War Centenary Partnership, a growing network of over 1,000 local, national and international cultural and educational organisations spanning 25 countries. The Centenary Partnership will present a four-year vibrant programme of cultural events and activities engaging millions of people across the world.
I was able to pick up on my father emigrating to Singapore in August 1950 to work in what was then a British Colony.
Recently I have discovered that the National Library of Singapore has put its newspapers on line to search for free. Regular readers of my blog will be aware of how much I enjoy making use of the various newspaper resources in Britain such as the British Newspaper Archive.
The beauty of the Singapore collection is that it is free to search and you do not even have to register to do this. Naturally I was curious to see if my dad got himself into the papers while he was there and it is with some satisfaction that I found an article and photo of him on page 4 of The Straits Times on the occasion of his marriage to my mother at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Singapore in the November of 1951.
So sometimes, when searching for your British Family you have to think about looking outside of Britain for them.
What else did I find on the Singapore Newspaper site? Well nothing more on Dad and Mum, but quite a bit on my mother’s step-father who was an architect in Singapore and my Uncle Bill who was Deputy Health Officer of the Singapore City Council.
In my Family History Researcher Academy course, on English and Welsh Family tree research, I have a tutorial devoted to using the newspapers as well as lessons on how to use some of the other lesser known data sets.
The launch of the course at a special trial price was very successfully filled, but I have been asked if there is room for a few more members. I am considering these requests and could decide to open it up again shortly. To be kept informed go to: www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com/trial
Disclosure: Some of the links above are compensated affiliate links that may reward me if you buy their subscriptions.
Behind War Headlines and Historic Records Are People.
Behind the headlines of war and historic records are people – YOUR relations – and Forces War Records are constantly striving to help you add colour to your ancestor’s past.
I got contacted this week by the Forces War Records website reminding me that the 8th of May is the anniversary of VE Day.
They told me about how their website was evolving and how they are relentlessly adding new records and fresh information to it. It seems around 200,000 records a month! This could mean brand new insight for you – so it could be well worth visiting the site and searching their records regularly for any new information on your relatives that may have served Britain in the Second World War.
If you are short on time and would like some help with your research then you can also visit the site for details on how to conveniently hire a Forces War Records Researcher.
They promise that “As we are growing and developing we will be introducing many more educational features, medals descriptions, tips on genealogy research, and opinion led articles on the website’s blog that you can comment on and get involved with.”
The website has many other features that you may not be aware of, including a growing ‘historic documents’ library where you can view old newspaper cuttings and original periodicals from wartime such as ”The War Illustrated’. There’s really nothing quite like seeing the original material that your relatives might have read.
As you can imagine, Forces War Records are receiving interesting records, wartime books, periodicals, original newspapers, letters, pictures, and real stories all the time.
You can also visit the site for all their latest company news and offers.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the people that run the site: ” Forces War Records is not like other genealogy sites – we offer niche records and a wealth of historic information that you simply wouldn’t find anywhere else.”
Hooray! This month’s Your Family Tree Magazine ( May 2013 Issue 129) has a feature on uncovering your Channel Island kin and it is very good.
Naturally, as a local – I am a Jersey-born resident of this most southerly point in the British Isles – I was immediately attracted to this article. I flicked through to page 34, as soon as I opened my copy.
You may have noticed that I say above “I am Jersey-born” and not that “I am a Jerseyman”. This is because, when you live here, you become aware of certain linguistic conventions that we islanders abide by.
To be regarded as a proper Jerseyman I would need to have not only been born here, but to have come from a line of Jerseymen and women that have roots here stretching back several generations. It is also best that those roots can be traced to nearby Normandy and that your name has a French origin to it. My roots and name just do not qualify!
I am the son of incomers, my father is English, and my Norman blood is courtesy of an ancestor called de la Haye who emigrated to Scotland from Normandy, around the 12th century, established the Clan Hay and has filtered down to me here.
I can, however, and do claim to be a local.
Within this blog I have several pages written by guest contributor James McLaren of the Channel Islands Family History Society that will complement the YFT magazine’s feature. Take a look at Jersey Family History for tips on researching in Jersey.
For the record, here in Jersey is how we refer to what goes on within our island. Locals may wince if you refer to “researching your family history on Jersey”. We are, after all, a separate legislative jurisdiction.
We do owe allegiance to the English Crown – the successor to the Dukedom of Normandy and are British. We do not owe allegiance to England, nor are we part of the United Kingdom. We are a Crown Peculiar. So to avoid annoying Channel Islanders, do not insinuate that we are loyal to England, and then you will find that we are a friendly and welcoming bunch.
When I was a schoolboy, here in Jersey, I learnt a splendid repost to someone from the Mainland asking: “So how long have the islands belonged to England?”
The answer always was: “I think you will find that we conquered you in 1066.”
The logic behind this is that the Channel Islands are the last remaining part of the Duchy of Normandy that remains loyal to our Duke, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. That as Normans we conquered the English with Duke William. Simple!
Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Your Family Tree Magazine should you sign up for their subscription.
Ancestry has made two major improvements to their 1911 Census making it even better in the search for your family’s past.
First of all they’ve released brand new record images, which include the ‘Infirmity’ column that was previously hidden. You can now see if any of your relatives were deaf or blind, or coped with a mental illness while searching on their site.
Plus, they’ve linked the records to their UK Maps, 1896-1904, supplied by Cassini Historical Maps so once you’ve found your family in the Census, you can jump straight to a map revealing the area they lived in.
I have been aware for some time that my grandfather’s younger brother died when he was only a young man. He is buried in the family’s plot in Paignton cemetery and from the memorial words on his grave it would seem it was tragic.
I recall that a family story had it that a motorbike was involved, and naturally some of the family had assumed that he was riding said motorcycle at his death.
My father, however, knew differently and explained that his Uncle Clifford had been killed when a motorbike had hit him as he stood in the road.
This week I have been looking on the British Newspaper Collection again, from within the findmypast site and was able to find a report in the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette of 31st July 1923 that reported on the accident. It also provided me with a little bit more information that I was previously ignorant of; that his occupation was a dental mechanic.
Another paper (Western Morning News of the 3rd August) gave me the names of those mourners that attended the funeral in St Andrew’s Paignton including those who are listed as uncles, aunts and cousins so giving more useful information for the family historian.
I really do recommend you taking a look at newspapers either on the dedicated site, whose search engine seems to me identify a broader set of results than the sister site.
Or within the findmypast website if you have a subscription.
I am putting together a family history course of my own and will be certainly covering the usefulness of researching your ancestors in the newspapers of the time.
If you would like more tips on researching your English or Welsh Family History then why not sign up for my tips and a special FREE report using the box below…
585,000 new Parish records added to findmypast
I have heard from the nice people at family history website findmypast that they have added new Kent baptisms, banns, marriages & burials to their parish records collection in partnership with Kent Family History Society, making it even easier to find your local ancestors. The latest release includes records from Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Ashford & Rochester in addition to 131 smaller parishes. They cover an extensive period of history from 1538 to 2006, allowing family historians to discover and add even more generations to their family tree.
Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at findmypast commented “These new records are a fantastic resource for anyone eager to uncover their Kentish heritage. In combination with our recent addition of East Kent and Canterbury material, findmypast is definitely the go-to place when it comes to family history in the south east.”
The new records have joined over 40 million parish records from UK family history societies available on findmypast in an exclusive partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies that started in 2007.
Jean Skilling of Kent Family History Society added “The Kent Family History Society (www.kfhs.org.uk) is delighted to be working in partnership with findmypast. We hope our indices will be of help to everyone tracing their Kentish ancestry.”
The records are available to search online now as part of findmypast’s vast collection of parish records, and can be viewed with PayAsYouGo credits, a Britain Full subscription or a World subscription.
While we are looking at the brightsolid group, for anybody with antipodean links then you may be interested in this information that I have been reading.
Free access to findmypast.com.au’s entire Military collection of 3.6 million records in memory of Anzac day!
Findmypast.com.au gives FREE access to Military records for Anzac Day!
To commemorate, Anzac Day, findmypast.com.au are giving away free access to 3.6 million Military records between 22-26 April 2013. Find your military ancestors completely free!
I have been having a nose around the British Newspaper Archive Collection again this week on its stand alone website as well as its home within the findmypast site.
I was looking for information on a great-great-uncle who died young (30) after a fall from a cliff. While I didn’t come up with a family notice of his death I found an article in the Isle of Wight Observer for May 19th, 1866 under the notices for the Royal Victoria Yacht Club that I found interesting.
After detailing that the Commodore’s splendid yacht had arrived at the station on Tuesday and then listing the twelve yachts on station, having got the important notices out of the way they then add a line or two about the man I was researching.
“It is with great regret that we hear that W.W.F.Hay esq., fell overboard from his cutter yacht the Surge, at Alderney, and lost his life. His remains will be interned tomorrow (Saturday). On receipt of the melancholy intelligence, the flag at the club was hoisted half-mast high.”
Well, their information was not quite correct, as reported elsewhere. William Wemyss Frewen Hay died when he went ashore at Alderney to have dinner with the officers at the garrison there and lost his footing while returning to the breakwater and where his yacht was anchored.
This, however, got me looking for information on the clipper yacht called the Surge and the first article I turned up made me think that she was not such a good racing boat at all. She retired from a race around the Solent having no chance of gaining the lead in August 1865.
Further articles, however, have her mentioned in a good light.. “Some dozen clippers have already been entered including the celebrated Surge (W.W.F.Hay Esq), the Water Lilly, yawl, (Commodore Lord A Paget, MP.) etc” which does not sound like she was an also ran.
I wonder what the yacht looked like and how many crew she required to sail her?
There are also other questions I have about Willaim, who at the time of his death in the May, according to another article, was due to be married in July of that same year. I would like to find out who his bride to be was, but so far no mention of the lady has appeared in my trawl of the newspapers.
As more titles are added all the time this situation may indeed change. I keep coming back to this resource as it is so useful to family historians.
The British Newspaper Archive is a partner of the British Library and set up to digitise their collection of over 300 years of newspapers. Now accessible to the public, with market leading search functionality, it offers access to over 4 million pages of historical newspapers. A great source for hobby historians, students, reporters and editors – what will you discover?
Disclosure: The above are compensated affiliate links.
I’ve been road testing a family history course aimed at beginners this week from Love to Learn. It focuses on informal learning for people beginning to research their family trees and is extremely accessible for active seniors and adult learners with a computer.
The courses are designed for those who enjoy discovering new interests and acquiring knowledge – people who, as the name implies, love to learn.
I liked the video introductions and the multiple choice review at the end of each module.
Love to Learn is the UK’s first dedicated website that offers a wide range of online courses for adults who want to keep learning, in an informal way, in their own time, at their own pace.
How can it help you?
Two of its most popular courses help to trace your ancestors and build up a visual record of their old photographs. These are:
Scanning and Editing your Old photos and
This beginners’ online course helps you start exploring a fascinating field that, as most of you have probably already found, soon becomes a passion. It enables you to research your family history using internet resources including census, military and parish records.
Most people can trace their family back several generations, and some of us can even go back hundreds of years. However far you go, if you are just starting out, or know someone in this category, then this may be the perfect way to start discovering family’s stories.
The course is run in partnership with the experts from Imperial War Museums and Ancestry.co.uk and is led by history author and former teacher, John Child, its video tutor, and draws on his John’s own experiences of researching his ancestors. Mel Donnelly of Imperial War Museums has researched family and military history for 20 years. She helps you find out about people who fought in the British Army.
As you learn you’ll create your personal album for your family’s enjoyment and fascination. The course costs £38.00 and provides eight to ten hours on online learning. For more information, please go to http://www.lovetolearn.co.uk/family-history
Disclosure: I was supplied with a complimentary copy of this course to review by the publishers, but with no conditions attached.
If you would like more tips on researching your English or Welsh Family History then why not sign up for my tips and a special FREE report using the box below…