For the first time online, leading British genealogy research website TheGenealogist has released over 81,000 records of records of Mentioned in Despatches from the First World War, linked to citations from the London Gazette.
Find thousands of soldiers and army nurses who had come to the notice of superior officers for an act of gallantry, or meritorious action, in the face of the enemy in these records. The records created, when the recipient’s name appeared in an official report sent to the high command, can now be searched online only at TheGenealogist.
Some soldiers were mentioned in despatches (MiD), but do not receive a medal for their action, they are nevertheless listed in the records as they were entitled to receive a certificate and wear the Oak Leaf decoration on their dress uniform.
Only one such decoration is ever worn, even when a soldier is mentioned in despatches more than once, as was the case in the example of one Captain B.L. Montgomery.
Bernard Law Montgomery served in WWI in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was mentioned in despatches on several occasion so that we can find him no less than four times in the MiD records on TheGenealogist, the first of which is in 1915.
With one mouse click on the link to a transcript we can see the date the citation appeared in The London Gazette and note the date and page number for our research.
Another click of a link takes us straight to the website of the London Gazette so that we can then read the various pages that cover our soldier. By using the information from the transcript we can narrow our research right down to the correct page.
Following a third link on TheGenealogist results page gives us an image of the handwritten card record, showing even the military clerks corrections and crossing outs!
Awarded many medals in his time, including the DSO to which his oak leaf is pinned, this officer served between 1915 and 1918 ending the First World War as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was, as history tells us, to go on to become Field Marshall Montgomery and the 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, one of this country’s important Second World War generals.
As a junior officer serving at Méteren near to the Border of France with Belgium he had been shot by a sniper through the right lung in October 1914. With the rich number of military records on TheGenealogist site we can also find him in the casualty lists. One click will then take us to an image of a page from the Times newspaper of October 20th 1914 in which he is listed.
Montgomery was hit once more through the knee and was awarded the DSO for his gallant leadership when he turned the enemy out of their trenches with the bayonet.
Once Captain Montgomery had recovered he went back to the Western Front in 1916 as a general staff officer, taking part in the Battle of Arras in spring 1917 and also the Battle of Passchendaele in the autumn of that year and ending his war as chief of staff of the 47th (2nd London) Division.
In World War II he assumed command of the Eight Army from 1942 in the Western Desert and went up against Romeril’s forces in Africa. This time was to include the Battle of El Alamein which was a turning point of the Western Desert Campaign. “Monty” went on to command the Eight Army in its part in the Allied invasion of Sicily and subsequently Italy.
As the war wound on to its close, during Operation Overlord he was in charge of all Allied ground forces and on the 4th May 1945 he took the German surrender at Lüneburg Heath in north Germany. After the war was over Field Marshal Montgomery became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine and then Chief of the Imperial General Staff. From 1948 until 1951 he was chairman of the permanent defence organisation of the Western European Union and in 1951 deputy commander of the Supreme Headquarters of NATO.
Known for his lack of tact, he had upset the American generals Paton and Bradley during WWII and after the hostilities he criticised many of his war-time colleagues, including General Eisenhower who was by now the President of the United States. Monty was, it is safe to say, a complex but brave man who served in the British Army for 50 years. He died on 24 March 1976.
Mark Bayley, head of Content at TheGenealogist said “For those people searching for ancestors who had served in World War I, Mentioned in Despatches provide a unique addition to the already strong collection of military records that are offered at TheGenealogist”
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above.
I had identified in the Indexes, to Births Marriages and Deaths for 1919, an entry in Devonport, Devon, for the birth of twins.
The problem was that the family were from London and, as I blogged last week, the head of the family was a Metropolitan Policeman. I had found from the The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre the stations to which he had been attached and it would seem he had a continuous service until illness forced his retirement in 1928.
A quite big question had worried me about why these children would have been born in the West Country to a couple, only married a year before in London. From my research I had discovered that the father was attached to Marylebone and then Clapham districts; but nothing had been said of any other service in the First World War.
As most of us know in England there is not a national police force. The County and Borough Police Act was passed in 1856 which made policing compulsory throughout England and Wales and made provision for H.M. Treasury to give assistance to local authorities to establish territorial police forces. By 1900, the number of police in England, Wales and Scotland totalled 46,800 working in 243 separate forces.
Many amalgamations of police forces have taken place since then and today policing of England & Wales is mostly run on County lines. Scotland, has in 2013, merged all 8 territorial forces into a single service called Police Scotland, but England has not. The Met, I had always assumed, was only a London force and Devon had its own Police.
At this time (1919) Plymouth was policed by the Plymouth Borough Police force, as I found from a history on the Devon & Cornwall Police website
“In the 1850s, the Devon County Constabulary and Cornwall County Constabulary were formed, bringing a new professionalism to the policing of the peninsula. These constabularies, along with the Exeter City Police and the Plymouth Borough Police, finally came to together following a series of mergers, which resulted in the formation of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in 1967.”
This birth of twins, to my Met Police Constable and his wife, was in World War I and so I wondered if war service may have accounted for the move of the family. Devonport was a large Royal Navy port in the City of Plymouth, County of Devon and I thought that, perhaps, the Constable had left the Police and joined the navy. Now it seems that he served his country, in the war, by staying in the Police force.
The resulting birth certificates, for the twins, confirmed that I had the right couple and the occupation of the father is given as: “Metropolitan Police Constable of 14a Auckland Road, Devonport.”
So that raised the question of what was a London policeman doing in Devon, in WWI?
The simple answer to this question came from the Friends of the Metropolitan Police website http://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/met-police-family-history.html
“The Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the policing of the Royal Dockyards and other military establishments, Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich from 1860 until 1934, and Rosyth in Scotland from 1914 until 1926.”
Today, the responsibility on forces bases is with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Police; but back then it was with the Metropolitan Police. So this Met Police Officer was enforcing the law at the Royal Navy Dockyard at Plymouth, when his twins were born.
As a general rule a British “Bobbie” is unarmed, even today. True we have Firearms Officers, who attend incidents where weapons are used, and we have police officers on guard at airports, military establishments and the like who carry guns, but the unarmed civilian policeman is part of British psyche. We refer to this as “Policing with the consent of the public.”
From some reading I have done, however, I have discovered that all Met Policeman of the Dockyard divisions were in fact armed. It is most likely that this P.C. carried a .455 calibre Webley & Scott self-loading pistol Mark I Navy. The dockyard police being normally issued with what ever the current side arm of the Royal Navy was at the time, rather than what the Met used on odd occasions in London.
The thing about family history is that, along with many others, I find I am continuously learning. No matter how much I think I know I am always reminded that we are all advanced beginners. There is always more to learn!
Are you researching your English family tree and have exhausted all the run of the mill records?
Take a course such as Family History Researcher Academy and broaden your research horizons.
This week I was asked to look into a family tree for someone whose family tree had found its roots back to London around the 1900s.
Finding the right person in the birth marriages and death (BMD) indexes had been a little difficult, as the date of birth was a few years out.
Notwithstanding, when the certificate arrived from the General Register Office we were able to see that the father of the child was listed a Police Constable.
As his address was in London we had a choice of two main police forces as his employer, the City of London, or the Metropolitan Police. Taking a guess that it would be the latter, I went in search of what records there may be for Met Policemen and came across the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre’s website at: http://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/met-police-heritage-centre.html
From a link on its home page I ended up on the Family History which in turn gave me a link to a Search Sheet with this filled in with the scant information that I had about my Police Constable, I fired it off by email and waited for a reply.
From what I read on their site The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre research material consists of:-
- Central Records of Service from 1911.
- 54.000 name database from 1829 of which is updated regularly.
- Pension cards for pensioners who have died
- Police Orders from 1857
- Joiners and Leavers Records. (copies from National Archive)
- Divisional Ledgers. (consisting of collar Numbers, previous occupation and armed forces service) for certain periods of time for A,B,E,F,G,H,K,L,M,N,R and Y Divisions.
- Subject and People files.
- Photographs – in the process of being scanned to Hi-Res from a vast collection
It was within a couple of days that I had my reply!
I got the man’s warrant number, his dates of service, that he had joined the Marylebone Division before moving south of the river to the Clapham Division and the various collar numbers that he had held.
Now that surprised me, as I had never really thought about the fact that a copper’s number would change as he moved station, but it does stand to reason.
Other information they could give me was that he retired from ill health, together with the illness and the pension that he got plus a card from an index that recorded his death in Eastbourne in 1969.
The ever helpful people at The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre advised me that Metropolitan Police officers pension records are held at The National Archives and gave me the index numbers that I will need to investigate this man further.
So if you have a Met Police Officer in your family tree, then it is well worth contacting the heritage centre. It is currently free to request information, but they do encourage donations.
Are you researching your English family tree and have exhausted all the run of the mill records?
Take a course such as Family History Researcher Academy and broaden your research horizons.
And what a great show it was.
Twiggy’s Who Do You Think You Are? research revealed that she has a family history story filled with colourful characters, leading lives as eventful as her own has been.
The story of her great-great-grandmother who turned to crime “uttering forged coins” (passing them in payment) and spending time in a Victorian prison. The same woman and her daughter who were prosecuted for stealing a significant amount of money from the girls employer. The mother, having taken all the responsibility and being convicted, doing hard labour.
Others who ended up in the workhouse and the tale of the parish, when faced with having to support the inmates of this harsh institution, prosecuted the husband for abandonment of his wife and children and had him committed to jail with hard labour.
The fact that the convicted man’s occupation was that of a Slater, a hard job dependent on seasonal employment and from his death records we discover that he had a strangulated hernia. All of which point to another era when the welfare state did not exist to provide the safety net that we all so much take for granted today.
So why did the Workhouse exist? Why was there such fear on the part of the administrators of the Parish Poor Relief that they made conditions harsher than those that a labourer on the outside had to endure?
For centuries in England, those who fell on hard times would become the responsibility of their parish. The old poor law system had coped well enough until around 1800 new demands on the system caused the government to think again.
Unemployment had risen to new heights, a consequence of the growing industrialisation of the country that now needed less men to make the goods that previously had been created in the old cottage industries.
Another pressure on the poor law came from the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves.
Then, on top of this, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars caused a great many soldiers to return from France with no work to go to.
In today’s United Kingdom, we often refer to a North South divide with the balance being towards the richer South. In the 1800s the industrial north, with its large cotton mills and other factories, fared better than the South where fewer industries existed to employ those people who had previously worked on the land and were no longer required.
As the situation got worse for the government, by 1832 they believed that they had to overhaul the poor law system and the way in which the poor relief was distributed. A Royal Commission was asked to look into it and as a result parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.
A belief was widely held in the country that the poor were often undeserving of the money. That they were idle if they had no work. Under the new Act Parishes were compelled to ban together into Poor Law Unions that often covered a 20 mile radius and each Union a Board of Guardians were chosen to administer the new system.
The biggest result of this change that could have affected your ancestors was the provision of a workhouse in each Union.
Five hundred plus of these Union Workhouses were constructed during the next 50 years with two-thirds of them having been built by 1840.
Although workhouses were not a new phenomenon, under the old system most of the unemployed would have received poor relief while continuing to live in their own homes (so called “out relief”).
Any parishioners, now needing help after the passing of the new law, were compelled to live inside the workhouse, where conditions were made as harsh as possible so as to discourage all but those who were desperate from applying.
Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.
On admission the poor would have to undress, have their clothes taken away from them until they were discharged. They would have had a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform of rough shapeless material. This stripping away of identity was all part of the discouragement from claiming indoor relief.
I have more on the Poor Laws, the Workhouse and Crime and punishment as just some of the many topics covered in my comprehensive Family History Researcher Academy course for anyone researching their English/Welsh family history. At the moment there is a Special Offer trial from the link on this page of £1 for the first two weeks!
Read what some of my past members have said:
“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have been doing family history for many years. Kind regards. ” H.Stephens
“You communicate in an understandable way! Thank you for the modules that I have had so far” P.Martin.
If you caught the BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? this week then you too were treated to a really interesting story.
It was that of Billy Connolly and in particular his ancestral links back to India.
His maternal great-great-grandfather was a soldier in British India who married the daughter of another British soldier. One who had seen the atrocities of the Indian Mutiny first hand and who himself was married to a young Indian girl at the time.
The Anglo-Indian aspect is another fascinating subject that could be examined in detail, but today I wanted to concentrate on the 1857 Indian Mutiny, as the British called it, or the First War of Indian Independence, as it is known to Indians.
What was good about this episode of the TV series was that it explained a bit about this historical time. There were brutal killings on both sides and it reminded me to go and look in my notes for an inscription that I had once seen on a headstone in one of the old cemeteries here on the other side of the world in Jersey, Channel Islands. There is no connection to Billy Connolly other than it is a person who also witnessed the brutality that his ancestor had in Northern India and the effect that it had on her.
Last year I was looking at some of the old Victorian monuments in Mont A L’Abbe Old Graveyard in Jersey when I came across this one:
Lavinia Fanny Kelly Hicks
Granddaughter of the above Mary Symons and the beloved wife of Captain W.J. Hicks H.M.E.I.S, who died at sea on her homeward voyage on the 28th of April 1858 in the 19th year of her age. Her constitution having been destroyed by the suffering she experienced during the mutiny at Allahabad.
So many other questions spring to mind from this.
This particular headstone can be viewed in its entirety as part of the Diamond subscription of TheGenealogist. This site has published photographs and transcriptions from several churchyards and cemeteries and I am told by my contacts at TheGenealogist that there are more to come in the future months.
Just search for Lavina Hicks and you can see the actual headstone that I was so moved by.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above.
Ancestry.co.uk, Findmypast.co.uk, GenesReunited.co.uk and TheGenealogist.co.uk are tested by a panel for the magazine.
I am a regular user of three of the websites as there are times when data can be found on one that is not on the others. Also, when searching for a person who has been illegibly recorded in the original records, and so posing a headache for the transcribers, one site may better identify your ancestor than on the others.
Sometimes Ancestry’s interface can be a bit overwhelming, as I have found in showing new users how to find their ancestors using this platform. Drilling down with the Card Index helps greatly.
I was very surprised, however, that Findmypast got such a high rating in the magazine review, after all the problems it has had this year with its new interface. I completely understand that there are good reasons for the new platform, which enables them to continue to expand the records available. Yet we have all seen the reports of disgruntled customers who feel the customer service was not what they had expected when they voiced their concerns. So why wasn’t this reflected in the article? FMP actually comes out highly for Navigation and search in the piece.
As a blogger I continue to post news about FMP’s data set releases on my site, along with those of the other providers, only to then receive emails and comments from FMP users expressing their frustration with the site. And I am completely independent of FMP!
Returning to the review article, I was also disappointed to see several wrong statements made about The Genealogist website which I feel I have to mention in the cause of fairness.
Firstly, it has been possible for as long as I can remember to simply use the “?” icon on this website to report an error and yet the reviewer states bluntly that it “wasn’t possible to flag up transcription errors”. On the contrary!
I also can not agree with the reviewers, who indicate that this website “promises more than it delivers” and that it is “possible to form an inflated impression of the content contained based on the marketing”.
An example given by one reviewer is the number of newspapers and magazines on the site. The article erroneously makes out that the data is less than it really is. I have found that TheGenealogist site has a lot more than just the two newspapers that their reviewer was able to find. I make it 15!
One of the contributors reported that, when searching, you couldn’t group all the census years together and she says that you have to examine them year by year. Again this is just plain wrong as all you need to do is use the Master Search which will allow you to do this!
I have always enjoyed reading Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, but this article perplexes me in its bias. What is going on here?
I was asked this week to find out what I could about a man that was never talked about in the family.
Intriguing, I thought!
The subject had married the contact’s aunt in 1943 and fathered three children before, at some time, becoming estranged and then divorced from the aunt.
What little I had to go on was that in the Second World War the man was a British officer in the Indian Army. We didn’t know his date or place of birth, where in the U.K. he was from or any other family details.
To make things a bit more difficult he had always used a nick name “Ron” that was not the short form for his actual first name. Luckily for me, we did know the full name of the subject and to preserve anonymity I am going to refer to him here as Vincent Martin Edwards (not his real name).
Before the independence of India, in 1947, the Indian Army was an important component of the British Empire’s forces and made a significant contributions to the Second World War effort. After independence the records of officers, such as my man, have been deposited at the British Library in St. Pancras, London and so this was my first port of call.
I know from my visits to the British Library that they have runs of the Indian Army lists on the shelves of The Asian & African Studies Reading Room on Floor 3. A look in one of these, for the war years, should provide the officer’s number that can then be used to locate his service records that are held there, but not on open access.
From research that I have done in the past at St.Pancras I know that access to the service record for someone of this era would more than likely be restricted to the next of kin. All I wanted, however, was for one of the staff to look inside the document folder and to provide me with the date and place of birth of Vincent Martin Edwards and so I shot off an email request.
In amazingly short order I was emailed back with the answer: Streatham, 22 February 1919.
Meanwhile I had found the marriage details online for the couple at Findmypast in their British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns. The bride and groom were both 24 when they married in a church, in India and so I had confirmation of a birth date of 1919.
Turning to the online Birth, Marriage and Deaths, that are widely available on the internet, I went in search of the birth of Vincent Edwards for that quarter. These should be held in the records for the district of Wandsworth and so all I had to do was find the reference and order the certificate from the GRO.
Ever think things are going too well… that they are just a bit too easy?
The rapid reply from the British Library, the exact date and place?
Yes, that’s right! There were no records for Vincent Martin Edwards in that area for that date.
I began to expand my search to the neighbouring districts and found a Vincent Edwards in Camberwell for the first quarter. Perhaps this was my man? Was he born just into this district, I wondered, as it is not that far away on the map.
Now you may have heard the mantra “Always kill off your ancestors” that is try and find their death and in this case it only took me four years in the same Camberwell district to find the death registered of this namesake. This Vincent Edwards only had a life of 4 years, so couldn’t be my man.
So if the district was not wrong what about the date, not withstanding the supposed corroboration of the year from the marriage return?
I went back to the Wandsworth BMDs and began checking for the birth in the years either side for 5 years at a time. Result: a Vincent M Edwards born in 1920, so now we know he had exaggerated his age on his Indian Army records and at his marriage as well! Perhaps he had joined up before he was supposed to, as people did this in war time.
The lesson is to always treat dates with healthy scepticism until you get the primary record to prove them. I have ordered the certificate and await it with interest. From it I will be able to see such details as the Father and Mother’s names (The mother’s maiden name was added to the births, marriages and deaths index (BMD) held by the GRO from the September quarter of 1911).
I have a useful tutorial in my Family History Researcher course on using the General Register Office index and ordering certificates for anyone that is unsure of how these records can help in your English/Welsh family tree research. Click the link below to read more.
Great news from the team at TheGenealogist. You can now find records of injured First World War servicemen online for the first time.
Over 1.3 million records from daily and weekly First World War casualty lists have been released online by TheGenealogist. This vast collection of unique records cover all ranks to help you discover more about your injured ancestor’s wartime service.
The new records include career soldiers, volunteer Pals battalions, war poets and even a future Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. The collection covers both those who died of their wounds and those who recovered and returned to the front.
The records are a great resource for finding out what happened to an ancestor during The First World War. Details include:- the name of the injured serviceman, his regiment and rank, the date he was registered as a ‘casualty’ and often his home town or place of enlistment.
These records also work with TheGenealogist’s unique ‘SmartSearch’ feature, which allows you to link to the comprehensive range of other military records available on TheGenealogist. Many of the wounded servicemen received medals for their actions and with a few mouse clicks you can discover whether your ancestor received any commendations, such as in the Military Medals records available online on TheGenealogist.
The First World War affected people from all backgrounds who were bravely wounded in the line of duty. Daniel Laidlaw, a career soldier from Little Swinton in Berwickshire, re-joined the army aged 40 as a Piper in the 7th Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers , 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.
At the Battle of Loos, troops of his battalion were ordered by General Douglas Haig to attack the heavily fortified German positions in their sector. The Scottish troops, facing a thick cloud of chlorine gas, were hesitating but Piper Laidlaw climbed out of the trench and under fire began playing his pipes to inspire the troops and they successfully resumed the attack. He was wounded in both legs but had carried on playing for as long as he could, his Casualty Record can be found on The Genealogist along with a SmartSearch link showing that Laidlaw was awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: ”The sheer number of records in this latest release show how brutal The First World War was. Record keeping at the time must have been a real challenge, but thanks to TheGenealogist’s SmartSearch technology, when you find a casualty record, you can instantly see if other records, such as medals, appear on the site.”
The new 1.3 million records of the wounded are available as part of a Diamond Subscription.
To find out more about the ‘First World War Wounded Collection’ see the dedicated page on TheGenealogist.co.uk/ww1-wounded. There you will find photographs, stories, statistics and a free search facility.
Disclosure:Compensated affiliate links used in this post.
The greater the knowledge that we have about a subject, then the more tools we have at our disposal to explore it.
In family history, the more we understand the records and resources, then the better we are able to locate our ancestors hidden in the documents.
Today I am really excited to announce the launch of yet more help for those people researching their English/Welsh family roots.
I’ve listened to your feedback and acted on it.
Some of you told me that you’d like to buy tutorials on certain specific areas for a very modest outlay of under a couple of pounds.
For those of you who asked for this quality information, so as to increase your knowledge of the family history records and resources, then here are the initial four tutorials being released today. I am making them available for the first time as MP3 downloads for £1.99 (or $3.30) so that they really are affordable to all.
Whether you want to listen to them on your computer, or transfer them to your MP3 player, then these programmes in my new Nosey Genealogist’s Master Mind Audio Series explain what the records are, where to find them and how to use them.
I know that many satisfied family history researchers have passed through my Family History Researcher Course of 52 written lessons – downloaded in pdf format to their computer each week. I have received compliments on the content and the accessible style and it gives me great pleasure that many of you really enjoy receiving a weekly module from my Family History Researcher Course. (If you have not joined yet, but are interested in this written course then check out the special offer which is currently a £1 trial for 2 weeks http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/trialoffer/)
But I also understand that some of you just wanted to listen to an audio programme on certain specific subjects and so that is what I have done for you today.
The first four Master Mind Audio Series Modules are:
- Tithe records
- The Parish Chest
- Illegitimate Ancestors
Watch this space as I record and release more audio downloads in the near future.
To listen to a sample taken from the podcast go now to www.NoseyGenealogist.com/mastermind or click on the image below…