Saturday, 13 September 2008

Researching First World War Ancestors

Sound advice has been shared on the web this week by members of the ‘Great War Forum’ to a query from Ian P which ran … “I am trying to research the men from my village (Farnham in Essex) that are named on the war memorial, because I think this should be done before everyone forgets who they were”.

Jay Dubaya referred the enquirer to ‘Soldiers who died in the Great War’:
In 1921 His Majesty's Stationery Office published, on behalf of and by authority of the War Office, two lists of those who died during the First World War. More than 703,000 names are included in this database. A search takes just seconds

Ian Turner added that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ( is a further site.

“Another course is to look through the local newspaper archive (usually the local library) for the 1914-early 20's period. They often carried weekly casualty lists, including write-ups on some servicemen and even photographs (perhaps the 'Jewel in the Crown' for such research).

“Posting an advert in the local shops and post office, asking for any information on the names can be productive - I even wrote a letter to anyone with the same surname as those on the memorial and living in my village, asking if they were relatives and knew any history of the men named. It drew some very useful replies.

“Whilst looking at the newspaper archives keep an eye out for the planning, construction and unveiling of the memorial itself. That often produced newspaper articles containing useful info, and it can be an add-on to the history of the men in your book. If you know who is responsible for the memorial (more often the church or local/parish council) it might be worth asking if they have any files on the memorial which can contain interesting background info.

“You might hit 'brick walls' with some names - you might need to draw on family research facilities such as the 1901 census, Free Births, Marriages & Deaths, etc. They can often hold pointers for your searches.”

Jon 6640 then added: “This is a fabulous site: Put 'farnham in the 'including' box then search”.

For any further information, follow this thread. Well done chaps!! Hope you don’t mind me pinching your expertise and passing it on.

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