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In the course of this blog we have already uncovered the lives of a number of men who served their country during the First World War. But how can you research your own ancestors from the Great War?

To start with, some general family history advice:

  • Start with what you know, i.e., don’t start by jumping straight to researching an ancestor from the war era. Start with yourself, your parents, your grandparents etc, and work backwards
  • Ask any living relatives for their memories of other family members and jot everything down to check later
  • Free sites such as Freebmd will help you to narrow down birth, marriage and death dates
  • Use other sources such as school records, business records or archives of voluntary groups or societies to flesh out the details of your ancestors’ lives.

For First World War ancestors useful and additional sources of information include:

  • Local newspapers, which might give details of deaths or medals awarded
  • Medal cards and other military records at The National Archives
  • If you know what regiment they belonged to, there are a number of regimental museums dotted around the country who may have additional information
  • There are also relevant First World War service, pension and other records available on Ancestry.
  • Men who won medals for gallantry can be found in the London Gazette online
  • To find the graves of people who died in active service, search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

There are plenty of books and other websites available that will give you guidance on this area of research. Some of the staff at the National Archives have even started researching their own First World War ancestors! If you need further advice or are struggling with your research, please do not hesitate to ask us at the Archives. And once you have found out more about your local First World War ancestors, please feel free to share their stories with us. You never know, they might be featured on a future blog…