The Great War and your ancestors

"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time" - Sir Edward Grey, August 1914

2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I. This centenary anniversary has made remembrance even more poignant.  Remembrance Sunday in November helped mark the event which brought an end to this conflict.

There is more we can do to remember though; we can look at how the war affected the lives of our families back then, which is what I and several others did at a recent session using the Ancestry Online database in Kensington Central Library. This resource is available in libraries in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Ancestry home page - accessible on library computers in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham

Ancestry home page – accessible on library computers in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham

The pictures we built were often very interesting viewing Census records as well as military records which allowed us small insights into people’s lives. But it was often also very sad – families left without sons (in one instance losing several within a very short space of time) and fathers listed and remembered on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website. It made us think of how sad it must have been for them, and their friends as well.

Luckily these online resources make it easier to look back and see what our family did during the war (and before). Whether it is from the medals they won, who they served with, or information from the CWGC website, which lists 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars.

As well as family history records for the British Isles there are other records from the same period around the world, including Canada, the USA, Germany, and France.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website can be accessed from anywhere and can provide a lot of information – more than you’d expect. And there are many instructional books available which can help you search through records and find out more about the Great War.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page

Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page

You may find newspaper resources interesting and useful in building a picture of the time and possibly a picture of your ancestors too. The Times Digital Archive is the most popular of these but there are other newspapers available in Westminster. The Gazette (official public record) also allows you to search for medals awarded.

Another online family history resource which is available in Westminster Libraries is Find My Past: this contains some different records to Ancestry.

[Owen]

This post was first published on the RBKCLibraries blog.

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One response to “The Great War and your ancestors

  1. Researchers may be intereted in the http://www.britishpathe.com/
    website which includes a number of contemporary news reel films from WWI including 11 post war Remembrance Day ceremony films and a 1974 film interview with 9 Chelsea Pensioners reminiscing about their war experiences.

    Like

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