Researching your First World War ancestors

It is easier now than ever before to research the military service of a family member. Much of your research can be done online, and even with only a name it is sometimes possible to piece together at least part of your relative's story.

Clues of a relative’s war service can often be provided by the mementos that many families still have. A lot of useful information can be gleaned from the following:

  • artefacts such as medals, military cap badges or buttons from uniforms
  • souvenirs such as 'trench art' – letter openers, ashtrays or fireside ornaments
  • a name carved on a war memorial or a gravestone
  • local newspapers, parish or school magazines, postcards and letters written at the front and sent home
  • photographs, official papers, drawings and maps
  • oral evidence, such as family stories handed down, interviews on tape or video.

This resource provides brief notes on some of these items and has been inspired by The Great War Medal Collectors Companion, an excellent book on the subject by Howard Williamsom.