Index to my Military related Blog Posts – On Friday of this week I am doing a three-hour workshop on tracing your British Army ancestors at the British Isles Family History Society of Great Ottawa conference in Ottawa, Canada. In preparation for that I wanted to pull together an index for the blog postings I have had on the site so far dealing with British military resources and news. Most of the postings have focused this year on World War I, but there are additional items of military interest. Some of the posts explain in detail how to use or interpret the results found in a military resource, some deal with a search process that by choice has a military example. The list is an index for blog postings so far.
Tracing Your Dead World War One Ancestors
Highlights how to trace your ancestors who did not survive the war, looking in detail at the Commonwealth War Grave Commission site, published lists in “Soldiers Died in the War”, and what the soldiers left behind (Scottish wills)
WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 1 – case study John Croudace
WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 2 – case study John and Robert Finnigan
WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Grave Commission part 3 – advanced search fields
Searching “Soldiers Died in the Great War” Scottish Military Wills – Tips for Searching, Using the Results and Workarounds
News Release: Historical Wills of Scottish Soldiers Go Online
Tracing Your Army Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. Second Edition. By Simon Fowler. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. US Distributor: CasemateAthena 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateathena.com. $24.95. Australian Distributor: Gould Genealogy & History, P.O. Box 119, St. Agnes SA 5097. www.gould.com.au. AUS$34.95. 2013. x, 192 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.
British Army research is a vast subject. This book breaks it down into manageable pieces. But how one does research depends upon the time period, rank, service specialty and the specific war. So the book’s chapters cover: organization of the army in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the army before 1660; officers; other ranks – enlistment and conditions of service; medals; casualty rolls; discipline and desertion; pension records; militia 1757-1914; women; British in India; dominion and colonial forces; Boer War; First World War; Second World War; 1919-1969. Appendices address: army service numbers; problem solving; TNA research guides; and army ranks. Each chapter begins by providing historical and social context for the subject under discussion. This is followed by detailed guidance on the records, what they contain, how to access them and how to interpret what is found. Most subjects include bibliographies for additional reading. The chapters are well illustrated especially in terms of sample documents.
It should be noted that although there is a growing body of military records available online, it is highly unlikely that it will ever all be online. Many original records will need to be accessed in person, or through hiring another researcher, at The National Archives in Kew.
I have read and used numerous how-to-books over the last 30 years for tracing my military ancestors and can heartily recommend this one. With any good book on the subject there will be a mental interaction with the book saying “I need to try that” or “I need to check out that source”. As you do research you find more about your ancestors, and you learn more. You are in a constantly changing place, and hopefully you have tried the obvious, but maybe you haven’t because more records are coming online all the time. Reading a book such as this will give you additional clues, indexes, sources that need to be checked out making it a book worth reading again and again as you make progress. I know I marked numerous record groups, indexes and published sources that I need to examine for my growing number of army relatives.
Digital Microfilm at TNA, currently Free, but changes are coming
Given my last post about the indexing of WWI war diaries, I was in this post going to explain how to download the war diaries that had already been scanned and were available as part of The National Archives website. I had downloaded war diaries in October 2013, but I can’t do it now. I thus spent the week learning a little more about what is happening regarding digital images at TNA.
Firstly, I learned that the war diaries are in the process of being digitized at a higher quality. They will then be repackaged, improved and put online again. I suspect with a different fee structure.
I also learned by reading the minutes of the TNA User Advisory Group that changes are coming to the Digital Microfilm currently available online for free. It is the Army Lists in WO 65 that are specifically mentioned in the minutes. I confirmed by contacting a committee member that changes are coming. Specifically WO 65 will be removed, repackaged and put online for a fee. Nothing was disclosed about what the repackaging what look like, what the fee would be, or when this would occur. It was suggested that if I wanted copies of the Army Lists for free that I should do it soon.
To get to the complete list of Digital Microfilm click here. This will take you to a description page and a long list (getting shorter) of digital microfilm that you can download free from a variety of record groups. Scroll to WO 65 – Printed Annual Army Lists. The published army lists begin here in 1754 with WO 65-1 and end chronologically with 1878-79 WO65/163. However, at the end of the chronological lists are an additional five films of British American Half Pay lists and Foreign Corps. What is different about these printed Army Lists is that they are the ones that were actually used by the War Office. These volumes are annotated, often indicating changes for you to look for in the following year.
The published annual Army Lists is often the first primary source you will use to reconstruct the promotions for any Army Officer. It is thus a valuable source. I am not suggesting that you download every volume available. These can be very big files. What I am suggesting is that you may want to consider downloading the volumes for any specific period in which your ancestor/s may have served. In addition to that I am also downloading sample volumes from other periods so if I later find or suspect another family connection I can dip into the lists for free. I understand that there will be a charge in the future.
Have a look at the rest of the digital microfilms to see what others may be of interest to you and get them now. Some of them are fully indexed in the Discovery catalog – WO 76 – Records of Officers Services. As an outsider this would be another obvious one for a commercial partner to index, slice and dice and of course then charge you to access the record.
Have a look at the Digital Microfilms, which are currently free and see what might be beneficial to your research.