WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Grave Commission part 3

Option to filter a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Option to filter a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

In the last post we started to discuss the search options for the advanced search screen of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org.  We discussed ways to search  on Surname and Forename, so please do have a look at the last post. Let us take a closer look at some of the other search options and what they mean for your searches, and why you may want to use them.

Country – use this if you know where your ancestor is commemorated. France is not a good choice as there is hundreds of thousands who died there. But if you know that your ancestor died and is commemorated in Argentina, then you are in luck as there is only two options.

Cemetery or memorial – this is useful if you want to get a sense of context, or possibly see who else might be remembered in that location. If you start to type a place and there are multiple options a list will appear. For example, searching on Thiepval brings up four options, selecting Thiepval Memorial and searching on that location shows that 72,338 individuals are memorialized on this one memorial. These are the people for whom no identifiable remains were located to be buried. Corporal Robert Finnegan discussed in the last post is one soldier named on Pier 4D, face 5B.

War – this limits your choice to the First or Second World War

Date of Death – starting and ending – allows you to define a period in which your ancestor died, or to determine how many others died on a given day, possibly indicating if he died in a major battle or in a quiet time. For example, a search for the names of those who died on the 1 July 1916 names 18,708 individuals and obviously does not include those who died from their wounds over the following days. This was the worst day in British military history if you did not already know that.

Served with – lists the forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and South Africa. Be very cautious here as people from the United Kingdom may have served in any of the colonial forces, and many from the colonies did serve in the United Kingdom forces.

Served in – identifies the branch of service – army, air force, navy, merchant navy, civilian war dead and miscellaneous. The last category may need some clarification for this includes: munition workers, Red Cross members, Voluntary Aid Detachments, canteen workers, army cadets, ambulance drivers, war correspondents, etc.

Rank – as you start to type in this field a list of options appears from which to choose.

Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 names from WWI
Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 names from WWI

Service number – this search may be useful if you have this number from another source, such as a medal roll and want to identify where he is buried or memorialized.

Regiment – can be used to narrow a search, or used with dates to put a death into context. Again when you start to type a list of options appears. For example, searching on the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for the 1 July 1916 shows that there were 833 deaths in this one regiment alone on this day.

Secondary Regiment – should be used with caution as the majority of records contain nothing in this field.

Awards – this enables you to identify those individuals who were awarded a medal (such as the Victoria Cross), or were Mentioned in Dispatches. Returning to the 1 July 1916, with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and identifying Victoria Cross recipients we identify Eric Norman Frankland Bell of the 9th Battalion. The descriptive citation is provided, adding more color to the day Robert Finnegan died, for the 9th Battalion preceded the 11th Battalion out of the trenches moving towards the German lines.

Additional Information – can be any term but it would need to appear in the additional information part of the database. It might, for example, be used to identify others from your ancestor’s village or street.

There is a lot of material in this database and some experimenting with the search options will narrow your options to find your ancestor, at the same time additional information can be gleaned to put your ancestor into context.

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 2

Finigan, Finnigan, Finegan, Finnegan
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website search for Fin*g*n

In my last posting I did a simple search to find my dead soldier – John Croudace. In this blog posting we are still working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org website but let’s examine the advanced search options a little more closely. To find the advanced search you can either choose it from the simple search box on the home page, or you can select “Find War Dead” from the tab bar. Either way you end up at the same advanced search box. Note that you only need one entry in any one box to do a search.

Let’s start with the first and second boxes for surname and forenames as these are the most commonly used. You can type in any surname and search. The default for the forename is initials and I on the first pass leave the space below blank. Only if I get too many options do I insert an initial. Inserting an initial will pick up the entries in the database that use only an initial as well as those forenames beginning with that initial.

With surname it gives you exactly what you ask for, there is no sounds like or Soundex option. However wild cards are allowed. So let’s look at an example and see what difference it makes. I want to search for the name Finnigan, but did the army spell it this way, or with one “n”, or did they substitute an “e” for the “i” in the middle. If searches are made on these variations, limiting it to WWI we get the following results:

Finigan 2
Finegan 9
Finnigan 63
Finnegan 27

John Finnigan Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Details for J Finnigan, son of William Finnigan of 7 Back Hammond Street, Newcastle-Upon- Tyne

This gives me a total of 101 options. However, I prefer to get all my results at once. So searching on “fin*g*n” picks up all these and a few more for a total of 105. The additions are the names – Fingleton and Finighan. The results are presented in batches of 15 names.

With these numbers of results I tend to scan all to see if any are a likely possibilities, for remember you are also looking to trace the cousins, as almost every family in the United Kingdom was impacted by the war. In this search one entry jumped out at me on the first page – Finnigan, J – buried in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (St. John’s Westgate and Elswick) Cemetery. Looking at the details in the illustration he died 10 July 1916 and most importantly he is described as the son of William Finnigan, of 7 Back Hammond Street, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. A supposition, later confirmed, was that John Finnigan was wounded on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and that he was wounded severely enough to be evacuated back to England. He actually died on the transport ship returning to England, and was buried in his home town.

Details for Corporal Robert Finnegan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on Thiepval Monument
Details for Corporal Robert Finnegan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on Thiepval Monument

John was a private in “C” company, 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Interestingly John has a brother Robert, and when the rest of the list is examined there is a Robert Finnegan, who is a Corporal in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, killed on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. In this case though there is no data entered in the additional information section. From this source alone I cannot confirm if this Robert is or is not the brother of John.  He is, but other sources are needed to confirm that.

In the next blog posting I will discuss some of the other search options, why and when you might want to use them.

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 1

Home Page fro Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website with simple search box in upper right.
Home Page for Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website with simple search box in upper right.

I said in an earlier posting that this year I was going to have a special focus on World War One research. I have had a couple of postings mentioning new resources, but now I want to start explaining how to use the existing resources to trace your World War One ancestors and to put them into context.

Let’s assume your ancestor did not survive the war. The place to start is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that the 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten. The Commission is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of those members of the Commonwealth forces who died. It therefore cares for cemeteries and memorials in 23,000 locations, in 153 countries. One of the sad parts of these numbers is that for many the person in the grave is unknown, and for many on the memorials no identifiable remains have been recovered.

Don’t lose hope though. For the family historian the important resource provided is the index to the 1.7 million who have died in the two wars. There are 1,059,642 names from the WWI and 649,489 names from WWII.

Let’s start here by defining for this database what period is being searched when WWI is selected. The first day deaths are recorded is the 4 August 1914 with four deaths, while the last day for recording WWI deaths is 31 August 1921 when 24 deaths were recorded in England, India and South Africa. Remember that the war began on 28 July 1914 with Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war with Serbia. England declared war with Germany on 4 August 1914 and so four members of the British Armed Services lost their lives on the first day of the war. England declared war later against Austria-Hungary on 12 August 1914; against Turkey on 5 November 1914; and against Bulgaria on 15 October 1915.

Let’s jump right in and do a search, partially because that is what most people are going to do. From the home page you can do a simple search using: surname; initials; service; and war. For this illustration I am doing a search on the name Croudace, and I choose WWI. I have seven results listed, and this is definitely one of the benefits of an unusual surname. In this case I can examine all seven results by selecting the surname on each line in turn.

John Croudace - Northumberland Fusiliers son of Andrew John Croudcae and  Jane Croudace
Search results for surname Croudace on Commonwealth War Grave Commission Website

The soldier I actually need is John Croudace.  The results shown are in a standardized format. What you hope and pray for is data in the Additional Information field for without it you may or may not be able to positively identify your serviceman or woman. In this case we learn that John Croudace is the son of John and Jane Croudace, of 14 Bentinck Street in Newcastle-on-Tyne. I have John with his parents (A.J. – Andrew John and Jane Croudace) and siblings at this address in the 1911 census. I have my serviceman.

Details for John Croudace of the Northumberland Fusiliers, son of John and Jane Croudace
Details for John Croudace of the Northumberland Fusiliers, son of John and Jane Croudace

The standardized data fields are: name; rank; service number; date of death; age; regiment/service; grave reference, and the cemetery where buried or the memorial where his name is inscribed. There may also be the valuable additional information. The additional information was drawn from the soldiers paperwork where they often, but not always, named parents, or wives. This is especially valuable as many of those documents were destroyed by fire during World War II. I will come back to what has survived of these records in a later post. There can also be extensive information with photographs on the cemetery where the person in buried.

Presentation Memorial  Certificate  for John Croudace.
Presentation Memorial Certificate for John Croudace.

In the upper right corner of the casualty details box is a button for – view certificate. This is a very nice certificate to print to remember your serviceman or woman, and to insert into your research files. Please note that one key piece of information is missing from the certificate which would be vital if you are planning on visiting the cemetery or monument. What is missing is the grave reference number, or the panel number of the memorial.

We will take a closer look at this website in the next blog posting.

Book Review: Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records by Chris Paton.

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Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records by Chris Paton
Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records by Chris Paton

Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records. By Chris Paton. Published by Unlock the Past, P.O. Box 119, St. Agnes SA 5097, Australia.  www.unlockthepast.com.au. 2013. 52 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover. AU$17. Available as an e-book at www.gen-ebooks.com.  AUS$7.95

 

If you have literally any questions about the civil registration process in Scotland, then this book will probably have the answer. The book is well researched and thorough. It has been over a decade since I wrote about this subject in detail in my own book on Scottish research and I kept thinking as I read this – did I mention that, and in most cases the answer was yes for we had in fact used the same legal guide by Bisset-Smith for the details we wanted. This book is a lot simpler to read than the legal guide and gives the details you need to understand the process.

 

The book is divided into two parts. The first, much larger section, addresses civil registration in Scotland, while the second part explains registration in the other parts of the British Isles. For Scotland, the book explains how the process got established in 1855 (for comparison England started in 1837); it explains the registration processes and how they changed over the years for births, marriages and deaths. You might say that most books on Scottish research provide this information and my clear response is – not at this level of detail. For example, it explains who the preferred candidates were for registering a birth, who was responsible, how long they had to do it, and what the consequences were (legal and financial) if they did not do it in time. It explains how the rules changed when the child is illegitimate, even if the parents later married. The devil can be in the details and all the answers to these questions are different from the rules and procedures in the rest of the British Isles, so you can’t come to Scotland with experience from elsewhere and apply them here for they are not same.

 

In the marriage section there is a clear discussion on what the difference is between a regular and irregular marriage and the effect on registration. It also explains how and why things changed with the introduction of civil marriage and same sex marriages.

 

For each of the birth, marriage and death sections it also addresses the minor records that are applicable to Scotland, which are much more readily accessible now, such as: foreign returns; consular returns; foreign registers; events at sea or in the air; military returns, etc.  One unusual, but helpful addition is a section on vaccination records, how to locate them, and especially what happened when parents did not follow through with the compulsory vaccination.

 

The book acknowledges the use of ScotlandsPeople to access the records but does not go into depth on how to do so, as there is another book by this publisher on how to us ScotlandsPeople. This book does include information on how the records might be accessed, for specific time periods, on other websites such as FamilySearch.

 

There is a section addressing the principals of civil registration in: England and Wales; British overseas and military records; Ireland; and Crown dependencies. This section does not go into as much depth and the author is not on as firm a ground as he is with Scottish records, omitting how many days the parents had to register a birth, and the effect this has on index searching; or how a burial can occur when a death certificate is not issued. These weaknesses in the English section do not detract from the book overall for the focus is on the Scottish records. The book is current and hot off the press for it mentions the 17 July 2013 formal royal assent of the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act of 2013.

 

This highly recommended slim guide to Scotland’s civil registration records is packed full of the details that genealogists love. It will help you understand the rules and processes by which your ancestors registered the key events in their lives.

Book Review: Scottish Catholic Family History by Andrew R. Nicholl

ScotlandsPeople Catholic research
Scottish Catholic Family History: A family historian’s guide to Catholic Parish Registers and Cemetery Records for Scotland and the Bishopric of the Forces by Andrew R. Nicholl

This post came as a result of questions in a lecture I gave this morning on Effective use of ScotlandsPeople Website at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual Conference in Ft. Wayne Indiana.

Scottish Catholic Family History: A Family Historian’s Guide to Catholic Parish Registers and Cemetery Records for Scotland and the Bishopric of the Forces. By Andrew R. Nicholl. Published by The Aquhorties Press, Columba House, 16 Drummond Place, Edinburgh EH3 6PL, UK. www.scottishcatholicarchives.org.uk. 2011. 115 pp. Illustrations. Softcover.  £10.

The Catholic Parish Registers Project began with a focused plan – to digitize and index all pre-1855 Catholic parish registers that existed. Digitization continued beyond this date because volumes continued beyond 1855, post-1855 registers had been deposited at the Scottish Catholic Archives; plus the records of the Bishopric of the Forces, Dalbeth Cemetery in Glasgow and Mount Vernon Cemetery in Edinburgh were fully available. If the records survive in the Scottish Catholic Archives they have been digitized, though there may be more modern records still in the Catholic parishes around Scotland. The latter have not been sought after to be added to the collection at this stage. This collection is much more extensive that the photocopy collection of Catholic registers that exists at the National Records Scotland (former National Archives of Scotalnd).

In the collection there are the usual parish registers of births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials/funerals, each with 100, 75 and 50 years closure periods respectively to protect privacy. Other items in the collection, all with a 100 year closure, include: confirmations; confessions; converts; communicants; status animarum (“state of souls” – often a list); seat rents; and sick call. The book begins by describing all the different record classes, itemizing what they are likely to contain and showing an example.

The largest section of the book is the detailed lists of the records.  The lists are arranged by location of the parish and the saint to which it is dedicated. For each location it identifies the type of register, dates covered and the collection reference at the Scottish Catholic Archives. There is the Missions and Parishes Collection, plus the Individual Missions Collection and the researcher needs to check both lists for complete coverage of any given locality.  For the three major Catholic cemeteries in Glasgow and Edinburgh that are included there are internment registers, owners’ registers and lair registers, all of which can provide different information. The Bishopric of the Forces records are the Catholic records from the British military all over the world, unfortunately many of these still fall under the time closure rules.

The last section in the book is a directory, with maps, of Catholic parishes in Scotland. The directory in table format provides: name of the town and dedication of the church; the unitary authority; diocese; date the mission was founded; date of the church building. For most researchers, unfamiliar with Scottish geography, it is the maps locating the churches that will help us identify the parish records worth investigating for our ancestors. One additional aid included is a comprehensive Latin-England forename glossary with all case endings making it easy to distinguish the Latin variants for Patrick and Patricia or Terence and Teresa or other similar male and female names.

If you have searched ScotlandsPeople and found your Catholic ancestors you are fortunate. The bigger problem is if you have searched and not found them – is it because they are not there, the records have not survived, or you are just looking under the wrong name. It is this book that will help you identify the time or record gaps in any specific parish. This book is therefore very important for anyone working on Scottish Catholic ancestry.

Tim Ellis Interview

Tim Ellis is a name you may not recognize. He is the Keeper of the Records of Scotland and Registrar General for Scotland.  In this important role he could have an important role in terms of what happens in Family History in Scotland. Mr. Ellis is interviewed in Issue 26 of Broadsheet the online publication of the Scottish Council on Archives.

In the interview one question asks if he sees particular opportunities for cooperation across registration and archives services in Scotland. One part of his answer bodes well for the future – … ScotlandsPeople is a genuinely great service. And ScotlandsPlaces is also a growing resource. I’m impressed by what I’ve seen of the work of other Scottish archives in the digital sphere, too – but I do wonder if there’s scope for us all to work a bit better together to overcome some of the barriers and maximise the reach and benefit of what we’re doing.

Another question revolves around what he would do with an unlimited budget – … I’d probably start by recruiting more archivists, conservators, digital curators and data specialists. Of course I’d welcome more involvement in digital facilities and capability, not just the NRS bur for the Scottish research and archives sectors as a whole … But primarily success is driven by people – people with the right skills, training, knowledge and motivation – and investment there is seldom wasted.

I know that Mr. Ellis will be restrained by budgetary issues as any government position is, but I hope that some of his vision of cooperation and making records accessible online comes to fruition. If it does we will all benefit. Mr. Ellis’s activities will be worth watching.

The back issues of Broadsheet are available online if you want to learn more about what is happening in Scotland’s Archives.

Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research: Scottish Course – Over

Last week twenty-four adult learners from across the country gathered at Samford University in Birmingham Alabama to learn about doing Scottish research. See the June 4 blog entry for a full list of topics. Old friends reconnected, new friendships were made and all learned from the wealth of experience in the class. Here is a photograph of the class participants taken on the Friday morning on the steps behind out building.

The Scottish track was one course in ten that brought nearly 300 instructors and students from across the US and Canada. If you want to improve your genealogy skills check out the institute at next years event June 8-13