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Remembering Your Ancestors Who Fought in World War I

The echoes of World War I still resonate today, reminding us of the sacrifices made by countless individuals who answered the call of duty. One such hero is my ancestor who fought valiantly in this historic conflict. In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating journey of researching our ancestors who served in wars, focusing primarily on World War I. Their stories, their struggles, and their triumphs deserve to be remembered and honoured.

The National Archives and Their Records

The first step in unravelling the mysteries of our ancestors’ wartime experiences often leads us to The National Archives, a treasure trove of historical records located at Kew, in west London. Here, we can discover three crucial types of records that shed light on their service: service records, medal index cards, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.

Service Records: A Glimpse into Their Lives

Service records are invaluable documents that provide a wealth of information about our ancestors. A typical service record contains details of the individual’s name, address, age, and next of kin. It even reveals surprising facts, such as instances where individuals lied about their age to enlist. Handwriting challenges may arise, but these records are worth the effort.

Service records offer insights into physical attributes like height and eye colour, as well as details about where and when our ancestors fought. They may contain information about injuries sustained in battle. Unfortunately, many service records were lost during the Second World War due to bombing, but ‘Burnt Records’ have partially survived, offering a glimpse into the past.

Medal Index Cards: Honouring Their Valour

During World War I, soldiers who served throughout the war were awarded three medals: the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914-15 Star. These medals were affectionately nicknamed “Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred” after a popular comic strip. Medal index cards provide information on which medals our ancestors received, along with other details.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Honouring the Fallen

For those who made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned home, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has meticulously maintained records. Despite the chaos of war, the Commission ensured that graves were established as close as possible to the locations where soldiers fell. Cemeteries, such as Serre No. 2 with over 7,000 graves, serve as a sombre reminder of the lives lost. It’s remarkable how organised and dedicated the burials were in the midst of the turmoil.

Exploring Personal Stories

In our quest to honour our ancestors, we can uncover personal stories that touch our hearts. One example is 2nd Lieutenant Maconachie’s service record, which also reveals details about his divorce during the War. These records humanise the soldiers, reminding us of their lives outside the battlefield.

Voices From The Past

Remembering our ancestors who fought in World War I is a collective effort, involving communities and descendants. In one inspiring Voices From The Past project, a local church recruited us to investigate and remember the individuals on their War Memorial. The community came together, and through workshops, research, and genealogy, we helped them create comprehensive World War I family history books. This endeavour not only commemorated the names but also celebrated the lives and stories of those who served.

A striking example of the impact of World War I on families was the Farquhars. In the 1911 Census, the family were living on their farm with six sons. Three years later, as the war erupted, the four eldest sons, including a 13-year-old who lied about his age, joined the fight. Tragically, two of them lost their lives, highlighting the devastating consequences of the war on ordinary families.

Conclusion

Our ancestors who fought in World War I left an indelible mark on history. By exploring their records, we can pay tribute to their bravery and sacrifices. It is through community engagement, personal stories, and the impact on families that we can ensure their memory lives on. Let us never forget their heroism and the price they paid for a better world.

Genealogy allows us to discover the complexities of our past, bringing history and our ancestors to life. Our professional genealogists at Research Through People are ready to help you understand where you and your ancestors came from. So, are you ready to embark on your ancestral journey? Reach out to us, and let’s uncover the fascinating stories that await in your family’s history.

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