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How To Find Out About A British WWI Veteran In Your Tree

How To Find Out About A British WWI Veteran In Your Tree

Almost everyone will have someone in their tree that fought during the First World War (Or Great War). Naturally people we love finding these ancestors as it tends to fill us with a massive sense of national pride. Especially on Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom. Finding more out about these ancestors can be challenging but if you know the right places to look you can get a lot of information if you’re lucky.


Service Records

(National Archives Link & Ancestry Link)Joseph Thompson Service Records

The first place you will want to look is either on a paid service such as Ancestry or FindMyPast for their service records or directly in the National Archives First World War ‘Burnt Documents’ collection. Unfortunately approximately two thirds of these were destroyed or damaged during the Blitz in World War Two. If you are lucky enough to find their service records then it can be an absolute gold mine with regards to information about family as well as where they were stationed and what campaigns they were involved in.


Pension Claims

(National Archives Link & Ancestry Link)William Cane Pensions Record

If you haven’t had much luck with Service Records another place you can look is the Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims Collection at the National Archives. This is a particularly good source if your ancestor was injured during the First World War. The collection consists of microfilm copies of service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Army and claimed disability pensions for war service between 1914 and 1920 and did not re-enlist prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The records are unlikely to contain information on individuals who did not claim a war pension.


Medal Index Cards

(National Archives Link & Ancestry Link)John William Barber Medal Card

This collection contains microfiche copies produced at the Army Medal Office, Droitwich, of that office’s alphabetical card indexes to recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Medal, the 1914 Star (also known as the Mons Star), the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal, the Allied Victory Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Silver War Badge for Services Rendered, the Territorial Force War Medal and the Allied Subjects Medal. Also included are indexes to mentions in dispatches and women’s services’ awards.

On the subject of Injured ancestors, The Silver War Badge is one that might help if they were discharged due to their injuries. The Silver War Badge for Services Rendered was authorised on 12 September 1916 for officers and men of HM Forces who had been retired or discharged on account of wounds or sickness caused by war service, at home or abroad from 4 August 1914. The regulations were extended on several later dates to include wider categories, including women.


 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

cwgc

“The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten. We care for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations, in 154 countries. Our values and aims, laid out in 1917, are as relevant now as they were almost 100 years ago.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a great website if you want to know about an ancestor that died during a war. It has an easy to use search feature and is completely free to use. The results you get can list family members as well as the usual name and rank. It also contains civilian deaths, so a lot of people who died during the Blitz for example can be found in this database.






The Long Long TrailThe Long Long Trail Header

If you know the regiment your ancestor served in then The Long Long Trail can tell you a lot about what they did and which battles and campaigns they were involved in. While it is rare unless you have a particularly prominent ancestor such as a high ranking officer then you wont find much on individuals on this site. It does help paint a picture of what you ancestor might have experienced though.


Prisoners of WarPrisoners Of War Header

Your ancestor might have been a prisoner of war, in which case the Red Cross has a database dedicated to the soldiers that were held captive. It is fully searchable and the potential information available includes: The Reference number of the original letter sent by the family, First and Last name, Service Number, Missing circumstances and The address of the family. Whilst it isn’t a very large database comparatively, it still might be of use.

How to Properly Cite a Source.

How to Properly Cite a Source.

Not citing sources is one of the main downfalls the plagues amateur genealogists. It’s easy to forget to cite a Source when researching if you get in to the swing of things and are adding more than one fact to a person at once and yes, it seems tedious at first but once you start, it becomes second nature and will benefit you and anyone else looking at your tree in years to come.

Like the majority of people, when I first got in to genealogy my goal was to go as far back as possible (Within the time that my Ancestry trial ran out) and rest in the knowledge that I knew my ancestors names. However like a lot of people that trial quickly ended and I still needed to find out EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM TOO.

Because I’d blitzed through accepting every hint under the sun I now had a disorganised tree with various notes attached to different people that I couldn’t remember where I got them from.

First of all it helps to know what a source actually is. 

Most people use “source” and “fact” in the same way on their trees. However they are two very different things. A source is a document, snippet, photo or absolutely anything that is related to and enriches the profile of a particular ancestor or person. A fact is something that we know, a conclusion that we have come to based on the sources we have. A fact could be something simple like, the father of a child. We could have a birth certificate that doesn’t show in concrete the fathers name, i.e the fathers name is abbreviated and could be one of a few people. This would be a source but not a fact. We could then make this a fact by finding other sources related to the birth certificate like census’s or baptisms and when we have enough evidence we create the fact. A fact does not have to be sourced, but a description of how you came to the conclusion is often very helpful for others.

What should I cite in my source?

All a citation is at it’s core is information related to a Source that will allow you or someone else find the source again. There are five main parts to a good citation, but any other optional information needed that will help someone locate the record is worth noting.

  • Author: This may not always be applicable, i.e if you find an old hand written document in an attic and you don’t know who wrote it. But most of the time it will be clear who wrote or compiled the source.
  • Title: The title of the source could be the name of a book or a more generic “1891 Census”
  • Collection: This is what the record has been compiled with. For example if you were looking at a probate record in the UK it is probably from the “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966″ 
  • Date: The date in which the records were recorded, for example “1911 Census”
  • Page: The page in the collection that the relevant information is on.
  • [Optional] Library or Archive Call Number
  • [Optional] Comments about the source, this could be observations which will help someone else find what they are looking for if it is not immediately clear.

 

How to Sort Ancestry Hints by Collection.

How to Sort Ancestry Hints by Collection.


One feature of Ancestry that puts it at the top of it’s field is it’s hint feature. However most users don’t know that you can actually sort these hints in to the collections that they are part of. Sorting by collection can be beneficial in a number of ways, I find that the most useful thing about it is that I am not distracted by other types of sources. I can search for one type of source and blitz through all of the hints in my tree and know that I have seen, for example all of the hints in the “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966” collection and no longer have to worry (as much) about that particular source.

This style of searching can be very beneficial if you are quite particular about the way in which you organise your documents, as the most common downfall in my experience when researching a Family Tree is not having a direction or goal in mind. When you first start researching you will go off in tangents and discover brand new ancestors but when you already have a reasonably well populated tree you might find that you spend hours looking at random people and sources and not really progressing at all. Setting small goals helps to make the most of your time. For example you could decide you want to research all of the descendants of a particular person, or you might want to find all of your ancestors that served in the military. Let’s do that latter!


Step 1: Find the unique number related to the tree you are searching.

Tree Address

This can be found by going to the tree view and looking in the address bar at the URL. Just after the “/tree/” part of the URL is where you can find this number. My tree is number 72266092.


Step 2: Find the record collection you want to search by.

There are a few ways you can find the collection you want, the easiest way is to go to the Card Catalog on Ancestry and use the search criteria to find the one you’re after.

Ancestry Card Catalogue

Another way is to go to a source you have already linked to your tree and click the link underneath the person’s name that it is linked to or you have searched for.

Ancestry Source Page


Step 3: Finding the Unique Database ID for the collection.

Once you have found the collection you are after you need to check the address bar again for the “dbid” This is the unique number that corresponds to it. This is what we use to narrow down the search to only those sources. You can find this at the end of the URL.

Collection URL

So for the above URL I have chosen the “British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920” collection which has the database ID of “1262”


Step 4: Finally use a template URL to stitch together the Unique identifiers to find all the hints for one Collection in a certain Tree.

Paste in this template Link in to your address bar (Note that this is a .co.uk link, if you are using the .com or another ancestry site then change that too)

http://hints.ancestry.co.uk/tree/72266092/hints?hf=record&hs=last&hdbid=1262

Change the country code to the site you use, the unique numbers to your own tree and record collection and hit enter!

You will then be presented with the “All Hints” page populated with only the hints tat relate to that collection.

Ancestry All Hints Page

And that’s all there is to it! A simple way to find all of the hints in a single collection on any Ancestry site.