Genealogy and Archives Websites A-Z
Ancestors and Records: Websites, Sources and Tips A to Z
There are several beginners guides online. From this page of external references you can find pointers for research, how to access historical records including the Armed Forces, view census records or search the UK National Archives (TNA) Discovery pages. No guarantees or endorsements are given for external content.
There are several free services and indexes online, but applications to bureaucracy and the major commercial genealogy websites usually incur fees. Commercial genealogy websites offer free trials; check their terms and conditions, and their cancellation terms. Free trials can be cancelled during the trial period; you may be charged fees if you continue a subscription beyond the trial period.
For the British Army: other ranks who served after 1920, officers who served after 1922 including those who served during the Second World War and members of the Home Guard (except Durham) – service records are held by the Army Historical Disclosures Team. Full records will be released to proven next of kin. Only very basic information about deceased service personnel will be released to other enquirers, with slightly more detail made available 25 years after the date of death. The fee is currently £30 and there may be a lengthy wait for this service.
A full name and date of birth is a good way of distinguishing your subject from several other people with the same name. If they served, their unique service number is a primary identifier. The ArrsePedia Genealogy category with its wealth of useful pages, may be useful.
You could start with census records or search the UK National Archives (TNA), and Ancestry.com is currently free to use in public libraries. The following long list should cover most needs for the budding military genealogist:
- 1914-1918 war: representative medical records MH 106: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C3104731.
- A-Z Index at The UK National Archives, Kew. You can browse and select keywords for your search criteria.
- Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your Ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland: https://familyhistorydaily.com/genealogy-help-and-how-to/uk-irish-genealogy-guide/.
- A British Army researcher offers tips, links and articles at http://armyancestry.blogspot.co.uk/ ; this is not a recommendation or an endorsement. The same researcher has a blog on Army Service Numbers.
- Ancestry.co.uk offers a 14 day trial and you can currently use it for free at public libraries. When searching military and civilian records online: library staff can be very helpful. You should collect as much information as possible before starting your online search.
- Archive.org and similar projects are great for digitised memoirs, diaries, and battle histories. There is a huge amount of archived primary source information online, free in the public domain, including archived books, reports, records and campaign histories.
- Armed Forces Records Catalogue at The National Archives: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C543.
- Armed Forces forums at Rootschat: no fees. You may be helped by knowledgeable and generous members if you're lucky: http://www.rootschat.com/forum/armed-forces/.
- Armed Forces Memorial Roll of Honour . "The Memorial commemorates members of the armed forces killed since the end of World War 2". Run by the Ministry of Defence and Veterans UK: one can search the roll of honour and print a certificate.
- Army Lists: "military lists recording details of officers who served in the three main branches of Britain's armed services during the First and Second World Wars. Official lists for the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have been published since the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries respectively. Also includes unofficial 'Hart's Army Lists' of British Army and, from 1862, Indian Army Officers published between 1839 and 1915". Visit http://digital.nls.uk/british-military-lists/archive/88735803 .
- Army Service Records and where to find them: https://www.iwm.org.uk/research/tracing-your-family-history/tracing-your-army-history/where-to-find-army-service-records.
- Associations: if you know the deceased person’s branch of service (Army, Navy, RAF) and parent unit, there is probably an association with branches and perhaps a brick museum, to which you can apply for assistance. For instance: http://www.lightinfantry.co.uk/associations.html or https://www.royal-naval-association.co.uk/help/faq/, or htps://www.rafa.org.uk/. Nearly all British regiments have an association of some sort.
- Battle of The Somme: https://www.findmypast.co.uk/battle-of-the-somme. Or explore worldwide records.
- Beginners Guide to Genealogy: http://www.rootschat.com/forum/beginners/?PHPSESSID=ac0g92k7cqtc4k4s18qt67fbj0.
- Births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales including Parish Registers (guide): http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/birth-marriage-death-england-and-wales/.
- Boer (or South African) War: to look for records of a person involved in the Boer War you can access National Archives research guides on British Army Soldiers up to 1913. Go to http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/british-army-soldiers-up-to-1913/#ts 8-searching-for-a-soldier-in-the-boer-south-african-war-1899-1902.
- British Army of the First World War: see The Long, Long Trail website. For information about soldiers, units, regiments and battles, and a whole lot more on WWI: go to http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/ . Widely recommended for its depth of knowledge.
- British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920 (Soldiers): http://www.greatwar.co.uk/research/military-records/british-soldiers-ww1-service-records.htm.
- British Army soldiers after 1913: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/british-army-soldiers-after-1913/.
- British Military Records Wiki at FamilySearch: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/British_Military_Records.
- 'Burnt records': War Office (WO 363) Soldiers' Documents, First World War 'Burnt Documents' (Microfilm copies). Go to http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14567 .
- Census records (historical censuses from 1841 to 1911) often lead to tracing an ancestor’s service record and awards. It is possible to trace Victorians including service personnel from the 19th century. Also the Honourable East India Company or the Royal Navy, before 1900.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). You can search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for WWI and WWII war dead and cemeteries at https://www.cwgc.org/ . The CWGC also shows brief burial and family records; sometimes they include medals data, cause of death, and useful notes on forms which are not recorded elsewhere.
- Copies of recent military service records from the MOD: go to https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records .
- CWGC gravestones show the casualty's age, service number, badge, unit and rank. CWGC records include regular, territorial and auxiliary personnel who died during (or as a direct result of) service in the two world wars.
- CWGC archives (two): the Commission Archive and The Casualty Archive are at https://www.cwgc.org/history-and-archives/cwgc-archive.
- Deaths in the First and Second World Wars: You can search The National Archives (TNA) for deaths in the two world wars.
- Digital microfilm records: military and naval records, to Foreign Office and Home Office correspondence. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/free-online-records-digital-microfilm/ .
- Discovery at The National Archives: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/. Over 9 million records to download.
- Empire and Commonwealth records held by other archives (TNA): http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/empire-commonwealth-records-held-by-other-archives/.
- Facebook history groups; amateur researchers and local 'graveyard heritage groups' could also help you with newspaper archives, grave sites, cemetery maps, and photographs. These excellent resources are all, essentially, local military history and social history group databases, maintained by family members and amateur historians.
- FamilySearch Wiki, an extensive online genealogy and family history guide: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page.
- FIBIS (Families In British India Society) can help with researching India or South Asia between 1600 and 1947: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Main_Page .
- FindMyPast "helps to locate your ancestors who served in World War One and World War Two". "You can also search a range of historical lists and roll calls, including records for the Battle of Waterloo, as well as army BMDs (not found in the civil indexes) and consular records for those who may have lived abroad". "You can also search a range of historical lists and roll calls, including records for the Battle of Waterloo, as well as army BMDs (not found in the civil indexes) and consular records for those who may have lived abroad". https://www.findmypast.co.uk/content/expert-other-useful-records .
- Forces War Records Collections List: over 30 completely exclusive collections at https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/collections/ .
- FreeBMD for births, marriages and deaths. This is an ongoing project, the aim of which is to trace records. FreeBMD is a part of the Free UK Genealogy family, which also includes FreeCEN (Census data) and FreeREG (Parish Registers).
- General Records Office, birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership and death certificates: https://www.gov.uk/research-family-history.
- Google: searching the person’s name and regimental number in Google might produce results, especially with antique records.
- General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), Regulation (EU) 2016/689: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=6a03c6a9-fe55-4405-990d-7661c71c8723.
- Gravestone resources online: there is a little-known international directory of photographed graves and monuments: the https://www.gravestonephotos.com database isn't complete, but it could mean you won't have to leave your desk to find a particular gravestone with details.
- Imperial War Museums: The IWM and its website provides comprehensive guides and curates war diaries, memoirs, operations records and documents. Online at https://www.iwm.org.uk/ and https://www.iwm.org.uk/research/tracing-your-family-history/tracing-your-army-history/where-to-find-army-service-records.
- Indian Army: if your relative was in the Indian Army or another Commonwealth force, try the British Library. You'll probably need to pay a personal visit to inspect the archives with an appointment
- Library staff in County Research Collections and Local History Centres are usually very well informed; they can also provide old books, newspaper archives, and unit war diaries for your research. You probably won't be able to borrow them and fees are usually incurred only for photo copies. Some County Research & Archives Centres have microform research facilities.
- Lives of the First World War (IWM): https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/ww1-records.
- Medal index card and medal rolls : many records are only available online; go to https://www.iwm.org.uk/research/tracing-your-family-history/tracing-your-army-history/medal-records.
- Medal index card: How to interpret a campaign medal index card; http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/campaign-medal-records/how-to-interpret-a-campaign-medal-index-card/ .
- Merchant seamen records: go to http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/search/results?_q=merchant+navy.
- Museums and local historians may be able to help. For service personnel and civilians, try local cemetery records and town museums to see if they have information on your subject, and a parent unit if they served.
- Museums large and small collate and curate war letters, post cards, old newspapers, diaries and photographs; they can be a great source of information.
- National Archives British Army medal index cards 1914-1920. You can search British Army medal index cards 1914-1920 and may get lucky even if you only enter the person’s last name and regimental number.
- National Archives (TNA) for service records: you can search the National Archives for service records from 1913 to 1920 or for service records before 1913.
- Newspapers: your subject may be mentioned and even photographed in newspaper archives held at the BNA: visit https://blog.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/2017/11/08/researching-military-ancestors/.
- Not all personnel who died in war service or as a result of their wounds including gassing (DoW or DW) are buried in CWGC plots. Some families opted to bury them in private family plots. It is quite possible that the CWGC recorded the burial and that you can view the records.
- Pension Claims, First World War (Microfilm Copies and Medical Cards): http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14568.
- Principals of Family Research: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Principles_of_Family_History_Research.
- Royal Flying Corps or RAF personnel: try https://www.iwm.org.uk/sites/default/files/public-document/Tracing_Your_Ancestry_RFC_RAF.pdf
- Royal Navy personnel who served since 1914; for information try https://www.iwm.org.uk/sites/default/files/public-document/Tracing_Your_Royal_Navy_Ancestry.pdf.
- Unit War Diaries (NA WO95): "1.5 million pages of unit war diaries have been digitised". See http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/british-army-war-diaries-1914-1922/ .War diaries and official histories were sometimes published in books and available in local libraries. Regimental and branch associations, including those with brick museums, can also help with your research (chargeable).
Disclaimer: the listed websites and information were tested in April 2018. Websites and information therein are liable to change without notice. External websites are not endorsed.