Find your family’s WW1 heroes

Find your family’s WW1 heroes

Few families can fail to have been touched in some way by World War One. Here’s how to track down your ancestors who served

How to, How to

How to

How to

One of the many tragedies of World War One research was the bombing of the War Office in 1940, which led to the loss of most service records for officers, and many of those for ordinary soldiers. For family historians wanting to learn about their military forebears, this is a great disappointment – but fortunately many records remain. With some careful detective work, you may even be able to track an individual across more than one set of records from the era, many of which are available at TheGenealogist.

The great advantage of these collections is that there are often several documents attached, and poring over these can reveal fascinating and useful information. They can include details of an individual’s occupation, their family and even the dates of birth of their children, all of which can be linked up with other sources such as the 1911 census and civil registration documents. Learning a regimental number can also help further research through regimental museums.

Various death rolls available can provide details of someone’s places of birth and residence, or at least their rank and regiment to look up in the service records. Meanwhile, medal index cards tell you not just about the medals the person received, but the theatres of war where they served and sometimes personal details.

Discover your WW1 ancestors at TheGenealogist

If you are lucky can find an individual across several sets of records. A good starting point is TheGenealogists Master Search then select ‘Military Records’. Here we’ll look for William Hackett, born in 1873.

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The results page reveals a challenge – way too many results! One of the difficulties with WW1 research is the sheer numbers of people who served. Let’s try starting with the ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ collection.

It’s sobering to see how many men called William Hackett died in WW1. As it happens, we know he was in the Royal Engineers, so the one who died on 27 June 1916 looks like he might fit the bill.

The results page now yields lots of useful information which will help corroborate research in the other types of records. We have his place of residence, birthplace, regimental number and rank.

Now we can go back to step 2 and use his regimental number ‘136414’ to narrow down in the other categories. This gives 4 results, His Medal record, Casualty List, Soldiers Died in the Great War and War Memorial.


His War Memorial record gives us extra detail of his death In Honour of No.136414 Sapper William Hackett V.C. 254th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers Who At Givenchy On 27-6-16 Gave His Life For His Comrades Who Were Entombed By An Enemy Mine Explosion Dedicated By 254th Tunnelling Co. R.E.

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