With the centenary of the Great War in full swing, interest from genealogists in the role played by their ancestors in the conflict has never been higher, and one of the questions I am frequently asked by people is whether I can help them find their ancestors military service record.
Sadly, the answer is often ‘no’, due to the fact that only a percentage of military files from this period are available, and the reason is quite complicated.
Historically, the British Civil Service was renowned for it’s record keeping; files were created and kept on every aspect of administration of the British Empire, and the military was no different, every soldier who served from around 1900, had a personnel file created about them. This file contained their attestation papers, medical reports and records, disciplinary records, conduct reports, as well as miscellanea of other items relevant to the soldier in question.
By 1914, the regular and reserve army in Britain numbered about three quarters of a million men, however by the end of the war, more than seven million were thought to have served.
Following the conclusion of the war, the records were retained in the War Office Records Store, located in Arnside Street, London. The building was however hit by a high explosive bomb in September 1940 during the London Blitz, and although the initial explosion did not destroy the records, the subsequent fire would do. About 60% of the service records were completely destroyed that day, those that remain fit into the following categories
The Burnt Collection
About one third of the records were retrieved from the ruins, and put in storage, extensive work later took place to preserve and restore these remaining records, they are about 2 million in number, and are available on microfilm at the National Archives, or by subscription on Ancestry, originals are not permitted to be accessed due to their fragility.
The Un-burnt Collection
About 750,000 records escaped destruction being stored as they were in a different building.
Therefore unfortunately most people will find that they are unable to locate their family record of military service. If you can, you are lucky.
Records for personnel who served after the war and in WW2 are still restricted and will not be completely open access for many more years.
The Manchester and Lancashire Family History have released their latest CD of Catholic baptisms, this volume contains the following Manchester Catholic registers:
- Corpus Christi, Miles Platting: 1890-1908
- St. Edward, Rusholme: 1862-1908
- St John, Chorlton-cum-Hardy: 1893-1931
- St. Mary, Levenshulme: 1853-1920
- St. Michael, Ancoats: 1877-1917
It is available for the very reasonable price of £4.25 from their Online Bookshop
Local newspapers are a valuable source for any family historian, but as any genealogist will know, sitting at a microfilm reader scrolling through page after page of grainy images to search for relevant information is a long and arduous process.
The British Library have therefore been working for a couple of years on digitising their collections of local newspapers, undertaking OCR (character recognition) and releasing fully searchable copies on to a specially designed website
For a relatively small monthly subscription (£12.95), you get complete access to more than 700 titles, and nearly 18 million pages, this increases each week as more scanning is completed.
Through this project you can read how newspapers across the county reported on key events from the past 200 years, and can also track down ancestors (particularly if they have had a suitably notorious past to catch the attention of the press).
Organised by Catholic History Walks, two Springtime riverside walks along the Thames will be organised in March, starting from the Church of the Most Precious Blood at London Bridge, which is in the care of the Ordinariate. The Walks are on Sunday afternoons, and all are welcome. There is no need to book – just […]
The project to digitise and catalogue onto an online hub the entire personal archive of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman is now underway.
Every single letter and diary has been meticulously scanned at John Rylands’ Library, Manchester, and an internet kiosk has been designed by software company Crivella West Inc. of Pittsburgh.
The kiosk project is the first of its kind and when completed will provide complete online access to the Newman collection. It is hoped that it might lead the way to other projects particularly within the world of Catholic archives.
The project is a collaborative effort between the National Institute of Newman Studies, attached to the Pittsburgh Oratory in America, and the Birmingham Oratory where the archives are held.
The Newman Institute is a purpose built residential research library and centre providing previously unprecedented
access to Newman’s life and works, the Institute also fosters the advancement of Newman scholarly research by inviting scholars to utilise the resources of the Newman Research Library in order to pursue academic work specifically related to Newman Studies, and in partnership with Duqesne University has set up scholarship programmes to this end.
To keep up to date with progress, follow the Newman Institute on Twitter @NewmanStudies
Or visit their website
2017 Seminar on Records with launch of names database
This Society is planning the launch of a major new electronic database with a paper delivered by Br. Rory G Higgins FSC of Australia at a seminar on Saturday 7 October 2017 in the Conference Rooms, 24 Tufton Street London SW1P 3RB 10am-4pm.
An Index to the Names and Details of over
250,000 Catholics and their Friends in England 1680 – 1840
Rory Higgins has spent many years compiling this work with support from the Catholic Family History Society, his Superiors and others. The database will be a hugely valuable resource for church, social, political, local and family historians, both in England and around the world. On it are men, women and children from all walks of life, including priests and foreigners living in England. Where available there are details of age, of occupation and of location. References guide the user to the many sources which he has trawled, both original and printed, in order to collect the information together into this database. His earlier successful database is the Australian Nuns Index. Individuals and representatives of organisations involved in records and archives, as well as historians of all interests, will find his latest database to be the research tool everyone has been waiting for.
We hope you will not miss this opportunity to be amongst the first to explore the potential of this new resource. To express your interest and reserve a place contact: email@example.com. Places are being snapped up!
The period 1680-1840 covers the centuries when Catholicism was effectively outlawed. Records of Catholics are scattered in civil record offices, in Catholic and in Anglican Church archives throughout the country. We are pleased to have William D. Shannon, PhD, to speak on his research in in this era under the title:
Using the Records of the Forfeited Estates Commission (1715-1724) at TNA
to reconstruct Catholic Lancashire before and after the First Jacobite Rebellion.
Dr Shannon has delved into the fate of the Catholics involved in the 1715 Battle of Preston, not just those executed, imprisoned or exiled, but also those less directly involved.
Philip Gale will arrange a presentation on the development of The National Archives finding aid Discovery, with particular reference to Catholic records.