By Simon Fowler
Pen & Sword, 2021
Searching for information about your First World War ancestors can prove daunting to the average person who may have limited information to go on. There are a multitude of sources out there and Simon Fowler’s book provides a solid introduction to how to go about researching them, whether they were a casualty or survived.
In this internet age this are a wealth of sources that can be consulted on the web to piece together our ancestors’ wartime service. But finding the information is only half the battle; understanding what they can tell us is often the trickier part of the journey. Thankfully this work helps the reader to understand at least some of what the records can tell us, and provides plenty of examples to illustrate the different sources.
It starts with the basics and lists the main commercial sites that can be used to obtain information. Further chapters go on to look at service records, casualty records, and maritime and RFC/RAF records. Everything you would expect to see is covered – the census, newspapers, army service records, London Gazette, war diaries, gallantry medals, courts martial records, pension records and so on, as well as some useful tips on using archives and regimental museums. Each chapter ends with a selection of further reading and sources; not everything can be covered in the available space so pointers to other sources such as identifying uniforms and understanding regimental numbers are a useful addition.
This revised edition has been updated to include the most recent developments in available records since the original was published ten years ago, including the pension cards made available by the Western Front Association, and the prisoner of war records published by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Both record sets provide challenges and Fowler lays out some of the challenges as well as the opportunities the information can offer.
Short appendices provide a useful breakdown of Army structure, as well as a very brief introduction to battlefield tourism.
In short Tracing Your First World War Ancestors provides a useful introduction to carrying out research, with many hints and tips about where to look for more detailed information.
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