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First World War centenary: Discover your ancestors who served in the war

Odna Adiyadorj, Information officer at the Redbridge Information and Heritage Service
Monday, June 2, 2014
10:19 AM

To help you to discover your ancestors who served in the First World War, start your research by visiting Vision RCL’s Redbridge Information and Heritage Service at Redbridge Central Library, Clements Road, Ilford.

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Our staff will be on hand to help you carry out your research. Learn about the history of the war and gain some understanding of the events and terms you will come across during your research.

The service holds a wide range of history reference books, the National Roll of the Great War, the Ilford War Memorial Gazette, local newspaper archives, a local roll of honour and web resources.

Furthermore, you will be able to search for your ancestor using online heritage websites such as Find My Past and Ancestry library edition, which the Information and Heritage Service provides free access to its users.

Both websites provide access to military service records such as Soldiers Died in the Great War, the National Roll of the Great War, British Army Medal Roll Index Cards 1914-1920, British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920 and WWI Service records 1914-1920.

1. Step one: Establish whether your relative died in the war. Sadly, sometimes it can be easier to trace a relative in the war if he was a casualty as their death will be recorded with the details of his military unit, date of death and location of burial or commemoration.

2. Visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (cwgc.org). Search find war dead and find a cemetery. The details obtained will help you to confirm his identification when you look at other military records.

3. Search British Army Medal Roll Index Cards 1914-1920 using Ancestry and Find My Past websites. Whether the person you are searching for did or did not survive the war, nearly all soldiers who served abroad were awarded at least one medal.

4. Search WWI Service Records. However, only about 40 per cent of the war’s service records still exist as many were destroyed by bomb damage in the Second World War. These are now digitised and available on the Ancestry website.

5. Other websites that may be of use include 1914.org; gov.uk/government/topical-events/first-world-war-centenary; livesofthefirstworldwar.org

6. If you know the regiment your ancestor served in, find out if it has a museum or archive as that may hold relevant records.

Redbridge Museum and Information and Heritage also hold a number of personal archives of local people who served during the First World War.

These are being researched and catalogued and will be made available in November as part of an exhibition supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Redbridge Museum is researching the impact of the war on the borough and would like to hear from local people about their family stories.

If you have information about your family records during the war please contact redbridge.museum@visionrcl.org.uk or telephone 020 8708 2317.

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