Posts Tagged ‘ Military ’
Hello – my name is Ian Tester, and I’m findmypast’s product manager. I wanted to let you know about a fundamental change we’re about to make to the way findmypast.co.uk is organised, which should make it a lot easier for you to find and search the millions of new records we’re adding to the site every month.
Findmypast has grown an awful lot since we last designed the way the records are organised. We’ve added millions of records that don’t fit into the main categories of births, marriages and deaths/census/military/migration/living relatives and, at the moment, they are often either being wedged into a section where they don’t really fit, or being put into specialist records.
This doesn’t make it easy for you to discover and use some of the fantastic historical records that are regularly being provided by our record partners. You’ve probably also noticed that we’ve significantly upped the rate at which we put new records online – and the number of records we are adding each year is increasing all the time.
So the site is already beginning to burst at the seams and there are lots of very exciting new collections on the way that deserve new sections to accommodate them. We’ve spent several months working with our members to find a set of categories that will allow us to make room for the new records and make better sense of the records that are already online. Many thanks to the hundreds of you who have taken the time to complete surveys and participate in research sessions to help get us to this point!
The result of all this hard work is that in the next month, you’ll begin to see some changes to the site. The first one is that the main record categories across the blue navigation bar at the top of the site will all come under a single new category: “Search records”. Within this category, you’ll be able to choose from a range of sub-categories of records, just as you can now. The new sub-categories are very similar to the current ones in many cases, but you’ll notice a few new ones as well.
- Life events (births, marriages and deaths) – this will be very similar to the current BMD section and will continue to contain our millions of parish records
- Census, land & surveys – as well as our best-in-class England & Wales censuses (including our complete 1911 census), this will include fabulous new records, including historical electoral rolls
- Armed forces & conflict – our comprehensive military collections will live here
- Education & work – with fantastic school and merchant marine records on the way, we need a new sub-category. You’ll also find some gems currently buried in the specialist section
- Institutions & organisations – covering workhouses, hospitals and more, you’ll also find some fabulous new court records in future, as well as records that are sprinkled across other sections at the moment
- Travel & migration – is very similar to our current migration section, but has some lovely new international records on the way
- Living relatives & directories – this will give us room to expand the directories that we hold, way beyond the current living relatives directories
These new sections are designed to be as futureproof as possible, so you’ll also notice a few more new sub-categories appear over time as new records come online. A fringe benefit of creating more space on the blue navigation bar at the top of the site is that we’re making room for some very exciting new tools, including what we hope will be one of the best “saved records” tools available.
Obviously it’s hard to imagine these changes before they go live, but let us know if you have any thoughts on this approach.
We’re very excited to be making such a large-scale improvement, especially as it has taken lots of time to test and refine the new sub-categories so that they make sense to our members. Keep your eyes peeled for other improvements in the coming months – there’s a pile of exciting new features in the pipeline, as well an awful lot of exciting new records…
We are very proud to announce the launch of four sets of nineteenth and twentieth century military records to help enrich your family history. The records provide useful detail including attestation and leaving dates, achievements made in service and soldiers’ physical appearence. And, certainly in the case of the 1861 records, the records can fill in gaps left by the census.
The 1861 Worldwide Army Index (or The 1861 Worldwide Soldier Index) entailed the extraction of some 245,000 serving soldiers.
The Paddington Rifles database contains the names of over 8,600 men who served with the battalion from its inception in 1860 until its demise in 1912. It can therefore be a vital tool in providing colour to your London ancestors.
The Royal Fusiliers Collection 1863-1905 comprises the names of close to 5000 officers and men who took part in a series of British military campaigns between 1863 and 1904.
The Surrey Recruitment Registers comprises details of approximately 85,000 men who attested for service with a variety of regiments in Surrey between 1908 and 1933.
You can also have a look through all our military records.
We’ve just published over half a million Militia Service Records, covering 1806 to 1915, in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch. This is the first time these records have been made available online, making it possible to learn about the everyday heroes who volunteered as part time soldiers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The militia was the precursor to the UK’s Territorial Army and, like its modern equivalent, was made up of men who held everyday jobs, but took part in military exercises and on occasions fought for their country. The records colourfully portray what the British militia looked like, detailing the height, weight, chest size, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks of each recruit.
Debra Chatfield, findmypast.co.uk’s Marketing Manager, explains:
“These records provide rich insight into our past and show how the everyday man, such as your local shopkeeper, found himself fighting for his country. In the absence of photographs, these records can help you imagine what your ancestors looked like, containing details which are largely unavailable elsewhere.”
We’ve found a Butcher …
We’ve been having a look through the records and have already found a number of different occupations including shoemakers, woodchoppers, greengrocers, fishmongers, coal miners, butchers and bakers!
Charles Godfrey, for example, was a butcher for a Mr Debron in Oxford. Born in the Parish of Botley, Berkshire, Godfrey volunteered for the militia on 25th July 1887 aged 18. He served with the 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and was recorded as being five feet four inches tall with brown hair and steel grey eyes. Godfrey’s attestation paper also reveals that he had a large mole on his left shoulder.
We’ve also found a baker in the militia records. Charles Howard joined the 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade on 23rd August 1897 at the age of 18 years and three months. Howard had been born in Welshpool, Monmouthshire but had moved to London, working as a baker for a Mr Calland. His service record reveals that Howard had hazel eyes, brown hair and weighed a shockingly light 110 lbs (around seven and a half stone).
William Spencer, Principal Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, commented:
“It took a certain kind of individual to leave a day job as a blacksmith, labourer or barman and enlist as a part time soldier. Although the majority never left British shores, many saw active service with the regular army in places such as South Africa during the Second Boer War. Like today’s Territorial Army, the pre-WWI militia offered a way for former soldiers to continue serving their country and civilians a chance to leave humdrum jobs, earn extra money and enjoy the comradeship such services had to offer.”
…can you find a Candlestick Maker?
Search the Militia Service Records now to see if any of your ancestors signed up! Our own Marketing Executive, Amy Sell has already spotted her great-great-uncle in the records. Unfortunately, it seems he was deemed unfit for the militia on the grounds that he had ‘enlarged glands’ in his neck!
Adding to our British Army Service Records 1760-1915 collection, we have just published over 500,000 soldiers’ records in our Militia Service Records 1806-1915.
These records offer a rich source of information to the family historian, especially because attestation papers form a major part of this collection. The records were annotated until the soldier was discharged so provide full details of time in service. And, since the militia recruits were part-time, there are details of the jobs the men undertook for the rest of the time.
The Militia was a voluntary county-based part-time force for home defence. It ceased to be summoned after the Civil War but was revived in 1757, when the Militia Act established militia regiments in all counties of England and Wales. The Militia Service Records provide a record of service as they were annotated until the date of discharge. They also have information about birth date and place.
You will often find physical descriptions including distinguishing marks including tattoos. In the absence of photographs, these records are an essential tool in imagining what your ancestors were like – although some of the later records do include photographs. You’ll also be able to see the individual’s signature.
These records are brought to you online in association with The National Archives (TNA). The TNA record series number is ‘WO96’: WO simply indicates that the records were created by the War Office, the precursor of today’s Ministry of Defence.
Search our new Militia Service Records 1806-1915 now!
BT Jones asks a question about how to search around war records that have been destroyed by fire.
“How do I find my father’s records? He was in the East Surrey Regiment in 1916. I cannot find any records because of records being lost fire. I only have hs name and regiment – on this information only is there anyway of find his record?”
Our expert, Paul Nixon, replies:
“Once the record’s gone, it’s gone, and about 60% of First World War records do not survive - this as a result of a bombing raid on London’s Docklands in 1940. However, it may be possible to tell when he enlisted by looking at his number. Visit http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com for more information on army regimental numbers.”
June’s Ask the Expert looks at some of your military history questions starting with this from Ted Glock:
“My grandfather was killed in France in the First World War. I have been trying to discover if he has a memorial somewhere to no avail. His name was George Hunt army number 5785 Private in East Surrey regiment. I have his medals so know the name etc. is correct. I would really appreciate your help.”
Our expert Paul Nixon replies:
“5785 Private George King Hunt of the 9th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment entered France and Flanders on the 7th October 1915 and was killed in Action on the 21st May 1917. He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, and the British War and Victory Medals. Soldiers Died in The Great war notes that he was born in Camberwell, Surrey and enlisted there.
I have been unable to find his name recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Roll of Honour website and so am unable to confirm where he is buried or commemorated.”
Norman Marriott has a question about medal cards:
I have copies of my ancestors medal cards but I do not understand what the information means. Is there any way of decoding it?
Paul Nixon, our military history expert, replies:
If you’d like to send your question to our experts, please register or opt to receive newsletters in My Account. Unfortunately our experts only have time to answer a few queries each month. If yours wasn’t answered this time, you could be lucky next month.
Actor Alan Cumming featured in the final episode of Who Do You Think You Are? last night. Alan’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Darling, had always been a bit of a mystery, a ‘black hole’ in Alan’s family history. The family story was that Thomas had died in a shooting accident but Alan had heard a rumour that his death wasn’t an accident at all. Alan embarked on a journey to discover the truth.
Alan was born in Scotland 1965. Growing up he was close to his mother Mary Darling and her mother Margaret Noble. Alan started his journey by visiting his mother in Dundee to find out what she knew.
Tom Darling was Mary’s father, Alan’s grandfather. Alan found out that he left home and joined the army when he was 17. Tom was stationed in Inverness where he met and married Margaret. Tom then went to France and Burma as a courier. Alan read Tom’s service record which described him as ‘an excellent type’.
Alan travelled to Edinburgh to find out more about his grandfather’s early military career. Tom worked as a cook and was described as a ‘reliable worker’, another testament to his excellent service.
When Tom was 24 he served as a despatch rider in the army in France, acting as a crucial line of communication between battalion headquarters and the front line. He was awarded a military medal in 1940 for his great courage and the fact that he showed no regard for his own personal safety.
Alan travelled to France to find out exactly what his grandfather did to win the medal.
Alan read Tom’s battalion report which described the many journeys he made on his motorbike along a ‘fire-swept’ road. This road had no cover and Tom risked his life repeatedly among the mortar and machine gun fire to get the message to the battalion headquarters.
Tom was eventually evacuated from Dunkirk, leaving behind many comrades who were either trapped or dead. Alan thought that this experience must have psychologically damaged his grandfather.
Back in London, Alan looked for clues about what happened to Tom when he returned from France. Tom served in times when post-traumatic stress disorder wasn’t recognised, let alone treated, and Tom had no real chance to recover. Two years after returning from France, Tom was sent to India where in 1944 he fought against the Japanese army in a fierce battle.
Alan read Tom’s medical history and found out that Tom was admitted to hospital for a gunshot wound after this battle. Tom was ill for many months, and his medical history didn’t make it clear what had actually happened to him. Alan thought it was possible that Tom was admitted to a psychiatric ward during this time, as it was common for these records to be deliberately destroyed. There was such a stigma attached to mental illness at this time that it was covered up wherever possible.
Alan’s next stop was to visit Bristol to meet David, a soldier who fought with his grandfather in 1944. David said that the soldiers all looked up to Tom as a kind of mentor. David described Tom as big, strong, tough and someone you didn’t argue with. David said he genuinely respected Tom.
In 1945 Tom returned to Britain from India to visit his wife and children. They didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last time they ever saw him.
Tom left the army in 1949 then joined the police force in Malaya, now Malaysia. Alan learned that his grandparents were recorded as ‘separated’ at this time and felt that this could have been the reason that Tom decided to go to Malaya. Tom sent money home to the family but didn’t visit them again.
Within seven months of being in Malaya, 35 year old Tom died in 1951. No records of his death existed in Britain so Alan travelled to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to find out once and for all how he died. The official record of Tom’s death from the Malaysian National Archives stated that Tom died from a gunshot wound to head. Alan wanted to know if it was suicide or murder.
Alan travelled to Cha’ah, south of Kuala Lumpur, for more answers. He spoke to Roy, a police officer in Malaya at the same time as Tom. Roy wasn’t there when Tom died but he told Alan the story he’d heard – that Tom died during a game of Russian roulette. Roy believed that Tom wouldn’t have deliberately killed himself and that either he got careless or ran out of luck.
This revelation deeply shocked Alan and he questioned Tom’s state of mind to play Russian roulette on what Roy described as a regular basis.
Alan then spoke to two brothers who had been children when Tom lived in Malaya. They said the people loved Tom very much and that their father, Tom’s friend, named a park and a road in Cha’ah after him: ‘Darling Walk’. The brothers took Alan to see this road and to the place where Tom played Russian roulette the day he died.
A police telegram confirmed that Tom died during a game of Russian roulette. The letter the police sent to Tom’s wife described his death as a terrible accident. She never knew what really killed him, and Alan finally located the source of the family legend that Tom’s death was a shooting accident.
We’re pleased to announce that you can now find 10,857 more Chelsea Pensioner British Army Service Records on findmypast.co.uk for the period 1883-1900.
The standing total now on the site is 312,909 records and 2,218,606 images. Search the Chelsea Pensioner British Army Service Records to see if you can find your military ancestor.
Keep reading the blog for the next update which will be coming soon!
You can now find 12,000 more Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records for 1883-1900 on findmypast.co.uk. This brings the total to 302,052 records and 2,141,182 images on the site.
This is the latest in a series of updates to these records and there will be plenty more in the future.
Get searching our Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records for your military ancestor.