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Tracing Your First World War Ancestors - Second Edition (ePub)

A Guide for Family Historians

Family History P&S History Photographic eBooks WWI > By Year > 1914 WWI > By Year > 1915 WWI > By Year > 1916 WWI > By Year > 1917 WWI > By Year > 1918

By Simon Fowler
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
File Size: 47.1 MB (.epub)
Pages: 152
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399000406
Published: 26th April 2021


£4.99 Print price £14.99

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The First World War was perhaps the most traumatic event of the Twentieth Century. Millions of men, women and children were affected by it. And it still has a resonance today more than a hundred years after the Armistice.

This guide offers a simple, yet comprehensive, guide to researching the men and women from Britain - and its dominions and colonies - who took part in the First World War either at the front or at home

It is an accessible, up-to-date and expert introduction to get you on your way and to answer those questions you might come across during your researches.

In a straightforward, easy-to-follow style the book introduces readers to the multitude of sources they can use to explore the history of the First World War for themselves.

In a series of short, instructive chapters the book takes the reader through the process of researching ancestors who served during the First World War providing short cuts and background information as required.

The book covers the key sources, including the National Archives and the many online sites that researchers can turn to. It also covers records of casualties, munitions workers, conscientious objectors and service personnel from the British Dominions.

Author featured in

Family Tree, Jan 23

This book is an ideal guide for anyone researching their first world war ancestors and I believe would be suitable for both beginners and the more experienced genealogists looking for guidance on how to start their research in this area. It would act as a thorough reference guide as well as an interesting source to dip into.

Family and Community Historical Research Society Newsletter, Volume 23, February 2022

This book has an easy to follow narrative and there are plenty of illustrations of the forms that you might find during your research with additional images and photographs spaced throughout the text. Simon’s years of experience in military research is obvious from the content as he describes his own research experiences.

Overall I thoroughly recommend this book to those readers who are tackling finding their First World War ancestors.

Essex Family Historian - No 176, March 2022

"A comprehensive guide that will be of interest for all researchers."

London Westminster & Middlesex FHS Journal, December 2021

"An incredibly interesting book."

Cumbria FHS

Simon Fowler has, once again, called on his vast experience as a military historian in compiling this guide to researching your ancestors’ service in the Great War. His stated aim is to facilitate the research of men and women from Britain and its Dominions, and in my view, this objective is clearly met.

Oxfordshire Family Historian - Volume 35 No 3, December 2021

"Essential reading for those researching their First World War ancestors. This work is the most comprehensive guide to the subject currently available"

Clwyd FHS

This is the second edition of a book the first edition of which was reviewed back in 2003 (Journal Volume 34 No.4) when George Miller said of it “It assumes no prior knowledge of military history and is written in a simple, step by step format which even I understood”
This new edition is just as easy to follow and should prove helpful to anyone researching not just their own family members but anyone who served in the armed forces during WW1.
Although some its content, such as descriptions of uniforms and badges of rank, will already to common knowledge amongst our members, even though I have previously researched my own family history I found things in the book that I didn’t already know and which might have made my task easier.
It has a whole chapter devoted to researching the records of the RFC, RNAS and RAF as well as appendices listing Useful Addresses, Key websites, Army Organisation, and Battlefield tours and is complete with a comprehensive index.

Cross and Cockade

This book will be an important tool for future generations to find out more about their relatives who were engaged in the First World War. Overall, this is an important book to have for any researcher of the Great War.

Jon Sandison

The author is well known in the field of military history and this second edition has brought us up to date with excellent lists resources and where to find them, plus the pros and cons of the different sources. It is an easy read, well illustrated, with good examples from all levels of society and gives detailed accounts of what is available as well as what isn’t.

Each chapter has lots of additional reading options. As you would expect there are chapters on the Army, and the war at sea and in the air, but then we move on to Women, Civilians and the Home Front and The Dominions. Appendices provide useful addresses and key websites whilst Appendix 3 gives a very useful guide to how the Army was organised.

This is a must for anyone wishing to trace their Great War ancestry.

Nottinghamshire Family History Society

This is the second edition of a book which has been thoroughly updated to include references to all online material and recently-released records. The book offers a simple but comprehensive guide to researching men and women from Britain, its dominions and colonies, who took part in the Great War at the front and also at home. It has an easy-to-follow style to introduce readers to the multitude of sources that can be explored.

The book covers key resources, hints on pitfalls and short-cuts, plus much background information about the conflict. Extensive details of the major Services form the greater portion of the book but other sections also deal with munitions workers, conscientious objectors and civilians. Appendices comprise useful addresses, key websites, notes on ‘how the Army was organised’ and battlefield tourism.

Geoff Gardiner, Bristol and Avon Family History Society

This is a book that rightly deserves its billing as ‘the most comprehensive guide to the subject currently available’ and one that I shall be reaching for often.

Christopher Broom, Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

This series of books, Guides for Family Historians is absolutely fantastic. Having researched my family tree these books help out the historian no end as they are comprehensively written and there is a wealth of information and leads to getting to where you want. In this particular book there are separate chapters covering all the armed forces, but also the home front and casualties. But what makes this book in this day and age is the chapter on the internet and web links, they are just so good and helpful. This must be the best series of this book there is, in my opinion without fault.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

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.

Read the full review here

WW1 Geek

If researching WW1 ancestors appeals to you then you should invest in obtaining a copy of this exceptionally useful book. It has many nuggets of information that will significantly add value to your research. The cover price is affordable, and this investment will pay significant dividends in the quality of your research project.

Dr Stuart C Blank

This is an updated version of the author’s previous work. One thing I have discovered in the years of my research is that new records are available all the time, especially as interest in family history has grown.

This book is ideal for beginners or those further forward in their research as it begins with basic records and then drills down to more specialist and uncommon sources.

I particularly like the fact that the book covers the army, navy and air force, but also information about women, civilians and the home front. In addition, there is a section about the contribution of those from The British Empire.

Altogether an interesting and informative read that will be a useful resource for many years.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Jayne

There are 8 chapters which will help family historians who are trying to research their ancestors who served ‘King and Country’ during the 1914 – 1918 conflict.
Over the years since the War ended the veterans have passed on to a more peaceful stage and we who want to find out about what or where our ancestors were in these turbulent, dreadful years have to rely on digital information or try to experience the battlefield trauma by visiting the various areas of war.
Our ancestors fought on land, at sea or in the air. The author should be able to guide you to the appropriate archives and records. Research can be tricky, sometimes unrewarding but usually we all learn something along the way.
This book is worthy of a place on your bookshelf.

East Yorkshire Family History Society

Four years ago I reviewed Simon Fowler's excellent guide Tracing Your Army Ancestors, then in its 3rd edition – so when I saw that a 2nd edition of his Tracing Your First World Ancestors had been published I was keen to take a look.

I wasn't disappointed – the book is crammed with useful information for those whose relatives served in the Army, Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, or Royal Air Force during the Great War. But it doesn't stop there – there's also a chapter entitled Women, Civilians and the Home Front which focuses on the sometimes forgotten contributions that they made, and another which focuses on the dominions: Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

You won’t find all the answers in this book, but you will get a better understanding of where to look for them – as you would expect from an author who worked for nearly 30 years at the Public Record Office (now The National Archives). Tracing Your First World Ancestors (2nd edition) is a very handy reference book written by someone who knows his topic inside out!

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

This is a very well done and practical treatise on how to get started doing family research on military service members and how to carry on; which resources are likely to reward the effort and how to make use of uncovered information.

This would make a superlative selection for library acquisition, home use, or as a gift to a history interested friend or relative. Four stars.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love the Pen and Sword series of publications.This is a updated edition of one I had already purchased several years ago, and have found really interesting and useful while compiling my family tree..
Simon Fowler is the authority when it comes to military history and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has had a family member in service during the war..

NetGalley, Alison Bevington

The author does a good job in collating and describing the various sources for researching our ancestors of WW1. Many are obvious but the shortcomings of some resources are well documented and explained. As ever with this type of research, perseverance and continually cross referencing is the key to getting results. Having researched many Canadian, Australian and Newfoundland men I can attest to the outstanding quality and access to their records.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Simon Fowler

Simon Fowler is a professional researcher specialising in the records of the two world wars and central government. Over the years he has researched hundreds of men who served during the First World War and this book is very much based on his experiences in doing so. He was written a number of other guides for Pen & Sword including Tracing Your Army Ancestors, Tracing Your Navy Ancestors and Now the War is Over: Britain 1919-1920.

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