How many generations back does your known family history go? Does anyone in your family still remember someone who lived through the First World War, or know a story about someone who did?
Join this project, and profile the story of your relative or family friend!
You may already have all the information you need to write about the person whose story you want to tell. If not, you could start by seeking inspiration from the materials posted by the Imperial War Museum on its Centenary pages. If your subject was military personnel, there are a number of sites where you can carry out a free search for a name. If a record is there, you then pay to access the details (although several sites operate a free trial period). For British and Commonwealth service personnel, see, for example, Forces War Records or the military records section of Ancestry, which has a tie-up with the UK National Archives. Additionally, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a casualty database which is entirely free to access.
If your subject was a conscientious objector, you can find background information through the Peace Pledge Union.
Ancestry also has sites for France, Germany, Italy, the US, Canada… A search engine will find you the relevant site, or an international subscription will allow you to search across different databases. For French military personnel, you can carry out a free search of Mémoire des hommes, a portal launched by the French Ministry of Defence, which gives access to databases of First World War records and other materials.
Suggestions for what to include in your story:
- Who is the person? What is their relationship to you?
- What did they do during the First World War? What did their role entail?
- If a combattant, where did they fight and when? Which regiment, service or organisation were they part of? Can you find a war record (see websites above) with details?
- Was your subject a conscientious objector? Why, and what resulted?
- Did your subject spend the war on the home front? What were their experiences?
- Does your subject’s life tell us about women’s experiences of the war?
- Do you have any photographs, family letters, or other documents and items that you can use to build your story?
- Do the materials on the war timeline page help you to locate where they were and when, and what they experienced?
Be aware of ethical considerations. Bear in mind that the story you have to tell might be sensitive for some readers, for example, any living descendants. And do not include details about anyone living without their permission…
To enable the full tagging and categorisation of each individual profiled, please send the following information with your portrait:
- Your relative’s name (including title, rank etc. where appropriate), dates of birth and death, nationality, home town, and wartime activity (soldier, airman, nurse, journalist, doctor, shopkeeper… etc.).
For example: Jeanne Dupont (1890-1963); French; Dijon, France; nurse.
- Your name, nationality, home town, and University status.
For example: John Doe; British; Birmingham, UK; Year 2 French & German; or Jane Doe; British; Edinburgh, UK; BA History (2003)
Send your completed portrait to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Portraits will be posted from January 2014, the beginning of the centenary year.