Wednesday, 25 June 2014

WW1 campaign medal rolls - on CD ROM!
Wow! This is a must-buy! Naval and Military Press announces the launch of a CD ROM of the medal rolls for all British Army servicemen and service women who served during the First World War.
Available at an early-bird discount price of £250 (a saving of £100) + VAT, what you get is a full index of First World War campaign medal recipients, with every field indexed. No more trips to Kew. This massive project brings the men and women of the First World War direct into your living room.
Early bird discount available now! Click on the link to order. This is a significant release.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Honourable Artillery Company collection goes live

Back in 2009 on my Army Service Numbers blog, I posted details of numbering in the HAC infantry. Now, thanks to findmypast, it's going to be jolly easy to fill in an awful lot more detail on your First World War HAC ancestor.

Today sees the publication of over close to 72,000 separately indexed records from the Honourable Artillery Company; records that include nominal rolls, lists of drafts overseas, Company membership lists, summaries of service, photographs, and entries in printed rolls. In short, if your ancestor served in the HAC during the First World War you stand a good chance of finding him mentioned in several sources which, together, will help you build a pretty comprehensive service history.

The release was well covered in the press this morning and this release on the Daily Mail's website is particularly detailed and re-produces some great images from the HAC archive. Read the release HERE.

Although the release covers men who joined the regiment as long ago as the early 1800s, the focus with this release has been on the First World War and with the centenary of the outbreak of that conflict fast upon us, this release will be seen by many as a welcome addition to findmypast's growing military portfolio.

Images published courtesy of the HAC .

Monday, 16 June 2014

Further search tips: WO 363/4 on findmypast

A little while ago I published some search tips for getting the most out of the newly published WO 363 and WO 364 on findmypast.

I'm finding quite a few service and pension records on findmypast that I failed to find on Ancestry. Having been closely involved with the indexing of these series on findmypast, and with the training of the teams at the transcription company that was given this difficult task, it's gratifying to see so many men emerging online for the first time. One of these is John Angus Corstorphin Wilson.

John Wilson was a patient at one of the hospitals in Chailey that I researched.  His entry in a nurse's autograph book is above, but I had been unable to find a service record for him on Ancestry. I'd managed to find his medal index card and so I knew that his six digit TF number was 326251:


So this was my search on findmypast:

and here was the result:
This shows that findmypast has indexed the man's name and his number (which was what was asked) and of course I downloaded all of the images straight away. But for this project, we also wanted - where it was obvious - details of a man's former or later service also to be indexed. Now it's not all that clear on findmypast that this has been done and it's worth pointing out here because it can easily be missed.
If we go to the index page for John Wilson, right at the bottom (in that dead, "below the fold" area) we see further details for this man:
So the good news is you could search for this man on his Royal Artillery number (18471) when he joined the regiment in 1898. You can search for him on his original TF number (167) when he re-joined the army in 1914. Or you can search for him, as I did, on his six-digit TF number.
The bad news is that if you don't scroll down to the bottom of his indexed page, you'll miss this vital information altogether.
(Incidentally, in the interests of even-handedness, I note that this man's record does now appear on Ancestry).
Screengrabs from findmypast except the medal index card which is from Ancestry.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Broughton Troop, Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry

Here's a lovely document, discovered the other day on findmypast when I was looking for specific yeomanry attestations for different regiments. I've not seen this particular declaration before and note that as well as promising to serve Her Majesty, the man also undertakes to provide his own horse; a standard requirement for service in the yeomanry. A man could join a cavalry regiment without knowing the front end of a horse from the rear end. However, as far as the yeomanry was concerned, providing your own horse was a given. Army Orders of 1st January 1893 stated that:
"Every non-commissioned officer and private must ride his own horse, or borrow one, and is required to satisfy the commanding officer that the horse is available whenever wanted. Horses may be hired for the permanent staff and band."
Read more about yeomanry regiments, regimental numbers and dates of enlistment on my army service numbers blog.
Image is Crown Copyright, reproduced by permission of the National Archives, London.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Searching WO 363 & WO 364 on findmypast

Findmypast's release of First World War service records from the WO 363 and WO 364 series held on microfilm at The National Archives is a MAJOR boon for anyone wishing to search these important documents. Due to the poor state of WO 363 in particular, searching these records on Ancestry has never been particularly easy, but findmypast's indexing is, I believe, far superior. For a start, you can search records across WO 363 and WO 364 simultaneously. On Ancestry, you need to conduct two separate searches. Furthermore nearly 600,000 records never previously indexed by Ancestry are now available on findmypast for the first time.  Here are some simple tips to help you get the best out of the search engine.

First, above all else, let wildcard search do the work. My particular interest is in regimental numbers and so typically I'm looking for particular number ranges for specific regiments.  My first tip would be, don't try to type in the full regiment name. Use fragments and the asterisk wildcard to get the maximum results.  In the example below, I was looking for men who served with the North Somerset Yeomanry and so this is what I typed in the regiment field:

I also wanted to find men who had numbers in the 600 range and so this is what I typed in the service number field:
This gave me 23 results, some of which (click on the images to enlarge) are shown below:
As you can see, it is now very easy to identify numbers in the 600 range and to discount those which are either too high - like 642961 - or too low.
Results with a either a birth year or a birth county against them will generally yield full results: service or pension papers or similar. Those with nothing showing in these fields are generally (but not always) men who appear on lists - often lists of casualty returns, transfers to hospitals or convalescent depots, or transfers to other regiments. This is certainly the case with 638 Dickinson, above, whose entry (at the bottom) appears like this:

These lists of men form the vast majority of those additional 600,000 names which findmypast has captured, and in the majority of cases this may be the only reference to a particular soldier which survives.  In order to see the context in which this document appears, findmypast also identifies the original source document, or originating record. To view this record, click on the "view transcription" button whilst you are looking at the image above:

In Corporal Dickinson's case this is what we see:
So we now know that this single page, identifying Corporal Dickinson as having been transferred to a hospital ship with a shrapnel wound to his right shoulder, appears within the service record for R/13933 George William Neve of the Grenadier Guards. (In actual fact, as any regimental numbers expert will tell you, R/13933 is not a Grenadier Guards number. Neve originally served with the KRRC, later transferring to the Guards. But these are often tough records to index - heavily edited documents at the time the man was serving which have not been helped by subsequent fire and water damage).

Nevertheless, if you wanted to see why Dickinson appears in Neve's papers, you are able to call up Neve's record. I did so and could find no earthly connection between this hospital return - which does not include Neve's name - and Neve's record; a prime example of a piece of paper slipped, accidentally perhaps, into another man's service record. But I guess that's by the by. Use wildcard searching and you won't go far wrong.