Where to Start
As with all Family History Research, it helps to gather as much information as you can from family papers, medals and photographs.
In this studio photograph my great-uncle’s regiment, the Machine Gun Company, can be identified from his cap badge.
Photographs can also provide clues to rank, length of service and if your ancestor was wounded.
If you own any of your ancestor’s World War One medals then you can find both a service number and regiment inscribed around the rim or on the reverse of the medals.
ROLLS OF HONOUR
If a soldier was killed in action he will be listed on the Commonwealth War Graves site, searchable online at www.cwgc.org. All Scottish casualties are recorded at The National War Memorial for Scotland held at Edinburgh Castle and online at www.snwm.org.
PENSION AND SERVICE RECORDS
The survival of service and pension records is patchy, approximately 60% were destroyed during World War Two bombing raids on London.
If you are fortunate enough to find a record it may include information on military service, a physical description, names of family members and as in the example above even details of any “offences” and subsequent punishments.
All soldiers who served abroad were entitled to at least one campaign medal. This information was recorded on a Medal Index Card along with the country of first overseas service, if killed in action and occasionally the reverse may include some next of kin details.
Indexes can be searched online and the image viewed for a small charge at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/medals.asp.
The Scotland’s People website have the collection of Soldiers’ Wills taken from pay books. These include details of regiment, service number and the beneficiary. For a small charge you can view the original documents in the soldier’s own handwriting at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.
Once you have identified a battalion you can search for further information on where your ancestor served using the unit war diaries . Although primarily concerned with operational matters they sometimes included details of particular soldiers. These are held either within regimental museums or at The National Archives at Kew.
Local newspapers are another useful resource where you may find details of gallantry awards and reports on soldiers wounded or killed in action. Bravery awards were published in The London Gazette and are available to search online at www.gazettes-online.co.uk.
Check out the various regimental museum websites for details of the archives they hold and how to access them. These Include
HOW YOUR SCOTS PAST CAN HELP
These are just a few of the resources available online, many are free, others do require a subscription or are on a pay-per-view basis. The information available does vary quite significantly depending on the survival rate of documents but you should be able to find out something about your ancestor, where they served and if killed in action where they were buried or on which memorial their name was recorded.